Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Free speech under attack from the secular left in the UK and Canada

Dina tweeted this article from the UK Telegraph by Christina Odone.

Excerpt: (links removed)

Tomorrow the High Court will decide whether a Christian group that helps gays “overcome” their sexual inclination has the right to advertise its services. You may remember that Stonewall, the gay rights group, was allowed to run the slogan: “Some people are gay. Get over it.” on London buses. But when Core Issues Trust (CIT), a Christian group, decided to counter with a poster that read “Not gay! Post-gay, ex-gay and proud. Get over it!” Mayor Boris Johnson vetoed their campaign.

If the High Court ruling goes against CIT – as I fear it will – the judgement will prove a setback for free speech, as well as religious freedom. As Philip Johnston writes in today’s Telegraph, “Just as gays are entitled to extol their own sexual identity, so people who take another view, on whatever grounds, should be allowed to say so, shouldn’t they?”

The problem, as Johnston notes, is that “you might think it is right to muzzle such people because, in reality, they just don’t like gays and are hiding their disapproval behind a spurious religiosity… In some cases that may be true, but it is not the issue here: this is about free speech.”

Our newfound intolerance worries me – and I write more on this on my own website, Freefaith.com. All Britons, and not just those of faith, will be scared of speaking against the prevailing culture.  We’ll watch our words and our backs, terrified of breaking the unwritten code upheld by the guardians of our illiberal establishment. The punishment is not just derision and verbal abuse; in some quarters expressing the wrong sentiment will mean I’ll get a criminal record or a fine. I might even have a minister call for my boss to fire me, as happened to Julie Burchill when she wrote something recently that offended the transgender lobby.

That used to happen, on a regular basis, to journalists living in Stalin’s USSR. Any expression of subversive tendency (ie one that did not tally with the regime’s own viewpoint) could end a hack’s career forever. Or land her in Siberia. Even Lynne Featherstone cannot dispatch her victims in this way, yet. But if tomorrow’s court hearing about the Christian advertising campaign goes against them, I will feel the cold winds of Siberia blowing.

It’s not just in the UK, but Canada, too. The Supreme Court just decided a case where a foolish Christian (the kind I am constantly deriding on this blog) decided to push Christian moral views with Bible verses and vulgar insults in public. The Supreme Court decided that his free speech was criminal. (H/T Keith)

Excerpt:

In an unanimous decision today in the case of Saskatchewan (Human Rights Commission) v. Whatcott, the Supreme Court of Canada struck a blow against freedom of speech.

[...]CCF Executive Director and lawyer Chris Schafer said, “The Supreme Court missed an excellent opportunity to rein in the power of various human rights commissions and tribunals to censor the expression of unpopular beliefs and opinions”. Schafer added, “While the Canadian Constitution Foundation does not take any position on the content of the materials distributed by Mr. Whatcott, it believes that it is the right of every Canadian to freely and peacefully express themselves without fear of censorship or persecution by the state. Free expression is the lifeblood of democracies and all forms of expression, especially the offensive kind, needs to be protected. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court disagrees.”

I think this Canadian story shows the importance of Christians being intelligent about how they argue against things they oppose. Quoting Bible verses on placards and being insulting is not the same as doing a PhD and then publishing quality arguments and evidence for your point of view. All this offensive person achieved was handing the left the perfect case for them to restrict free speech for everyone. Christians need to be smarter than that, and to know that being persuasive means being articulate and intelligent. Only a complete idiot would quote Bible verses to people who do not accept the Bible, instead of using academic books and academic research. And yet our pious pastors frequently prepare lay Christians to do nothing but quote the Bible to non-Christians, so it is understandable. We need to get better at making cases.

Note that these anti-free-speech laws were passed by the Labor Party in the UK and by the Liberal Party in Canada. It’s the secular left that restricts speech, not the religious right.

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