Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Mark Steyn on the decline of free speech

From his blog. Mr. Steyn wonders why Americans take their freedom of speech for granted, when it is under attack everywhere else in the world. (H/T ECM via Mary)

Excerpt:

And what I found odd about this was that very few other people found it odd at all. Indeed, the Canadian establishment seems to think it entirely natural that the Canadian state should be in the business of lifetime publication bans, just as the Dutch establishment thinks it entirely natural that the Dutch state should put elected leaders of parliamentary opposition parties on trial for their political platforms, and the French establishment thinks it appropriate for the French state to put novelists on trial for sentiments expressed by fictional characters. Across almost all the Western world apart from America, the state grows ever more comfortable with micro-regulating public discourse—and, in fact, not-so-public discourse: Lars Hedegaard, head of the Danish Free Press Society, has been tried, been acquitted, had his acquittal overruled, and been convicted of “racism” for some remarks about Islam’s treatment of women made (so he thought) in private but taped and released to the world. The Rev. Stephen Boissoin was convicted of the heinous crime of writing a homophobic letter to his local newspaper and was sentenced by Lori Andreachuk, the aggressive social engineer who serves as Alberta’s “human rights” commissar, to a lifetime prohibition on uttering anything “disparaging” about homosexuality ever again in sermons, in newspapers, on radio—or in private e-mails. Note that legal concept: not “illegal” or “hateful,” but merely “disparaging.” Dale McAlpine, a practicing (wait for it) Christian, was handing out leaflets in the English town of Workington and chit-chatting with shoppers when he was arrested on a “public order” charge by Constable Adams, a gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community-outreach officer. Mr. McAlpine had been overheard by the officer to observe that homosexuality is a sin. “I’m gay,” said Constable Adams. Well, it’s still a sin, said Mr. McAlpine. So Constable Adams arrested him for causing distress to Con­stable Adams.

In fairness, I should add that Mr. McAlpine was also arrested for causing distress to members of the public more generally, and not just to the aggrieved gay copper. No member of the public actually complained, but, as Constable Adams pointed out, Mr. McAlpine was talking “in a loud voice” that might theoretically have been “overheard by others.” And we can’t have that, can we? So he was fingerprinted, DNA-sampled, and tossed in the cells for seven hours. When I was a lad, the old joke about the public toilets at Piccadilly Circus was that one should never make eye contact with anyone in there because the place was crawling with laughably unconvincing undercover policemen in white polonecks itching to arrest you for soliciting gay sex. Now they’re itching to arrest you for not soliciting it.

In such a climate, time-honored national characteristics are easily extinguished. A generation ago, even Britain’s polytechnic Trots and Marxists were sufficiently residually English to feel the industrial-scale snitching by family and friends that went on in Communist Eastern Europe was not quite cricket, old boy. Now England is Little Stasi-on-Avon, a land where, even if you’re well out of earshot of the gay-outreach officer, an infelicitous remark in the presence of a co-worker or even co-playmate is more than sufficient. Fourteen-year-old Codie Stott asked her teacher at Harrop Fold High School whether she could sit with another group to do her science project as in hers the other five pupils spoke Urdu and she didn’t understand what they were saying. The teacher called the police, who took her to the station, photographed her, fingerprinted her, took DNA samples, removed her jewelry and shoelaces, put her in a cell for three and a half hours, and questioned her on suspicion of committing a Section Five “racial public-order offence.” “An allegation of a serious nature was made concerning a racially motivated remark,” declared the headmaster, Antony Edkins. The school would “not stand for racism in any form.” In a statement, Greater Manchester Police said they took “hate crime” very seriously, and their treatment of Miss Stott was in line with “normal procedure.”

This column is a must-read. It’s long and it’s very rewarding to those who persist.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Free speech hero Mark Steyn on the Michael Coren show

Mark Steyn interview in four parts, posted by SDAMatt. (H/T The Mysterious D)

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

You can find out more about Mark Steyn here.

Related posts

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MUST-READ: Rex Murphy attacks the Canadian Human Rights Commissions

Another National Post column by Rex Murphy.

Excerpt:

There’s a trial going on in B.C. right now, under the insanely diluted and degraded understanding of the once-noble concept of “human rights,” giving full anguished adjudication – complete with lawyers and a tribunal chairman – over a heckling spat, already three years old, at a Vancouver supper/comedy club called, surely by the gods of irony, Zesty’s.

The good old days, when all a comedian had to worry about was flop-sweat, bad timing and where his or her next joke was coming from, are long gone. Nowadays, thanks to the infinitely expanding reach of bureaucratic commissions, a couple of bad-tempered moments at Zesty’s have summoned up the Mr. McGoos of the B.C. Human Rights Commission. It is currently determining whether a lesbian patron’s human rights were violated by a journeyman comic’s obnoxious heckling of her – brought on, he says, by her equally obnoxious heckling of him. The comic in question is Guy Earle.

It’s a case remarkably similar – in its gutting of common sense, its ability to bring on a puzzled frown from anyone who first hears of it – to that of the owner of a St. Catharines, Ont., fitness club. He recently was taken before the Ontario Human Rights Commission by a prospective member who, while awaiting “gender reassignment surgery,” claimed the right to undress in the club’s women’s locker room. The women objected. The owner denied. The member filed a complaint. That case, after much financial injury and anguish, was summarily dropped. No apology, no redress, no nothing for the owner.

Is Canada a serious country? Do we staff close to a dozen offices, provincial and federal, spend nearly $200-million across the great expanse of the country, to explore the human rights implications of rude heckling in comedy clubs? Or, the human right to undress in the locker room of your choice? For this, did the great armies of the West storm the beaches of Normandy? For this, did Solzhenitsyn and Sharansky endure their endless nights of hell in the gulag?

By some crude osmosis, or just from the luxuriant carelessness of our pampered lives, we have overturned one of the great concepts of all human law. The concept of human rights, as experience and history inform us, is protection from the state’s power, not oversight, interference and punishment by the state’s power.

The core concept of human rights is the protection of the irreducible safety and dignity of the individual from the massive and arbitrary power of the state. Not, the state wandering in, with its apparatus and procedures, its boards and tribunals into the doings, or speech, of the individual.

[...]If we go out into the other world, the world that doesn’t have quite as many comedy clubs, we see what real human rights are.

A man standing alone in front of a tank in Tiannamen Square – there’s a human rights moment. The multitudinous horror of ethnic cleansing, raging warfare in the Congo, the nightmare of North Korea, the acid-tossing at schoolgirls by the Taliban – there are people all over this world trembling at the might of the state, seeing their lives foreshortened or ruined, subject to unspeakable horrors at the hands of warlords and tyrants and revengeful dictatorships — these are the fields of real human-rights violations.

Read the whole thing. It’s really hard to excerpt from a column this fine. It seems as though some Canadians still have some fight left in them.

UPDATE: There is also a follow-up column in the National Post.

Excerpt:

Just as human rights laws were written largely by advocates who profit from finding racism when none exists, employment legislation has been written by left wing advocates with an interest in the perpetration of unions and the emasculation of corporate power. The resultant risk is not merely that of Canadians becoming infantilized; it is the risk of employers becoming too complacent or timorous to resist the increasing encroachments of the nanny state. It is also the risk of an environment wherein the best thinkers and innovators depart to more commodious jurisdictions. Many employers, particularly small businesses, are crippled by legislation that pits employers against the resources of the state. Canadians might never have agreed to this legislation had they realized its implications.

In a current case, because of arcane labour laws applying to the non-residential construction industry, an elevator installation company was unionized without a vote, despite the fact only two of its seven employees had signed union cards. And those two immediately renounced their union memberships. Although the Labour Board was aware the union lacked a single supporter, it certified the company.
Worse still, the employer was bound to a collective agreement in which it had no input. The agreement was negotiated by major players in the industry.

Smaller employers, such as this one, will cease operating if they are forced to pay the same wages and benefits.

It’s not just that the secular leftists take away human rights like the right to free speech. They also attack business and the free market itself. And that means that Canadians are actually losing jobs because of political correctness.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , ,

Mark Steyn discusses pastor Stephen Boissoin’s victory against the HRCs

Story on the Corner. (H/T ECM, Blazing Cat Fur)

Excerpt:

A couple of years back, the Reverend Stephen Boissoin committed the crime of writing a letter to a local newspaper objecting to various aspects of “the homosexual agenda”. The Alberta “Human Rights” Tribunal convicted him of this crime and imposed a lifetime speech ban preventing him, in essence, from saying anything about homosexuality in public or private ever again anywhere for the rest of his life.

Here’s an except from the judge’s decision:

The direction to cease and desist the publishing of “disparaging remarks about gays and homosexuals’ is beyond the power of the Panel. “Disparaging remarks”were not defined by the Panel. But clearly, “disparaging remarks” are remarks much less serious than hateful and contemptuous remarks and are quite lawful to make. They are beyond the power of the Act to regulate and the power of the Province to restrain.

More details here:

The thing is – Boissoin did not get off Scot-free. He had a gruelling 6-year trial and paid well over six figures in legal fees. It’s not clear to me what his remedy is to recover these years of his life and these funds. His accuser’s legal costs were covered by the province of Alberta.

I just don’t believe that things will turn out any different down here, given the kind of people that Obama surrounds himself with. Obama has signed a hate crime bill into law which paves the way for criminalizing speech critical of the minorities listed in the bill. And whenever the right to free speech conflicts with the leftist right “not to be offended”, the “right not to be offended” always wins. This is the way that the secular left is – they want to silence anyone who disagrees with them.

I don’t mind when people say things that offend me, and I sure hope that nothing I say offends anyone else. But in any case, I would rather be asked to apologize than be put on trial for 6 years and forced to pay over a $100,000 in legal fees just because I disagreed with someone and they felt badly. We need to get to the point where radicals on the left understand that it is OK for people to disagree with them, and that it is not OK to bring the force of the government down on people because of speech.

Next time, vote Republican.

Related stories

Here are some stories from the UK:

Here are some stories from Canada:

And in the United States:

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Australia considers bill to criminalize free speech by Christians

From the Australian. (H/T Thoughts Out Loud)

Excerpt:

Australians who wear a crucifix to work or offer to pray for a patient in hospital could run foul of a charter of rights, according to a British legal expert who says its introduction in this country would trigger an attack on religious expression.

Barrister Paul Diamond said equivalent laws in Britain had intensified religious resentment and introduced a degree of uncertainty into the rule of law.

He cited the example of a workplace dispute at British Airways in which the company had tried to prevent an employee from wearing a crucifix while permitting other workers to carry Sikh ceremonial knives and wear turbans and Muslim head scarfs.

Mr Diamond said the secular ideology of the British Human Rights Act was being used to politicise the judiciary and eradicate “unacceptable religious viewpoints on same-sex, on women, on a whole range of moral issues”.

[...]He said one of his most frightening cases concerned a man known as David Booker who was threatened with dismissal for telling a co-worker that Christians opposed pre-marital sex and same-sex relations.

“She had asked him about his Christian faith. She complained and he was suspended and would have been sacked had we not intervened. It was a private sector employer interpreting their diversity policy to eliminate offensive Christian viewpoints from the culture.”

Here are some stories from the UK:

Canada has similar infringements on religious expression because of the anti-Christian Canadian Human Rights Act.

And bad things are already happening the United States.

My recommendation? Don’t vote for Democrats like Obama.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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