The Ranting Kraut

19.3.2006 – 27.9.2010

Censorship in Action -Again

Posted by rantingkraut on May 3, 2010

Just in case anyone thought that New Labour’s various thought crime laws are of mere theoretical importance, consider the following two cases:

1. Atheist Harry Taylor has been given a suspended jail sentence and ASBO for distributing anti-religious material. (HT: Pub Philosopher)

2. Christian preacher Dale McAlpine was charged with causing “harassment, alarm or distress” by a hobby bobby who overheard him publicly stating that homosexuality is considered sinful in Christianity.

What these cases illustrate in the first case is that suppression of free speech is now everyday reality in modern Britain. Not only do we live in a country where you have to worry what the police might think about your political or religious views but the interpretation of the prohibitions used is at once narrowly defined and arbitrary.

To see how the room for permitted speech is narrowing, consider the fact that Mr. Taylor’s ASBO bans him from “carrying religiously offensive material in a public place“. He would thus break the law if he carried a title like “God is Not Great” from the bookshop to his home. On the other hand, it has been said in Mr. Alpine’s defense that: “Case law has ruled that the orthodox Christian belief that homosexual conduct is sinful is a belief worthy of respect in a democratic society.” If you extrapolate from those two precedents you will indeed end up with a set of rules where opinions are either illegal or else you are legally required to respect them. There is no room for mere indifference or individual judgement.

The arbitrary nature of these repressive measures becomes obvious once we consider their legal basis. Neither the Public Order Act [1] used against Mr. Alpin, nor the ASBO used against Mr. Taylor were introduced or justified as instruments of political or religious censorship. Yet this is what they have become.

[1] The 1986 Public Order Act is admittedly not of Labour’s making, although it arguably acquired its present reach in the meta-context established by New Labour.

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