There was a Gay Power march in the quiet rural city of Norwich in England a month or so ago. I remember thinking how offensive it probably was — and was intended to be — to the conservative inhabitants of the city. I remember thinking how much it was a triumphalist proclamation of gay power over the people, and how even objecting was now not allowed.
It seems that one courageous man did object, and, being a free-born Englishman, said so. An article in the Spectator reports the horrifying story:
You’re at home, enjoying a summery Saturday afternoon with the bees and nasturtiums on the patio, when the doorbell intrudes. You’re greeted by an impeccably courteous, fresh-faced police officer from the Norfolk Constabulary – ‘Dedicated to this neighbourhood’, according to their website – and he’s come to speak to you because there’s been a complaint.
Not, you understand, about the troubling number of burglaries, rising car thefts, incidences of property vandalism or madhouse music accompanying balmy barbeques. No, someone has reported you for sending them two gospel tracts by email, one entitled ‘Christ Can Cure – Good News for Gays’; and the other ‘Jesus Christ – the Saviour we all need’. Some people might have simply deleted them both and directed all further correspondence from you to ‘spam’, but these people got offended. Very offended. The allegation against you is that of ‘homophobic hate’.
The officer politely offers you a choice: you can either admit your guilt there and then, accepting an on-the-spot fine of £90. Or you can contest the allegation, provide a signed statement in your defence, after which it will be for a senior police officer to decide whether or not to refer your case to the Crown Prosecution Service.
It is not clear at this stage upon what basis the police have judged the tracts to be ‘homophobic’. But it is made crystal clear that you may have committed a homophobic crime, having communicated by electronic means something likely to annoy or cause offence. You are the subject of a criminal investigation.
This was the scenario which confronted the Revd Dr Alan Clifford, Pastor of the Norwich Reformed Church, the weekend before last. In theory, he could have declined the fine and refused to provide a statement, but Dr Clifford is a helpful and accommodating sort of chap. So, at 5.45pm on 17 August 2013, instead of settling down in front of the telly, he set about responding to a series of probing questions. ….
Dr Clifford says he was not permitted to make a copy of his statement, so the precise details of his interrogation may not be exactly as recounted.
These kinds of tactics belong to the police state, and are outrageous.
But he recalls being asked why he had sent the e-mail in the first place – whether it was purposely to annoy or cause offence to the recipient(s). He responded: ‘No. I was reporting to the gay-pride people our Christian complaint against the public display of their homosexual propaganda, which we find offensive.’
In the hierarchy of competing rights, of course, offence is a one-way chase. He was then asked if he was aware that he’d actually committed a homophobic offence as defined by the official police leaflet which the officer then presented to him. It apparently defined such an offence as ‘any incident which is perceived to be homophobic by the victim or any other person’.
The article continues in the same depressing vein; a policeman demanding to know, not what a clergyman has done, but what he thinks.
[The police] had, it seems, already determined Dr Clifford’s guilt on the basis of a complaint by someone at Norwich Pride, hence the immediate offer of a £90 fine to make it all go away. This is speed-camera homophobia: capture an image of the incident; pay a reduced fixed penalty now; or dare to defend yourself in protracted court proceedings which might result in a greater fine and/or even a custodial sentence.
A decision has now, in fact, been taken: a senior police officer at the Norfolk Constabulary has got a whiff of homophobia under his nostrils, and the case has been referred to the CPS. The Revd Dr Alan Clifford, BA, MLitt, PhD, Pastor of Norwich Reformed Church, now awaits a decision on whether he will indeed be prosecuted.
I have read these tracts, and there isn’t a word of hate in them.
I wonder where we might obtain copies of these tracts?
I have written to Norfolk Police and enquired simply whether the article is correct. I encourage others to do likewise. Evil loves darkness, and the bully demands that his victim says nothing. It costs nothing to send a polite email of enquiry, and to thereby remind them that their actions — immoral, certainly, and probably illegal under the Human Rights Act — are visible to the world.
I have also written to “Norwich Pride” to enquire what precisely were the phrases that were so “extreme” that they felt the police had to be involved.
I will let you know what either say.
UPDATE: 3rd September 2013. Lots of auto-response emails from the police. No substance yet. Response from the press office at “Norwich Pride”: “Sorry, we are not forwarding the email.” Of course I didn’t ask them to; only to tell me specifically what phrases were so “extreme” that the police had to be involved.