Archive for the 'Free speech online' Category

More thought police in Britain

Another day, another sinister story.  It seems that mainstream conservative British magazine “The Spectator” is being ‘investigated’ — harassed, rather — by the police for a blog post.

The threat to British liberty.

It’s a funny old world. I have now been contacted by two journalists informing me that Bedfordshire Police are investigating The Spectator. Why? Because of the Melanie Philips blog where she referred to the “moral depravity” of “the Arabs” who killed the Fogel family in Israel. CoffeeHousers can judge for themselves if they agree or disagree with her language and views – but should this be illegal?

The Guardian has written this story up, claiming The Spectator is being investigated by the Press Complaints Commission. This is untrue. The PCC tell me that a complaint has been lodged, but that’s as far as it has gone.

And guess who informed against them?

1) Inayat Bunglawala, chair of Muslims4UK, gets angry about what he reads on Melanie’s blog.
2) Complains to the PCC.
3) Complains to the police.
4) Phones up The Guardian and says “The PCC are investigating The Spectator!! Story!! Police too!!
5) The Guardian duly writes it all up, on its website.
6) The Independent follows up The Guardian.

I don’t blame the police.  The police have no choice but to “investigate” a complaint from a Moslem, or a gay, or a Jew, or some other legally privileged group.  They’d be terrified not to.  Failing to follow up on “hate crime” (such a loaded phrase, redolent of the Stasi) would be grounds for career termination.  Blame Tony Blair and those who passed these laws.  Blame, above all, those in power who profit from them.  These laws are the creation of the political left.

Until the political left  feel threatened by the process they have created, they will continue to create and strengthen such laws.  For this is about power, and it all — at the moment — gives power to the dirtiest elements of the political left, and gives them the power to silence those they dislike. 

(Thanks to Curious Presbyterian for this one)

Cracking down on crime online — or on freedom?

I apologise for all the free speech items today!  It’s not what I want to blog about. 

However today seems to be a write-off, as far as other subjects are concerned.  So let me finish the series of free speech-related  posts with another news item. 

This evening I learn that five people have been arrested by police in the Midlands for taking part in the “Anonymous” group of online hackers, who have been performing DDOS revenge attacks on sites like Paypal which removed support for Wikileaks.  Quite properly so, of course — they were engaged in online crime.  The story is here, and in many other places.  But it is the Financial Times which grasps the real implications and reports it properly.

Global police moves against ‘hacktivists’

An online “hacktivist” group that brought down the websites of perceived opponents of Wikileaks  has itself become the target of an international police crackdown.

The London Metropolitan Police arrested five men in connection with a recent spate of attacks by Anonymous, behind last month’s revenge assault on the websites of a number of organisations that had severed links with WikiLeaks.

In the US, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it executed “more than 40” search warrants on Thursday to gather evidence likely to lead to arrests.

The FBI said it was working on the case along with the UK, “authorities in the Netherlands, Germany and France”.  …

Now I have little sympathy for Assange, nor his supporters.  What Assange was doing was espionage, and he knew it.  DDOS attacks on Paypal were criminal, and those doing them knew it. 

But as I predicted on Dec. 4, the Wikileaks attack on the US is bad for free speech.  The collateral damage from this affair is that all of us are getting a little bit less free.  I am sorry to find myself proven right.

For some things areintolerable to any government, however supportive of free speech it might ordinarily be.  It doesn’t matter what sort of politician you are, you don’t want this sort of thing to happen.  You will make sure it does not happen.  And if taking control of the internet is what it requires, you will take control of the internet.  And in a situation like this, who will oppose you?  No responsible politician opposes matters of national security.  And people have died, remember, because of all this. 

As I wrote then, what Assange did was give politicians a cast iron excuse to take control of the web, and to create the mechanisms to locate and arrest people for online activity.  “Anonymous”, with its evidently criminal activity, simply helped reinforce the perception that politicians had to act. 

Today we see global police forces, coordinating to track down people for what they are doing online.  That never happened before.  It could not have happened before.  It’s probably taken a couple of months of international negotiations.  But who, with all these DDOS attacks going on, could oppose the request?

Does it make anyone reading this feel good, to learn that the police are now geared up internationally to arrest people on the web?  It makes me feel sick. 

Because once these mechanisms for control exist, they will get used for other things.  After 9/11, legislation was passed to make it possible to lock up terror suspects, and rightly so.  But those laws have almost entirely been used for other purposes, as a quick way to arrest and deport people who are in no sense terror suspects.  So it will be here.  We’re watching those mechanisms being created, this very evening.

Giving money and power to the government is like giving money and cars to teenage boys, as P.J.O’Rourke once wrote.  It isn’t going to be good.  Bye-bye online freedom. 

It means that the freedom we have all enjoyed online is diminished sensibly.  It was never possible to track us down, and never worth the trouble, or the cost to invest in infrastructure.  But Mr Assange has given western governments just the incentive they needed to make every form of online tracking legal and technically possible.  And it’s happening right now.

More gay interference with free speech in Britain

I hardly thought, when I wrote one of my rare political posts a couple of hours ago, on the attacks on Christians by gay groups, that I would feel obliged to write another this evening.  But so I must.  For another attempt at politically-motivated censorship has been put into effect this evening.

From the BBC I learn that two men have been charged with the crime of inciting ‘homophobia’ (the latter term invented by gay pressure groups).  Reading between the lines, as one has to do in unfree nations with media censorship, their offence was to express an opinion that homosexuality in wrong in leaflets handed out outside a mosque.  Unusually the men are Moslems.

The law, passed only in March 2010, is an evil piece of work.  Even those determined to do wrong are ashamed to say honestly what they intend, and so the act is weasel-worded.  The charge is ”inciting hatred” — because who could be in favour of “hate”? — but of course the real offence, the real action criminalised, is to express opposition to homosexuality.  That makes the issue one of censorship.  For there is no suggesting that they were “inciting violence“; they were merely leafleting in favour of an opinion.

The BBC report is here:

It is the first such prosecution since laws outlawing homophobia came into force in March 2010.

Razwan Javed, 30, and Kabir Ahmed, 27, will appear before magistrates on Friday.

The charges relate to a leaflet, The Death Penalty?, which was distributed outside the Jamia Mosque in Derby in July last year.

The leaflets were also posted through letterboxes in the city.

Mr Javed and Mr Ahmed have both been charged with distributing threatening written material intending to stir up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Note how full of weasel-words the charge is.   I wish I had a copy of the leaflet.

Crown Prosecution Service lawyer Sue Hemming said: “This is the first ever prosecution for this offence and it is the result of close working between the Crown Prosecution Service and Derbyshire Police.

“Following complaints from the public, Derbyshire Police mounted a thorough investigation.

“We have carefully reviewed the evidence provided by the police and are satisfied that there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to charge these men.”

It sounds to me rather like a show-trial, designed to create law and intimidate others. 

The language used suggests to me that the police and CPS think that this is dubiously legal, and that the act of Parliament is unconstitutional and probably contrary to European “Human Rights” law.  For Moslems, notoriously, themselves have all sorts of rights denied to the rest of us.  It would be interested to learn who precisely authorised this action, who was asked, who decided, and so forth.  But, in Britain today, it is useless to ask such questions. 

I wonder how many Moslems at that mosque come from oppressive regimes where you aren’t allowed to express an opinion?  They must feel right at home.

Some readers may not be familiar with the concept of “lawfare”, the acquiring of power by means of abuse of the legal system, backed by corrupt laws designed to facilitate such abuse.  It has been documented by Ezra Levant, himself a victim.  If you are not, please familiarise yourself with it.   It is, sadly, a common tactic in our day.  Both this and the action against the Christians seem to be examples.

Now begins an interesting discussion.  In politically correct poker, being Moslem gives you points; but so does being gay.  The long-mooted question of which gives you more points will now be decided.

It will also be interesting to see if Moslem groups decide to override this nasty process by an appeal to arms. 

Is Christianity actually legal in modern Britain, for practical purposes?

Something really horrible is happening in the United Kingdom.   The mass media are nearly silent.  No politician dares do more than mumble a few hesitant queries.  When I look at my TV, at my newspaper, I see mostly silence.  Bloggers are silent, with the exception of the mighty Cranmer here and here.

The story is simple.  A Christian couple, Peter and Hazelmary Bull, let out rooms in their home for “Bed and Breakfast” accomodation overnight, which they advertise under the name of the “Chymorvah private hotel” in Penzance in Cornwall.  B&B’s are not as popular as they were, but many older people find it a useful way to supplement a meagre income.  They advertised, but indicated that unmarried couples would not be accepted for double rooms.  They were targeted by a gay pressure group, Stonewall, which wrote to them, as if it was a government body, and ‘warned’ them to desist.  When they failed to do so, it sent two sodomites as agents provocateurs.  These made a booking, without indicating that they were a gay couple, and turned up hoping to be turned away.  In fact they were offered two rooms, but instead scampered off and denounced the Christians to the police.  The couple were duly prosecuted under the 2007 Equality Act (Sexual Orientation Regulations), by Stonewall, funded by the government quango the Equalities Commission.  The couple, being old and poor, could not afford to defend themselves but a small Christian charity called the Christian Institute funded the defence. 

They were convicted.  The judge jeered at them as “out of touch”, or so I am told, in phrases that might have come straight from the crooked and bullying trials of the Restoration period, and fined them savagely.   The atheist British Humanist Association shrieked with triumph, of course — the idea that atheists favour liberty of conscience is also “out of date”, it seems.   The establishment media dutifully followed the party line.  The victims have appealed, of course, but since the establishment chooses the judges, and demands that they favour “diversity” — i.e. enforce political correctness — they are unlikely to win.  Meanwhile, I learn from Cranmer, that loads of gays have been trying to book accomodation at that B&B, not to support the victims, but in order to drag them into court again and again until they go bankrupt. 

This is a horrible story.  It’s like reading something from Soviet Russia, or Nazi Germany.  It’s sickening in its contempt for others, its hatred of right, its cynical choice of the weak and poor as victims. 

You can find plenty of “comment” online “justifying” this evil.  But the excuses for interfering with this poor old couple dishonour those making them.  Most of them sound like the sort of self-excusing rhetoric that Goering trotted out at that hideous meeting after Krystallnacht, as “justification” for stealing the insurance payouts.  The basic moral principle — do not do to others what you would not like done to you — is violated again and again.

Curiously, I myself have a story to tell, although I have not been involved.  But I happened to notice an article Should Christian B&Bs accept gay couples on the BBC website (25th Jan. 2011).  Leaving aside the question — surely in a free country, Christians should decide for themselves! — I happened to look at the “comments”: “Below is a selection of your comments”.

To my surprise, not a single comment of those chosen supported the B&B owners.  Each and every one attacked them.  One even pretended to be from a “conservative Christian” – and looked to me as if it had pretty clearly been faked by the editorial staff.

The BBC has a statutory duty of balance.  So I wrote and complained:

The article follows up the case: ” Should Christian hoteliers be forced, by law, to offer hospitality to a gay couple?”  The “selection of comments” posted is 100% in favour of the gays’ rights overriding those of the Christians.

In view of the relative numbers of each in our society, it seems incredible to me that this can possibly reflect either the number of comments made, or public opinion in general. It’s bias, in short.

In view of the bias, I suggest that it would be best to reupload the article minus all comments, with an apology to the public for this behaviour added to the end of the article. The name of the editor who did this should also appear in the apology.

It doesn’t matter what the issue discussed is, or what view we hold on it. What we expect, surely, is honest reporting. This cannot be such.

I got back an anonymous email:

Thank you for your message. The comments posted below the article are a representative sample of the opinions expressed by the many respondents, with nuanced views on the rights of the respective parties.
 
Bruno Beloff, for instance, points out that both the gay couple and the Christian hoteliers “gain by protecting each other’s rights”. Rachel says “it seems only fair that a B&B can state this in their terms and conditions, and it not be seen as infringing upon people’s rights”. And Karen adds that “The guesthouse owners have been judged unfairly”.
 
Several point out that they themselves are Christians, such as Joe, who says: “I disapprove of same sex relationships. If put in the same situation, I’d let them share the bed, and leave it to God to decide if it is right or wrong.”

Readers can look at the comments for themselves and see that not one of them backed the victims.  They can form their opinion about this response.  What honest man would respond like that?   But the BBC too, is part of the establishment.

What is happening here?  It can be summarised simply, as far as I can see: that, with the backing of the judicial system and the establishment, organised gay groups are running a campaign to force Christians out of public life and out of business.  It sounds extraordinary when you say it like that, but what else can it mean? 

It is probably relevant that last year all the Catholic adoption agencies in Britain were forced to close, because they would not undertake to place children with “gay couples”.  Effectively, in modern Britain, Christians cannot run adoption agencies, nor run B&B’s.  That is the law, it seems.  What other businesses will it be found to be illegal for Christians to run next, I wonder? 

Like Jews in medieval Europe, Christians in modern Britain are not allowed to run certain types of business unless they violate their religion.  That’s the law, we are told. 

Isn’t that incredible?

The answer to the question with which I started this post, unbelievably, is “About as legal as it was in Soviet Russia.”  That is, if this really is good law.

The tool used is a law which was passed in 2007.  The then Labour government, which had already passed a series of pro-gay laws, enacted an ‘Equality Act’ known as the Sexual Orientation Regulations.  These made it an offence to “discriminate” against gays.  They were drawn very widely, in order to affect as many people as possible, and equipped with savage penalties. 

This law, like most of the rest, was not a random thing.  Gay actor Ian McKellen openly boasted about a meeting he had with Tony Blair, 3 months before the latter’s election in 1997:

I reeled off Stonewall’s demands, and he nodded, wrote them down and put a tick by them all. Then he said we will do all that.

The scope of this law was so great, and their drafting so intentionally ambiguous, as to stir the torpid mainstream churches to protest, even archbishops, but in vain.  Nor was this the limit of their ambitions: a law criminalising “incitement to religious hatred” which would have destroyed free speech was neutered by a campaign led by stand-up comedians, or it too would have been used against Christians who dared to criticise Islam. One minister boasted that the churches would have to hire lawyers — in a country where no-one can afford to do so.

The law is passed, and the stormtroopers are knocking on the doors.  No doubt there is a list, a plan for all this.  I wonder where bloggers come in that list?  Soon, I would guess, soon.

And the silence is deafening.  Cranmer has spoken up, but I haven’t seen another blogger express any criticism of this appalling business.  No doubt many are too scared.  Tory bloggers fear intimidation, or being accused of “tainting the brand” — as if there was any point to politics when you can’t criticise your foes.  Those who do criticise these evil-doers do indeed risk losing their careers, their jobs, their livelihoods, risk being reduced to beggary.  No campaign of hate is too mean to be directed against those who say The Thing That Cannot Be Said.

I hate having to write this piece.  This blog is not about politics.  But will it be said that “when they came for the Christians who ran hotels, I said nothing because I did not run a hotel”?  Not here it won’t.    It doesn’t matter that it is gays who are running this fascist campaign.  It would be wrong whoever did it, and whoever the victims were.   It is a sick, evil business.

Let us pray for the victims, that God may give them grace, and financial and other support, and deliver them.  Let us also pray that Christians awake, and prepare for persecution.   And let us also pray for the persecutors, that God may have mercy on them too.  For, of course, no good end, even for themselves, is served by such evil.

UPDATE: See also eChurch Christian blog

UPDATE: I note that some of the apologists for this evil try to claim “well other Christians think it’s OK”.   The “other Christians” turn out to be heretics, of course, and the ploy is intended merely to confuse Christian attempts to defend themselves.  The same tactic was used by the KGB when abusing Russian Christians.

UPDATE (28/1/11): The Daily Mail highlights continuing harassment of the Bull’s here.

Standing up for their beliefs has already brought them a hefty fine, a court battle and a string of abusive phone calls.

Now it could cost Christian hoteliers Peter and Hazelmary Bull their business as tormentors take to the internet to scare off customers.

They are apparently posting bogus reviews on travel websites to take revenge for the pair’s stance on gay couples.

The messages claim the hotel is dirty, unfriendly and infested with cockroaches – with one so-called reviewer even comparing it with a Thai prison cell.

The comments were exposed as lies after Mrs Bull, 66, found those who posted them claimed to have stayed in the winter – when the hotel was closed. …

By their fruits ye shall know them.  And sadly even Cranmer has put out a post “it’s not for the believer to impose his morality on the unbeliever”, making the classic debating error of conceding to the enemy what should not be conceded for temporary advantage. 

UPDATE: Cranmer’s Curate faces up to the next question — will Christian bloggers have to risk jail in order to preach against vice?  And if so how?

if the UK segues into a politically correct dictatorship and it becomes illegal for Christian bloggers to denounce false religion, false teaching, idolatry and immorality in the robust way in which the New Testament does, what then? …

How would Christian pirate blogging work out in practice? Presumably it would not be necessary to resort to blogging from ships a la pirate radio in the 1960s or would it?

Furthermore, is it worth risking jail for the sake of blogging? Should Christians engage in illegal internet activity whether as writers or readers?

The answer, of course, is to ask God what we should do.

Curious Presbyterian gives the business its real name: “the gay sting against Christian Bed & Breakfast owners Peter and Hazelmary Bull” and reproduces remarks by Peter Hitchens from the Mail on Sunday:

As I suspected they would, the Christian hotel owners, Peter and Hazelmary Bull, came off worse in their courtroom struggle against Politically Correct Britain.

The law believes such people have no right to follow their own morals, except in private.  The law also now states that homosexual partnerships are equal to heterosexual marriage, which New Labour tried to pretend was not the case.

Perhaps most importantly, the homosexual couple had their action paid for by us.  Britain’s embryonic Thought Police, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, provided the money on your behalf and mine, whether we like it or not.

This is not the end of the revolution we are passing through.  By the time it is finished, I will not be allowed to write or say this.  Don’t believe me?  Wait and see.

Curious Presbyterian is monitoring the stories, and, my, aren’t there a lot of them!  All these from the last few days:

Well done, that man.

Why the Wikileaks attack on the US is bad news for free speech

Wikileaks was once a reputable website which published things that the powerful and corrupt — especially third-world states and nastier corporations — would rather we did not see.  At that time I believe it was run by a group of people, some of them Chinese dissidents.  I don’t know who this Julian Assange might be, but I believe he took over the site some time ago.

The first warning that something was wrong was when Wikileaks published the membership list of the British National Party.  This small political party is the UK party opposed to immigration.  It has been targeted for violence, much of it evidently with the concurrence of the establishment and the police, and is currently being forced out of existence by an abuse of the legal process.  Far from being powerful, its members have to take their lives and livelihoods in their hands in order to belong.  And Wikileaks denounced them, Vichy-style, to the powerful, the police, and the media.  It matters nothing here what the BNP is; but to betray the abused to the abuser, to hand over those afraid to speak to those who would punish them for so doing, this was a betrayal of the whole purpose of the site, which was to deal with attempts to suppress free speech by the powerful. 

Now we have the current scandal.  I have not been able to understand how any of us benefit by the betrayal of Afghans who have assisted our forces to the Taliban.  Making it difficult for the US to conduct diplomacy, forcing it to use force rather than talking … who benefits?  Only those corrupt and hateful regimes which hate us all too.

But Assange has done the world a far greater injury, one that will last far longer than this five days sensation.   For he has found a way to force the liberal democracies to create the means to control what appears on the internet.  He has made it a matter of national security, he has made it essential for governments to have to power to take down websites on little or no notice, and for them to have the power to bring to justice those who post on them.  The Chinese will love it!  So will the big corporations, who whisper in the ears of legislators.

Yesterday I read that domain name hosting companies were refusing to point to the Wikileaks IP address.  Today I read that Paypal has withdrawn it’s support for donations to Wikileaks.  Well and good… except that here is another precedent.  For who believes that any of this did not happen with state pressure?

No-one, in London or Washington, however inclined to freedom of speech, will be able to deny any demands that national security requires this site to be silenced, whatever it takes.  It won’t be politically possible.  And once the deed has happened, what then? 

What happens then, is that the security services on both sides of the Atlantic have a brand-new method of censorship.  And it will be used.  It will be developed.  Policies will be created.  Laws will be passed.  A whole apparatus of control will come into existence.  How can it not, unless the US is run by people heedless of their own convenience? 

Generations to come will not remember the name of Julian Assange.  But he has done more than anyone to make the internet a place where the free speech that we have all relied on will become a memory, and to create corporate control of the internet. 

It is, indeed, a  bitter Christmas present for the world. 

UK internet to be controlled by police

A curious story here at political blogger Guido Fawkes.  He says that Nominet, the controller of the .uk domain, has decided to take down any site, if the police make a request for it to be taken down.   Apparently they will do so without any requirement for a court order.

The impetus behind this is to deal with sites run by organised crime.  But the implications are wider, and Guido is right to be alarmed.

The British press is subject to the D-notice system.  This is a group of senior security figures, who advise the press when to suppress some story prejudicial to national security.  It is a civilised system, and certainly every nation needs to ensure that the media do not give aid and comfort to enemies in time of war. 

The recent actions of Wikileaks highlight why such a system is needed.  Nothing is gained by betraying the secret communications of your diplomats to your enemies.

But surely we don’t want the police deciding who may and may not run a website?

Bigotry in Colchester?

Persecution does not necessarily hit the headlines.  Most of it goes on “under the radar”.  The large-scale violence of the Great Persecution under Diocletian was abnormal.  Tertullian lived in a world where the proconsul did not, as a rule, orchestrate attacks on Christians.  Rather the Roman state put in place the legal framework which denormalised Christians and encouraged individuals or groups to engage in harassment or denunciation of them.  Christians were second-class citizens, whom a disgruntled individual could always denounce.

The last government of the UK set out to create a similar climate here in the UK.  It did so by passing laws at the behest of militant anti-Christian gay groups. The laws were designed by the latter to permit the latter to drag Christians before the courts.  It also arranged for “education” of judges, magistrates and the police, in “diversity and equality”, to ensure that these would be afraid to obstruct such cases in case they were also accused.  This was not accidental; on the contrary one government minister openly boasted that the proposed law on “inciting religious hatred” — thankfully emasculated in the Lords — would force churches to hire lawyers.

Today via VirtueOnline I read of a case of this kind from 2009, taking place around 15 miles from my home.  The Revd. Thomas Yap is the Anglican chaplain of the University of Essex at Colchester, belonging to the Diocese of Chelmsford.  His account of his own case is here in a submission on the OSCE website (clicking the link downloads the PDF).   Unfortunately I was unable to find any confirmation of the narrative from any other source, so we must treat it with care.  But it seems worth giving all the same, since it is particularly local to me.  It isn’t something happening to people far away in some strange land.

I work as a fully authorised University Christian Chaplain at a British University in the United Kingdom. In this year 2009, following requests from Christian users of the Chaplaincy, I provided books and multi‐media materials on the issue of same‐sex attractions as an extension of my Christian ministry. All books and materials were housed within the Chaplaincy library area and included titles such as “Coming out of Homosexuality” by Lori Rentzel, “Setting Love in Order” by Mario Bergner, “Out of Egypt: Beyond Lesbianism” by Jeannette Howard and “You don’t have to be Gay” by Jeff Konrad. There were no specific publicity or fanfare about the provision of the books except within the Chaplaincy membership nor were they displayed outside the Chaplaincy area.

Within a week, the Equality and Diversity Unit of the University contacted me in person and demanded that all such materials be removed because they were deemed as harassment following one complaint. I was accused of putting out “offensive display; offensive in the eyes of the complainant”.

In addition, I was threatened that any speech or teaching that I gave within the University about unwanted same‐sex attractions will be deemed as harassment and that I may be subjected to staff disciplinary action if I contravened harassment legislation.

Effectively, I was banned from expressing my age‐old orthodox Christian belief about life transformation from unwanted same‐sex attractions. Also, I was intimidated from offering pastoral care through using Christian books relating to changing of unwanted same‐sex attractions. Lastly, my hands are tied from making professional referrals to reparative therapy from unwanted same‐sex attractions for those who seek them.

The case is still “On File” and I may be subject to further investigation by the Equality and Diversity Unit pending any further complaint.

The VirtueOnline article derives from a submission to the same conference by an American, a certain Rev. Mario Bergner, who adds that Mr Yap hired “a barrister” — surely a solicitor?  

Now I cannot say whether this story is true, although Mr Yap is certainly a respectable clergyman in the Church of England.  But I have seen too many of these stories over the last year or two to be very comfortable in dismissing it.  Unless I am much mistaken, this sort of thing is happening.

Rev. Bergner quotes another example and then makes the following request.

 Participating States of the OSCE should draft legislation to safeguard the free speech of Christian academicians and clerics so that they may teach the sexual morality of their faith traditions without being subject to false accusations of hate speech so they may empower Christian believers to practice the sexual morality of their Christian conscience.

Christian clerics and academicians are being discriminated against, treated in an intolerant manner and falsely accused of harassment for articulating the moral worldview of their faith traditions when specifically applied to homosexuality.

We might agree or disagree with the proposal, but this states a general issue with all these stories quite well.  It seems as if anyone choosing to teach what Christians have taught for 2,000 years risks all these things, not because of a personal view, but merely for being faithful to the world’s largest religion and its teaching. 

But the issue is not simply one of Christians being targeted.  Indeed it hardly matters what the “hot button” issue is.  It hardly matters who is the victim, who the bully, which side is making use of informers, and so on.  Those will be determined, not by right or wrong, but purely by who has power.  Today it is gays.  Yesterday it was hardly possible to say anything negative about Jews, but today they are going down the wind, and Moslems are higher up the food chain, and anyone who defends Israel is starting to risk the same dreary and hateful process documented above.  What  matters is that it is possible to do this.  Naturally every special interest group seeks to acquire similar power over those it dislikes. 

We need to start being aware of this process, of the steady encroachment on freedoms we have taken for granted.  How we fight these I do not know.  But we can at least publicise these cases.  Bureaucrats hate to have their petty bullying exposed to view.

UPDATE: I have revised this post somewhat to avoid stating as fact what I only hear from one source.

Freedom of speech ten miles away from me

This post is written under UK government restrictions on discussing homosexuality.

Premier Christian Radio reports today:

Preacher’s trial over homosexuality comments adjourned.  While standing as an independent election candidate in Colchester Paul Shaw distributed leaflets on which he stated homosexual acts should be made illegal.

Christian Quoter tells us:

Colchester Magistrates today agreed to adjourn the case of Christian brother, Paul Shaw, … [who] said:

“I believe for example that homosexual and lesbian acts are immoral and that the law should reflect that; by making them unlawful as they once were; and so acting as a deterrent to such behaviour. The concept of homophobia is nonsense and a play on words; it is not and has never been a phobia! A phobia is an un-natural fear; whereas a rejection of perverse behaviour; is a righteous godly fear; that fears to do wrong because it knows that there are consequences and punishment otherwise! This is the most pronounced example of a nation that has lost its way …”

It was the Crown Prosecutor who applied for an adjournment. This was in order, he said, to consider the case in the light of freedom of speech. The Magistrate, District Judge David Cooper, agreed.

A further article in Pink News (why is there no Christian comment on this?) says he was arrested on June 11th, and is known around the town as a street preacher.  eChurch Christian Blog tells us that Shaw was denounced to the police earlier in the year.  The Chelmsford Weekly News has the same story:

District judge David Cooper told him: “You said you were spreading God’s word and when interviewed you said children needed to be protected and basically, homosexuals and lesbians should repent and ask for God’s forgiveness.”

Mr Shaw claimed that there would be “terrible consequences” if homosexuality was not made illegal again soon and warned that God’s judgment was “not very far away”.

He refused to be bound over to keep the peace, which is a criminal conviction. Instead, he said: “In four years, I’ve only dealt with homosexuality about twice. I have to act in good conscience, I’m afraid, and I think [homosexuality] is a particularly significant thing for this nation at this time.” The case was dismissed as the prosecution could offer no written evidence from complainants and Mr Shaw argued his right to free speech.

Mr Cooper warned him that further complaints could land him back in court and said: “There are other sorts of ‘sins’. Do you think you could concentrate on those for a bit?”

Shaw is now due for trial on 23rd September. 

I suspect from all this that Mr Cooper is a sensible chap who finds himself wondering why on earth he is being asked to decide what people are allowed to say, and why people can’t just get along.   But of course this is the front-line of a political war, and not a court matter at all.  One side has managed to get a law passed, allowing it to lock up the other for expressing an opinion.  So it was in the days of the State Trials, of evil memory.

At the bottom of the Pink News article is another article on a preacher arrested in May 2010.  And on March 18th an American preacher in Glasgow was arrested.

I finish this account of religious persecution and interference with free speech with a link to a columnist for the Independent, one of the major UK national newspapers, on The Slow Whining Death of British Christianity, abusing Christians in the most hateful terms possible, for daring to complain of persecution.  It reads like something from Der Sturmer.

Let us pray for the United Kingdom, for God’s mercy upon it, and also upon the persecutors, maddened by their vice and swollen with the arrogance that comes from believing oneself powerful.  No good consequence comes of such things, except for the church itself.  We might also read what Tertullian wrote to Scapula, in time of persecution.

UPDATE: Stephen Green notes in the comments that apparently the prosecution of Paul Shaw has been dropped by the CPS.  Good news!  Christian Quoter has the story.

More problems for UK Christians

During the 13 years of the Blair government, a considerable number of laws were passed whose effect was to interfere with Christians, their organisations, and their right to express their beliefs verbally, in print, or by preaching in public. 

This was quite intentional. I remember one cabinet minister boasting that the churches had better start hiring lawyers.  To understand the point of that remark, it is necessary to remember that only the rich can go to law in the UK, and that most people would be terrified to be dragged into court.  As Ezra Levant has pointed out, “the process is the punishment”.  Even if found “innocent”, the process of being dragged through the courts for months and years, at huge cost in fees, is a punishment itself.  The threat of it is often enough to cause people to comply with the demands, legal or not.

Since I am a Christian living in the UK, I am naturally somewhat concerned.  I don’t really want the police knocking at my door for what I say here.  I don’t think I am in any great danger, but then I don’t really post on contemporary issues.  But preachers have been accosted by gay activists acting as agent-provocateurs, demanding to know whether they agree that homosexuality is a sin, and then reported to the police when they give the biblical teaching and arrested.  A bishop has been “questioned” for failing to declare clearly enough that he rejects the bible in this area.  And so on.

The change of government has not stopped the process.  Today I learn from the September issue of Evangelicals Now that Premier Radio, the only Christian radio station in the UK, has been taking an interest in the issue of freedom of speech that is resulting from this.  Since 2008 they have been researching the question of Christian marginalisation, prompted by statements by high-profile Christians in the mass media.  The station is very mainstream and inoffensive, but has had consistent difficulties with the authorities. 

It is running a campaign — freedomofthecross.com — asking the public to share how they have seen the Christian faith marginalised.  … Premier Christian Radio was refused permission to broadcast an advert calling on Christians to report any experience of Christian marginalisation in the workplace.

It is ironic that even investigating the subject is apparently not permitted.  The station has applied for a judicial review; but since the judges were also purged by the last government, it may be doubted whether this will achieve much.

Let us pray that this intolerance and bigotry may cease, and peace prevail.

What they will not allow you to see online

Jona Lendering writes about censorship in the Netherlands.

The Dutch Royal Library is currently making available online all newspapers from the Second World War, which includes Nazi propaganda. Now the Dutch department of Justice has advised the library not to make digital versions of these publications, because it is possible that the Public Prosecutor might accuse the Royal Library of distributing publications that incite hatred.

Jona rightly excoriates this nonsense.   What need to  fear “Nazis” if you adopt Nazi policies, supposedly to prevent them?  

UPDATE: All of which nonsense led me to muse on black shirts and the like, and thence to P. G. Wodehouse, “The code of the Woosters”, p.54 of the Vintage paperback (1990) where Gussie Fink-Nottle explains to Bertie Wooster about a fellow guest at the house party.

‘Don’t you ever read the papers?  Roderick Spode is the founder and head of the Saviours of Britain, a Fascist organisation better known as the Black Shorts.  His general idea, if he doesn’t get knocked on the head with a bottle in one of the frequent brawls in which he and his followers indulge, is to make  himself a Dictator.’

‘Well I’m blowed!’

I was astounded at my keenness of perception.  The moment I had set eyes on Spode, if you remember, I had said to myself, ‘What ho! A Dictator!’ and a Dictator he had proved to be.  I couldn’t have made a better shot, if I had been one of those detectives who see a chap walking along the street and deduce that he is a retired manufacturer of poppet valves named Robinson with rheumatism in one arm, living at Clapham.

‘Well I’m dashed!  I thought he was something of that sort.  That chin … Those eyes … And, for the matter of that, that moustache.  By the way, when you say “shorts” you mean “shirts”, of course.’

‘No.  By the time Spode formed his association there were no shirts left.  He and his adherents wear black shorts.’

‘Footer bags, you mean?’

‘Yes.’

‘How perfectly foul.’

‘Yes.’

‘Bare knees?’

‘Bare knees.’

‘Golly!’

‘Yes.’