A free speech victory

Freedom of speech for those of us who are not part of powerful pressure groups with armies of lawyers and/or rioters at their call has become a somewhat fragile thing in recent years.  The police have felt no option but to enforce laws designed to chill the expression of various opinions. 

But there good news today — one such evil has been struck down by a court in the UK.  The Daily Mail reports:

Police have been ordered to pay compensation to a Christian street preacher who was hauled off in handcuffs for saying that gays will go to hell.

A judge condemned the arrest of Anthony Rollins, who quoted the King James Bible on the subject of the ‘effeminate’ as he preached in Birmingham.

Mr Rollins was handcuffed and then held in a cell for nearly four hours after a passer-by dialled 999 and complained that his language was ‘hugely offensive’  …

Mr Rollins has been speaking on the city’s streets as a member of a Christian mission for 12 years. In June 2008 he was handing out leaflets in the city centre and quoting passages from the King James Bible – the Authorised Version which reaches its 400th anniversary next year – that refer to homosexuality. …

Judge Ashworth’s ruling was dismissive of evidence given by the onlooker who called police and who said he had been offended by the preaching.

He said of John Edwards: ‘I was not impressed by him as a witness. He struck me as a man full of his own self-importance who in the witness box relished the attention and greatly embellished his evidence.’

The ruling was praised by the Christian Institute, the think tank which backed Mr Rollins’s court claim. Spokesman Mike Judge said: ‘Street preachers may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they are part of our Christian heritage.

It is good news indeed.  The sandwichboard man with his sign “Prepare to meet thy God” is a quaint figure, but surely a harmless one.  Let him preach his message to those who wish to listen without interference from those desperate to be “offended”, ready to call the police, and “full of their own self-importance”. 

UPDATE: A better report than the Daily Mail article is at the Christian Institute site, and also at Virtue Online.  The court took a much more negative view of the case, and of the police actions, it seems, than the Daily Mail indicates.


Did you know it was illegal to burn your own copy of the Koran in England?

No?  Well, until yesterday, neither did I.  But apparently it now is, as of yesterday.  On Thursday 23rd September 2010 it became a crime.  We found this out when six men were arrested for doing so.  No-one knows who decided it was a crime. 

They were charged under “inciting racial hatred”, one of those laws of so very broad interpretation favoured by certain parts of the political spectrum, who know that people of their own persuasion will decide who is to be arrested for doing something no-one knew was a crime, and who can sleep soundly knowing they need not worry, whatever they do.

Duane Smith comments on the constraint of freedom of expression.

I wrote the stuff below a few days ago and for some reason didn’t post it at the time. But the arrest of “[s]ix men from northern England . . . after they filmed themselves burning a copy of the Quran on the anniversary of 9/11 and then posted the footage on YouTube [AOL News]” prompted me to post it this evening. What I wrote then and post now applies by analogy to the UK and any other part of the world that thinks of itself as civilized and moral.

Read it and worry.  Today it is a bunch of Geordies having a lark who find themselves in handcuffs.  Tomorrow, will it be us?