Thursday, September 09, 2010

Maybe There Won't Always Be an England

In American Thinker, Scott Varland underscores the unfortunate truth that in the U.K., speech isn't free (links added):
"Here in the United Kingdom, what you just said amounts to three crimes under the Public Order Act of 1986. I refer to violations of Part 1, Section 4A (intentional harassment, alarm, or distress); Part 1, Section 5 (harassment, alarm, or distress); and Part 3 (racial hatred). If convicted, you may spend years in prison, pay a substantial fine, or both."

"Racial hatred? What are you talking about?"

"The Public Order Act defines 'racial hatred' to include a reference to the victim's nationality, citizenship, or national origin. Furthermore, if a perpetrator such as yourself insults the victim intending to stir up racial hatred, then a crime has been committed." . . .

[F]our of the most troubling cases from 2008 to 2010:

1) During the 2009 G-20 London summit, the police informed journalists that if they did not stop recording a protest, they would be arrested under Section 14 of the Public Order Act. As a consequence of the threat, the journalists retreated. The Guardian newspaper published a video of what happened. Section 14 permits a senior police officer to impose conditions on individuals participating in an assembly but makes no reference to imposing conditions on news coverage of an assembly.

2) Dale McAlpine was handing out Christian leaflets near a shopping center. A police officer approached him and said that there had been complaints about the leaflets. Furthermore, McAlpine would be arrested if he made any comments that were racist or homophobic. Mr. McAlpine replied that he was not homophobic, but the Bible taught that homosexuality was a sin.

Three other police officers approached him and asked if he had made homophobic remarks. Mr. McAlpine repeated his statement. He was arrested and detained for seven hours, during which time he was forced to provide his fingerprints and a DNA sample. He was charged with causing harassment, alarm, or distress contrary to the Public Order Act. Two weeks later, the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the charge. The chief superintendent of police said, "Our officers and staff often have to make difficult decisions while balancing the law and people's rights. This is not easy[,] especially when opinions and interpretations differ."

3) Christian hoteliers Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang heatedly debated religion with a Muslim guest, Ericka Tazi. Afterwards, Ms. Tazi went to the police to demand prosecution of the Vogelenzangs. The case went to trial before the district judge threw out the charge.

4) Henry Taylor altered published cartoons to mock Christianity and Islam and left them in the multi-faith prayer room of the Liverpool John Lennon Airport. The airport chaplain discovered the altered cartoons, felt insulted, and contacted the police. After a trial, the jury convicted Taylor of violating Part 4A of the Public Order Act of 1986. The judge sentenced him to a six-month term of imprisonment suspended for two years, subjected him to a five-year Anti-Social Behaviour Order (banning him from carrying religiously offensive material in a public place), and ordered him to perform one hundred hours of unpaid work, as well as pay 250 pounds to defray court costs.
Eugene Volokh calls this:
An appalling restriction on freedom of speech; I realize English free speech rules aren’t the same as ours, but cases such as this remind me why I like our free speech rules much better.
Alas, the land that once forged Runnymede has, like Canada, forgotten free speech.

It's not just Britain -- the E.U. is planning to pay reporters' expenses when they accompany the new European "President" on foreign trips. The E.U.'s Justice Commissioner calls it "improving the communications efforts of the Commission." Or, translated from Euro-speak, bribery.

(via Maggie's Farm, The Corner)


Lame-R said...

several years ago one of my cousins from England was visiting, and he was talking about their ridiculous taxes. There had actually been a proposal around that time to levy a "living tax" that you would be obliged to pay just for existing.

As I recall it did not come to pass, but who knows, maybe it did since then? Hopefully even the Brits have their breaking point, though their past seems to suggest that they are able to live perfectly contented lives under oppression (at least what we would consider oppression) for a very long time.

A_Nonny_Mouse said...

They've had this idiotic law on the books for nearly 25 YEARS and there's been no outcry to repeal it?

No wonder Creeping Sharia is much further along in Britain than it is here.

May we Americans always, ALWAYS find a way to deny the morally smug Social Engineers the power to coerce us into submitting to their Utopian dreams of Peace and Harmony. Somehow Utopian dreams devolve very quickly into Dystopian Nightmares.

Whitehall said...

Should the US now offer political asylum to residents of the UK?

Carl said...

Whitehall: "Yes, Minister."

A_N_M: Agreed.

Lame-R: I thought the "poll tax" (essentially, a per-head living tax) is what brought the conservative government down in the 1990s.

Anonymous said...

What about Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park? Speech is pretty free there.

Carl said...

Anony: I wouldn't try saying anything anti-religion or anti-homosexual even on Speaker's Corner--you'd still be subject to arrest and fine under the Public Order Act.