Friday, October 19, 2012
Heading towards a society where soldiers are too scared to fight, teachers too timorous to teach, and police officers too cowed to tackle crime and disorder
Seven British soldiers serving in Afghanistan are facing a murder charge for shooting and killing a Taliban insurgent following a fire fight. The details of what happened are sketchy and the case is sub judice, but on the face of it, it seems odd to prosecute soldiers for killing insurgents when that is precisely what we sent them to Afghanistan to do.
The UK newspapers these days are filled with such oddities.
A 52-year-old female deputy head, confronted by a six-year-old who sat on the floor and refused to go into class, picked him up under his arms and dragged him in. She was dismissed.
So too was a 59-year-old male teacher who reacted to a pupil throwing a milkshake over him by aggressively pinning the unruly boy’s arms by his side, and forcibly pushing him into his chair.
The police, too, are in trouble for doing their job. At an unruly demonstration in London a few months ago, one officer shoved a man who had been told to move. The man (who turned out to be an alcoholic) fell to the ground, cracked his head on the pavement, and later died. The officer was dismissed from the force and put on trial for manslaughter (the jury acquitted him).
This week there was a report of another officer being dismissed after 12 years of service. He had arrested a youth with a long record of troublemaking, brought him to the station, and ordered him to turn out his pockets. When he refused to do so, the officer pushed his arm up behind his back and forced him over the desk.
Reading this last case put me in mind of the 1982 essay on ‘broken windows’ policing by Wilson and Kelling. What everybody knows about this essay is its recommendation of ‘zero tolerance’ – stamp down on the small infractions and you’ll stop the big ones from developing. What is less often remembered is the authors’ crucial insight about the traditional role of the police.
Policing, they say, used to be more about maintaining order than solving crimes. Police officers traditionally enjoyed discretion to nip trouble in the bud. A ‘clip round the ear’ was often more effective than a formal arrest and charge. But any copper who tries that nowadays will lose his or her job and quite probably end up in court.
Our problem is that big state bureaucracies – the army, schools, police – find it difficult coping with individual initiative or making room for commonsense. My favourite sociologist, Max Weber, recognised this when he distinguished ‘formal’ from ‘substantive’ rationality. Bureaucracies, he warned, are driven by formal rules. This leads to an emphasis on box-ticking, even while the substantive purpose for which they were set up goes unrealised.
Weber thought we can do little about this, for the only alternative to dull, bureaucratic conformity is dilettantism. But sometimes we need people to turn a blind eye, to fudge the strict interpretation of rules, to seek out the grey areas. Otherwise, we’re going to end up with soldiers too scared to fight, teachers too timorous to teach, and police officers too cowed to tackle crime and disorder.
Christian's salary cut because he criticised gay marriage on Facebook: Punishment over 'homophobic' comments could cost him £60,000
A Christian housing manager had his salary slashed after allegedly being ‘entrapped’ by a lesbian colleague into criticising gay marriage on his private Facebook page, a court heard yesterday.
Adrian Smith, 55, had posted a link to an article about plans for civil partnership ceremonies in churches with his own comment: ‘An equality too far.’
After a lesbian colleague asked if that meant he didn’t approve, he posted that he could not understand ‘why people who have no faith and don’t believe in Christ would want to get hitched in church’.
Another colleague complained that the comment was offensive, despite having not seen the post, and Mr Smith was disciplined and had his post downgraded and his salary cut by £14,000.
Yesterday the married father-of-one launched a court battle to overturn the decision and win back lost earnings. They stand at nearly £4,000 for the past 18 months, according to his legal team.
However, his future lost earnings which he could seek to recoup should he fail to overturn his demotion are likely to be at least £60,000.
It is the latest in a series of claims by Christians that they have been discriminated against for expressing their beliefs at work.
Mr Smith, of Tottington, near Bury, who attends an evangelical church in Bolton and preaches part-time, posted a link on his Facebook page to an article about gay ‘marriage’ on the BBC website in February last year. Under the headline ‘Gay church marriages get go-ahead’, Mr Smith had posted: ‘An equality too far.’
The hearing was told that of Mr Smith’s 200 Facebook friends, more than 40 worked with him at the Trafford Housing Trust. On his profile he gave his occupation as housing manager at the trust, which runs Trafford council’s housing stock. Later that day, a lesbian colleague with whom he was friends on Facebook, Julia Stavordale, 56, responded: ‘Does that mean you don’t approve?’
A day later, Mr Smith responded: ‘No, not really. I don’t understand why people who have no faith and don’t believe in Christ would want to get hitched in church. The Bible is quite specific that marriage is for men and women.
‘If the State wants to offer civil marriages to the same sex then that is up to the State; but the State shouldn’t impose its rules on places of faith and conscience.’
Later that week another colleague, Stephen Lynch, who was not friends with Mr Smith on Facebook, complained about the post, despite not having seen it.
The trust’s ‘equality and diversity lead’, Helen Malone, referred it to ‘service leads, neighbourhoods’ Debbie Gorman. Mr Smith was suspended on full pay from his £35,000-a-year post while an investigation began. Miss Stavordale backed the complaint, saying the trust should ‘throw the book at him’ and he was ‘blatantly homophobic’.
The following month, Mr Smith was found guilty of gross misconduct by ‘assistant director, customers’ Mike Corfield for a breach of trust disciplinary policies. Because he gave his job as a housing manager on his Facebook profile, his comments could be construed as representing trust policy.
He was told he faced dismissal, but because of his eight years’ ‘loyal service’ he was instead demoted to money support adviser on just £21,396-a-year.
That reduction was to be phased in over 12 months but, although Mr Smith’s appeal was rejected, that period was doubled to 24 months.
Yesterday Mr Smith came to court with his claim for breach of contract and loss of earnings up to his planned retirement date of 2017 – likely to be as much as £60,000.
Mrs Gorman, Mr Corfield and Mr Barrow – each of whom swore oaths on the Bible – all stood by the decision to demote him at the hearing before the High Court sitting at Manchester Civil Justice Centre.
Hugh Tomlinson, QC, representing Mr Smith, said that in response to his ‘uncontroversial comment’ Mrs Gorman launched a ‘Leveson-style inquiry’.
He suggested Miss Stavordale’s questioning of Mr Smith’s views on Facebook were an attempt to ‘entrap’ him’. He argued that Mr Smith’s comments were clearly his personal views and he told Mrs Gorman: ‘The whole thing is a huge and extraordinary over-reaction.’
Last night Miss Stavordale, 56, who no longer works for the trust and was not called to give evidence, told the Daily Mail that she had not tried to entrap Mrs Smith.
Mr Lynch, who is understood to live with a male partner, was not at home. Mr Smith is being supported by the Christian Institute. The case is due to finish today.
Christian B&B owners who refused bed to gay couple ordered to pay £3,000 in compensation
A devout Christian bed and breakfast owner who refused a bed to a gay couple was today ordered to pay them more than £3000 in compensation.
Michael Black, 64, and his partner John Morgan, 59, began a legal battle soon after they were told they could not sleep together at the £75-a-night Swiss Bed and Breakfast in Cookham, Berkshire in March 2010.
Owner Susanne Wilkinson told a court she was serious about her Christian beliefs and had also stopped unmarried heterosexual couples from sharing a double bed.
Christian B&B couple Susanne and Michael Wilkinson who were at court earlier this week because they wouldn't let a gay couple stay in a double bed in their B&B
But a judge at Reading County Court ordered her to pay £3,600 in damages for discriminating directly against the couple, who have been together for eight years.
Michael and John’s claim, funded by pressure group Liberty, was made under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 and argued that it was unlawful for a person providing services to the public to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation.
After the ruling Mrs Wilkinson, who lives with husband Mike, said: 'Naturally, my husband and I are disappointed to have lost the case and to have been ordered to pay £3,600 in damages for injury to feelings. 'We have the option to appeal and we will give that serious consideration.
'We believe a person should be free to act upon their sincere beliefs about marriage under their own roof without living in fear of the law. 'Equality laws have gone too far when they start to intrude into a family home.
'People’s beliefs about marriage are coming under increasing attack and I am concerned about people’s freedom to speak and act upon these beliefs. 'I am a Christian, not just on a Sunday in church, but in every area of my life - as Jesus expects from his followers.
'That’s all I was trying to do and I think it’s quite wrong to punish me for that especially after enduring over two years of vile abuse and threats. 'We find this a strange justice in a society that aspires to be increasingly tolerant.'
Mrs Wilkinson's legal costs were paid by The Christian Institute, a national charity that endeavours to protect the civil liberty of Christians.
Spokesperson Mike Judge said: 'Mrs Wilkinson’s B&B is a business but it’s also a family home. 'The law should be more flexible in allowing people to live according to their own values under the own roof. 'A bit more balance is needed rather than allowing one set of rights to automatically suppress another.'
In 2008 civil partners Martin Hall and Steven Paddy launched a county court claim against Peter and Hazelmary Bull, the owners of the Chymorvah Private Hotel in Cornwall.
They won £3,600 in damages because their human rights were breached by the guesthouse’s refusal to give them a double room, but the case is now going to appeal at the Supreme Court.
The First Freedom
I am grateful to George Washington University professor of Law, Jonathan Turley, for pointing out that a growing number of world leaders find the First Amendment's right of free speech to be an inconvenience. He cites, for instance, U. N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's warning that "when some people use this freedom of expression to provoke or humiliate some others' values and beliefs, then this cannot be protected." Turley makes the valuable -- and if you think about it, obvious -- observation that free speech becomes intolerable not when it is used recklessly but when one person or a group of people object to its use, especially when they object violently.
Thus the Secretary General's neat formulation utterly collapses when, say, some heiress to Mother Teresa asseverates in public that "God is the source of all good." It is a harmless utterance, until some indignado, say, a venerable witch, gets wind of it and objects with hurt feelings or, more preferably, with violence by burning down Mother Teresa's chapel. Possibly this Mother Teresa happens to be influential worldwide and she has a whole string of chapels to burn down, possibly some are diplomatic installations. Free speech is difficult to limit. Without limiting it, it can be disagreed with. It can be ridiculed or it can be ignored. But as soon as we come up with some nice neat formulation for limiting it, a la Ban Ki-moon, along comes a mob of brutes and they put free speech to the test. Under the Ban Ki-moon formulation free speech gives way. In fact, it is extinguished.
That was the lesson from the eruption of violence around the globe to the idiotic YouTube masterpiece of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, "Innocence of Muslims." In America hardly anyone saw it. In the Arab world my guess only the makings of a small mob or two saw it. Yet it was used as a pretext for violent protest and thus for such lawyerly poppycock as was spewed by Ban Ki-moon. And there are others. Prime Minister Julia Gillard of Australia has said, "Our tolerance must never extend to tolerating religious hatred." Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has delivered an equally muddled declaration on tolerance and free expression, arguing for the adoption of a U.N. resolution that would simultaneously guarantee "the right to practice one's religion freely and the right to express one's opinion without fear." Try enforcing that resolution in Benghazi, Madame Secretary of State.
Freedom of speech is being diminished, says Professor Turley, "not from any single blow but rather from thousands of paper cuts of well-intentioned exceptions designed to maintain social harmony." I am not sure they are "well-intentioned." Rather I consider them the fatuous efforts of politicians intent on riding out the storm. They hope the enemies of freedom will be placated temporarily or at least until the politician retires. I am not so sure they will get their way. As Turley says, there are thousands of cuts. Eventually free expression could be extinguished.
He cites opposition to blasphemous speech, to hate speech, to discriminatory speech, and to deceitful speech. That accounts for a lot of "paper cuts." The aggrieved groups keep growing and the defenders of free speech keep fighting off ever more enemies. Now we have the opponents of unhealthy diets opposing commercial free speech. We have already disposed of tobacco advertising. Will chocolate be next?
It seems to me freedom of speech must be absolute. Let anyone say anything they please. Let Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, or whatever his name is, make any film he desires. We do not have to watch it. We can protest it. We can ridicule it. We can even ridicule his idiotic name, replete with its redundancy. Call it hate speech if you will. Call it discriminatory. Just let free expression reign. As for the mob that protests him, so long as they do not break the law, they too are free to utter whatever they want in public or in private. That is the way we should do it in America. It is, as we say, the land of the free. Keep the lawyers, the busybodies and the government away from the First Amendment. That is the American way.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.