Friday, January 17, 2014
A Bill to silence debate, curb dissent and inhibit democratic engagement
Today all freedom-loving democrats the length and breadth of the United Kingdom look to the House of Lords (once again) to defend our ancient liberties and the health of democracy against this increasingly authoritarian, censorious and coercive Government.
Last September His Grace raised concerns about the (niftily-named and immeasurably soporific) Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill. In short, a bill intended to promote transparency and ensure greater integrity in the democratic process may greatly restrict charities and other groups from speaking out on important matters of public interest. The Government denies this, insisting that charities are already exempt from party political campaigning. But lawyers, charities and a raft of respected organisations (IEA, TFA, CPS, TPA, PEN, BBW, ASI) take a contrary view. The Christian Institute has a helpful explanatory hub.
Today their Lordships vote on Part 2 of this Bill. Bizarrely, legislation aimed at restricting the covert activities of big business, trades unions and the manoeuvres of former politicians using an old-boys' network to enrich themselves actually risks silencing any group of community-minded people which lobbies political candidates on local or national issues. The Electoral Commission said:
"..the Bill creates significant regulatory uncertainty for large and small organisations that campaign on, or even discuss, public policy issues in the year before the next general election, and imposes significant new burdens on such organisations."
The Government did step back from the brink and made some amendments, but profound concerns remain. There has been some movement on this 'year' limitation: it is now eight months. Since we know that the next General Election will be in May 2015, this Bill, if passed, will restrict freedom of expression from September of this year. Any group which spends over a certain threshold (£20k in England) lobbying potential candidates is defined as being engaged in political campaigning. Quite what happens if the Government calls an election beforehand is not clear: how may one unknowingly fall within the eight-month purdah? And what happens in a by-election? If your group has been opposing a windfarm for a year and your MP suddenly dies, do your costs suddenly constitute an election expense? And how exactly does one distinguish between seeking to influence policy and doing so for electoral purposes?
If (say) your church opposes (say) euthanasia, and you support a candidate who shares those views, your church will be deemed to have assisted that candidate and so be subject to financial regulation. If you publish views contra a pro-euthanasia candidate, you can rest assured that every phone call, flyer and coffee morning will be scrutinised, assessed and the costs totted up. That's okay, you may say: my church wouldn't spend anything like £20k on a political campaign. But nationally they may certainly do so. And if they fail to make the appropriate returns, the Archbishop risks being imprisoned.
But this £20k limit is swept aside by a particularly sinister clause. Under the proposals, any group that spends more than £9,750 on political activity in a single constituency will have to register with the Electoral Commission. It is not remotely clear what happens if your campaign is national or geared to a wider region (whether, for example, the anti-HS2 group will need to divide their budget by the number of constituencies along the route). Astonishingly, that limit includes staff costs, which is an expenditure specifically excluded for political parties. This could greatly affect the work of churches and other non-partisan voluntary groups which may have no direct involvement in an election but which happen to employ an administrator on £10k pa. Any 'substantial' agitation by such a group may constitute political lobbying.
One can foresee lengthy court cases to establish whether monies spent denouncing or supporting political policy were, in fact, designed to affect the outcome of an election, not least because organisations may be subject to these constraints even if they do not name a particular candidate.
But what constitutes political activity? Is not the whole process of ordering lives in community a constant negotiation of one interest against another? Is not participation in the whole of civilised life therefore a political pursuit? Is not campaigning to defend the lives of the unborn as political as the siting of a windfarm, the alleviation of poverty or the care afforded to our war veterans? How may one freely express an opinion on these matters without being seen to be tacitly supporting a candidate who shares one's views?
The lobbying of politicians by any interest group is integral to a healthy functioning democracy. Of course, there should be transparency and statutory limits to prevent abuse, but not at the level of having to scrutinise the conduct or register the interests of every Neighbourhood Watch scheme.
It is principally the uncertainty created by the Bill's imprecise wording which will deter healthy debate and democratic engagement. Your church might think twice before supporting a Christian candidate, just in case they suddenly find they're engaged in lobbying and so subject to registration and a raft of burdensome regulation. It cuts to the foundations of our democracy and constitutes a direct assault on free speech and freedom of religion.
This is not a Bill to control lobbying; it is a Bill to curb dissent and impede those who seek to challenge the status quo of the establishment. One hopes and prays today that the Lords Spiritual and Temporal will expose its disturbing implications.
Gendercide: the silence of the so-called 'feminists'
Where are the girls? The answer should shame us all. Abortion for sex selection is practised so regularly in this country that it's led to a shortfall in the population of girls. Thousands are "missing", especially in certain immigrant communities. Aborting babies because they are female has been widespread in India and China for generations: there are as many as 120 boys for every 100 girls there. Now the practice has come to distort British demography – and values.
Sex-selective abortion remains a crime in Britain, but, as the Telegraph investigation last year revealed, it is increasingly common. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has ruled that guidance for doctors in this area should be updated – but did not prosecute the two doctors exposed in the Telegraph investigation.
When parents can abort a baby because it's a girl, they are guilty of the worst kind of sexism. Rape, porn, the tyranny of beauty that compels little girls to perform plastic surgery to attain perfection: these are nothing in comparison to the mindset that will not allow for girls to be conceived in the first place. Our daughters – and not just in immigrant communities – are learning that a girl's life is worthless. Feminists should be up in arms about this. They are not. While they have fought tooth and nail the sexist app that allows little girls to perform plastic surgery on a Barbie, most have stayed silent on a far worse crime against women.
Why? because some so-called feminists believe the right to abortion trumps everything. Any abortion is OK by them, no matter when or why. As Sarah Ditum argued in The Guardian: "As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't matter why any woman wants to end her pregnancy. If it's to select for sex, that's her choice." Incredible? Pro-choice ideology has such a stranglehold on this group that they will wilfully overlook the fact that this ideology can be turned against our sex: when a woman wants to abort her baby simply because it is a girl, abortion becomes the grossest misogynist act of all.
The message inherent in gendercide strikes me as clearly hateful; yet so-called feminists have bent over backwards to accommodate this practice. Let real, pro-women feminists raise their voices in fury. No one should abort a girl because she is a girl.
Forbes Calls Out Shriver Report's 'War on Women' Agenda
The Shriver Report is a “groundbreaking series of reports that chronicle the status of American women and shifts in the American culture affecting women,” according to its website.
In actuality, it’s a misleading project by journalist Maria Shriver and several celebrities who are trying to convince the rest of us there is no such thing as “gender equality.” For instance, Beyoncé asks why women are still viewed as “less than equal” and Shriver herself laments, “For too many American women, the dream of ‘having it all’ has morphed into ‘just hanging on.’”
The cure, these women insist, is more government. Yes, more government to give women more freedom. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Well, Sabrina Schaeffer at Forbes isn’t buying it:
"The report succeeds at exposing just how vulnerable many women – especially unmarried women – are, and sheds light on some of the legitimate challenges they face. But the study does little to explore the driving forces behind these challenges, and instead focuses on perpetuating the myth that American society is inherently unfair to women and girls today, and only a growing state can change things."
The Shriver Report, however, disregards how government has created perverse incentives through a ballooning welfare state, government-run schools, and disincentives to marry, which have worsened the lives of many American women.
About a year ago, I wrote a piece about how Diana Furchtgott-Roth, the former chief of staff of President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers, debunked the glass ceiling myth. What I took away from her speech, was that while a wage gap may be apparent, several factors can explain the divide:
"More women major in fields such as English, whereas more men tend to study in the fields of math and physics – areas which typically have higher paying jobs. Also, female employees work on average 10 percent fewer hours than their male counterparts. ‘Full-time’ is considered anything over 35 hours a week. The Labor Department counts no difference, for instance, between a man working 50 hours a week and a woman working 40 hours a week."
Like Forbes’s Schaeffer, I reject the idea that a “wage gap” can only be solved by Big Brother. Here's her smarter suggestion:
"Instead we need to focus on smart government, with targeted assistance programs, but which lessen the burden on the economy to encourage job creation and a more flexible workplace, and increase opportunity for all Americans, women and men alike."
Schaeffer ends by pinpointing the Shriver Report’s real motive: Democrats need women to win future elections.
"But how tragic to think that their victory should come at the expense of creating a large segment of women who are wards of the state."
Another street preacher arrest
“Police in Dundee yesterday arrested American street evangelist Tony Miano after a woman complained about his talk on sexual sin. Mr Miano was arrested as part of a street preaching team holding a week-long mission in Scotland.
He was the second speaker to address lunchtime shoppers on the city’s high street that day, and took the opportunity to talk on the different sins Jesus had come to save people from.
When he began listing sexual sins, including adultery, promiscuity, and homosexual practice, a woman started shouting in protest, angrily yelling that her son was gay.
The incident was witnessed by Pastor Josh Williamson of the Craigie Reformed Baptist Church in Perth, a fellow member of the street preaching team. The pastor said: “Tony wasn’t focusing just on homosexual practice – it was about all sin. A woman was yelling at him and her friend noticed we were filming the preaching, so she ran up to me and tried to smash my camera.”
The woman who had shouted then appeared to be calling the police, at which point a council warden arrived and suggested that although none of the evangelists were doing anything wrong, they should probably move on.
Mr Miano finished his talk and two police officers arrived as the team of evangelists were packing up.
“The female officer saw we had a camera and lunged for it and then the male policeman grabbed it and threw it in the police van,” said Mr Williamson.
Following that, the male officer interviewed the women and then immediately arrested Mr Miano. According to the Christian Legal Centre, Mr Miano was not questioned and the reasoning behind his arrest was not properly explained.
“After Tony was put in the police van I asked why he was being arrested and was told it was for a breach of the peace and for using homophobic language,” said Mr Williamson.
Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre, Andrea Minichiello Williams, says the incident raises serious questions about police procedure and their understanding of the law.
“This appears to be an overzealous reaction by the police,” she said. “The incident adds to the number of arrests of Christian street evangelists for preaching from the Bible.
“It is indicative of the suppression of the freedom to speak and live out the words of Jesus Christ in public and present the teachings of the Bible.”
Mr Miano is a former police officer and chaplain with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and currently works as a teacher for open air evangelists. He also volunteers as a writer for the Christian Apologetics Research Ministry run by Matt Slick.
It is not the first time he has been arrested in the UK while street preaching. Last July, he was arrested in Wimbledon for breaching Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986, which included a ban on insulting words or behaviour.
The arrest happened after he preached on the need to abstain from sexual immorality, based on 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12.
In his preaching, which was captured on film, he told passers-by: “My friends, the reality is, we are all going to stand before God to give account for our lives. “And whether our sin is sexual in nature or not, if we have violated his law in any way – whether it is homosexuality, whether it is refusing to abstain from evil in the heterosexual community and we are lusting after people we are indulging in fornication, but even beyond that if we have so much as told one lie – God sees us as a violator of his law, God does not see us as good.”
He was detained by police for seven hours before being released without charge. Ultimately the case was dropped.
The act under which he was arrested on that occasion will no longer be in force from 1 February of 2014, thanks to the Crime and Courts Act which was passed in April last year.
It is with a sense of weary familiarity that we greet this further demonstration of our police state, where “tolerance”, that is to say the condoning of homosexuality, appears to have become mandatory. And yet again, I ask, why Christians? Orthodox Jewry and Islam, to name but two other religions, condemn homosexual behaviour in no uncertain terms. Were you to ask the elders of those religions to explain their position on them, they would not be slow to respond.
Yet it is Christians, and Christians only, who are persecuted like this. Perhaps it is because it is only Christians who, in the modern world, preach in the street (I place Abu Hamza’s street preaching in Finsbury Park in 2004 in a rather different category). I imagine that they follow the lead of John Wesley, who said “I am well assured that I did far more good to my Lincolnshire parishioners by preaching three days on my father’s tomb than I did by preaching three years in his pulpit.” and “To this day field preaching is a cross to me, but I know my commission and see no other way of preaching the gospel to every creature”.
To this, Charles Spurgeon went further when he said, ”No sort of defense is needed for preaching out of doors, but it would need very potent arguments to prove that a man had done his duty who has never preached beyond the walls of his meeting-house. A defense is required for services within buildings than for worship outside of them.”
To their considerable credit, those who are persecuted seem to be made of stern stuff. We have discussed Dr Alan Clifford here previously; Mr Miano is also of the type who appears not to be for turning. Whether or not you agree with these men, they deserve your support; they are the enemies of the current ideology of our state and have placed themselves in direct and visible confrontation with that ideology.
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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.