Monday, June 27, 2005


More on the British government's religious hatred bill

The UK government's new bill to outlaw incitement to religious hatred scraped through the House of Commons on Tuesday night, but outside that hallowed hall the debate continues. Members of Parliament - led by the Lib Dem Evan Harris - have lined up alongside comedians, lawyers, writers and artists, as well as organisations such as the National Secular Society and Liberty, to attack this proposed law.

This bill poses a serious threat to free speech. You could be banged up [jailed] for seven years should anything you say be heard by 'any person' in whom your words are 'likely to stir up...religious hatred'. We should be free to criticise, insult or even to hate whomever we please. Criticisms may be rude or wrong - in which case others have a right to ignore them, or to take them up in the court of public opinion.

'There is no right not to be offended', said Liberty's Shami Chakrabarti earlier this week. 'Religion relates to a body of ideas and people have the right to debate and denigrate other people's ideas.' Do we really want a society in which we tiptoe around one another, rather than argue face to face? At a speech at the House of Commons on Monday, comedian Rowan Atkinson said: 'Is a tolerant society one in which you tolerate absurdities, iniquities and injustices simply because they are being perpetrated by or in the name of a religion, and out of a desire not to rock the boat you pass no comment or criticism? Or is a tolerant society one is encouraged to question, to criticise and if necessary to ridicule any ideas and then the holders of those ideals have an equal right to counter-criticise, to counter-argue and to make their case?'

Today, this is an unpopular - even offensive - opinion. Minding your language and taking care not to step on anybody's toes is now the done thing. Few people will stick up for the rough-and-tumble of a good public argument, where two sides try to take each other apart. Even the genteel jousting of MPs is now seen as 'too adversarial' and liable to put the public off politics.

Indeed, many commentators argued that the religious hatred bill doesn't go far enough. The British Humanist Society asked the government to also protect people with non-religious beliefs, because 'some atheists, like some Muslims, live in fear of abuse and physical attack, and this is equally unacceptable'. And they got what they wanted: 'religious hatred' is defined in the bill as refering to somebody's 'religious belief or lack of religious belief'. This points towards an endless series of new laws, criminalising incitement to hatred on the basis of your sexuality, sex, region, perhaps even your football team or taste in clothes. Every interest group fights to get special protection from the 'hatred' of others.

The government assures that the law won't be used to stifle free expression. It insists that there are a series of safeguards - such as every case being approved by the attorney general - which means that respectable comedians and writers won't end up in the dock. Quite rightly, Atkinson is far from reassured: '[The government] can come to someone like me and say: "Really, you've nothing to worry about, you arty'll be fine, we're not after you, we're after those nasty people in the North, the BNP etc".' But why should anybody trust the attorney general to do the right thing? 'Huge latent power will be lying dormant, just waiting to be abused for political ends', notes Atkinson.

Lawyers say that the law is far too vague to be able to judge its implications. Alastair Brett, legal manager at The Times (London), says that 'the bill doesn't define what constitutes the offence. It's left up to the attorney general whether to prosecute, then we have to wait and see what the judge says'. As a news lawyer, he believes that this will have a 'chilling effect on free speech', as editors and columnists will be forced to reconsider their choice of words. Home Office press officers may insist that the law will be interpreted in a particular way, but it's up to the courts, not them.

In any case, this new law is intended to curb speech. According to the National Secular Society, in a private meeting last week Home Office minister Paul Goggins said that part of the point of the bill was to make people think twice before they speak.....

The law against incitement to racial hatred could also be used to suppress opinions that people find unpleasant. However distasteful the likes of the British National Party, they have a right to speak. And because we are competent adults, it should be up to us, not lawyers, whether or not we want to listen to them. The best way to deal with prejudiced views is to have them out in the open, and expose their idiocies for all to see. If they are silenced, racists get to take the moral high ground.

As for racially and religiously aggravated offences, why should they be singled out? It would be better for the law to judge a person's deeds - that he hit somebody over the head, or vandalised someone's car - not the thoughts that were going through his head when he did it. That way lies thought crime, where we are punished for our intentions, not our acts. It means an ever-broader range of behaviour being classified as criminal.....

More here


Since Mothers' day could not conceivably hurt anyone, this instance is a crystal-clear example of the real purpose of political correctness. Its purpose is not to help anyone but to destroy what normal people do as far as possible. It is based on hatred of normality and normal people

A pre-school in Maryland has lost at least one customer after a student's father working on the school's newsletter was told he must change a "Happy Mother's Day" greeting in the publication to "Happy Parent's Day."

David Becker of Kensington, Md., had a 3-year-old son at the Kensington Forest Glen Children's Center, which is overseen by the umbrella organization Montgomery Child Care Association. "My wife and I have always been very involved with the school and with the teachers," Becker told WND. The trouble began when Becker, while typing the newsletter, changed a hand-written greeting from "Happy Parent's Day!" to "Happy Mother's Day!" After submitting the final draft, a teacher contacted Becker and said the greeting would have to be changed back to "Happy Parent's Day!"

Becker says originally it was one of the teachers who talked to him about the issue. When he asked why, he says he was referred to an administrator. Becker said he was told: "We cannot say 'Mother's Day' because we might exclude someone." "I was confused," Becker told WorldNetDaily. "Everybody has a mother. Not everyone has a mother who is alive, but everyone has a mother." Becker then asked the administrator: "Who would we be offending on Mother's Day?" The response: "What about families with two fathers?" Becker then asked about Father's Day. He says he was told: "You can't say 'Father's Day' either."

Retorted Becker: "You are insulting all the parents - the mothers, the fathers, the two-mother families, the two-father families - you're insulting all of them." The administrator responded, according to Becker: "That's our policy." Becker says the Mother's Day incident was the "straw that broke the camel's back" and says he won't be sending his son back in the fall. "I tell the school they can white-out my disrespectful words and my child's registration for the fall semester," Becker wrote in a Washington Post feature called "Life is Short, Autobiography as Haiku." Though many of the teachers at the school are immigrants from other countries, Becker said, they are fully acclimated to such traditions as Mother's Day and Father's Day and have no problem with them.

Chris Giovinazzo is executive director of the nonprofit Montgomery Child Care Association, which oversees eight children's centers in all. "It's not a policy that we don't allow the children or staff to celebrate Mother's Day or Father's Day," she told WND. Rather, Giovinazzo explained, it's up to each individual teacher to decide based on the make-up of each class.



The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which specializes in constitutional law, today filed a federal lawsuit against Eastern Illinois University after a nurse who was working at the University's Health Services Department was not promoted because of her pro-life beliefs and her objection to dispensing the morning-after pill. "It is not only wrong to deny an applicant a position based on her religious beliefs, it is a violation of the law," said Francis J. Manion, Senior Counsel of the ACLJ, which is representing the nurse. "There appears to be a systematic pattern in place in the state of Illinois designed to punish pro-life health care professionals who merely want to fulfill their professional obligations without violating their religious beliefs. This hostility toward pro-life health care professionals is very troubling and we are confident that the court will uphold the constitutional rights of our client in this case."

The ACLJ today filed suit in U.S. District Court in Urbana, Illinois on behalf of Andrea Nead, who has been employed as a part-time nurse at the Health Services Department of Eastern Illinois University since 2000. When a full-time position became available in October 2004, Nead applied for the promotion. She was asked a number of questions including whether she would be willing to dispense the morning-after pill. Nead told the interviewer that the morning-after pill violates her religious beliefs because she believes it is a form of abortion by preventing a newly conceived human life from implanting to the uterine wall. The complaint contends that the interviewer told Nead that another applicant - who eventually was hired for the position - did not oppose dispensing the morning-after pill. The complaint contends that the decision not to hire Nead was based on her religious beliefs regarding the morality of dispensing the morning-after pill.

The suit names as defendants the Board of Trustees of Eastern Illinois University and the Director of Health Services for the university. The suit contends the denying Nead the promotion violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The suit requests a trial by jury and unspecified damages. The suit comes just weeks after the ACLJ filed a lawsuit in state court challenging an amendment to the state code issued by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich that requires pharmacists to dispense medication even if filling the prescriptions violate their conscience and religious beliefs. The ACLJ represents six pharmacists in that case.

The ACLJ has had success in protecting the rights of pro-life health care professionals in Illinois in the past. In 2003, the ACLJ filed a federal suit against the DeKalb County, Illinois Health Department on behalf of a health department employee who was denied a promotion because she expressed reluctance to participate in abortion counseling at the center. The case was resolved after an agreement was reached and the county paid $40,000 to settle the employee's claims.


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