Friday, March 27, 2009

Penn. police officer punished for upholding the law

Unfortunately, more and more of the stories we share with you tell of government officials ignoring or violating the Constitution in their actions against those who speak their faith in public places.

But it's also true that many officials across this country continue to recognize and respect those who thoughtfully, publicly share their beliefs. And sometimes, these officials pay their own price for refusing to enforce a more politically-correct agenda.

Corporal Steven Armbruster, for example, of the Kutztown University Police Department in Philadelphia, has for nearly two years been reaping the consequences of his decision to respect the Constitution. On April 18, 2007, he was one of several university police called in when 15 members of a local Christian group shared the gospel and addressed moral issues like abortion and homosexual behavior with some other students on campus.

Nearly 300 protestors from other campus clubs converged on the scene and began shouting their disagreement. Alarmed at the disturbance, University President F. Javier Cevallos called in the school's police chief, William Mioskie, and urged him to get the Christians off campus.

One member of the group was promptly arrested, and then Armbruster heard Mioskie order his officers to "push" the other members off campus for "disorderly conduct." To Armbruster, that meant either arresting or threatening to arrest the Christians, who – as best he could tell as an eyewitness – had done nothing "disorderly" to contribute to the uproar.

He stepped over to share that concern with his chief, along with his understanding and knowledge that any action taken against the Christians under the current circumstances would constitute a violation of their civil rights. Armbruster was relieved of his duties and ordered to leave the scene, while other officers proceeded to arrest some of the Christians.

As it turned out, a local court dismissed all charges against the Christians. Unfortunately, that same justice has so far eluded Armbruster himself. Placed on administrative leave after the incident, he was later suspended without pay for five working days and warned that he'd be fired if he made any similar assertions in the future. A disciplinary letter was placed in his administrative file and could easily block any future promotion.

"Campus police officers who understand and respect the constitutional rights of American citizens should be commended, not punished," said ADF-allied attorney Randall L. Wenger, chief counsel for the Harrisburg-based Independence Law Center, which on March 12 filed a lawsuit on behalf of Armbruster. "Corporal Armbruster honored his conscience as a Christian and his duty as a civil servant to protect – not violate – these citizens' free speech rights. He knew that he was being asked to punish the wrong party in the situation."

The complaint in this lawsuit, Armbruster v. Cavanaugh, filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.


Will they lock me up for playing Widow Twankey?

A British homosexual actor rejects the need for new speech laws

During the dark days of Soviet oppression, there was a joke that did the rounds in Russia. ' Homosexuality is a crime and the punishment is seven years in prison locked up with other men. There is a three-year waiting list.' Don't laugh too loudly. It could soon be illegal to repeat a joke like that.

I'm not kidding. In the name of challenging 'homophobia', the Government is planning to push legislation through Parliament that will make it a serious crime to use any language which could be construed as offensive to gay men and women. The new law will even override the basic requirements of freedom of speech, one of the pillars of our democracy.

All comedy, entertainment, TV, books and radio will be subjected to this new regime if it comes into existence, no doubt rigorously enforced by an army of boot-faced, unsmiling commissars desperately trying to find some infringement of their rules. The politically correct censors will be our own British version of the East German Stasi. Under this proposed new orthodoxy, almost any colourful display of theatrical high camp could be presented as stereotyping of gay life and would therefore fall foul of the law.

So no more repeats of Are You Being Served. In place of John Inman's deliciously shrill battle cry, 'I'm free', there would be only the silent void of Puritanism. No more showings of Carry On movies with Kenneth Williams and Charles Hawtrey, no more Matt Lucas sketches of the Only Gay In The Village.

Those of us who have made something of a habit of taking to the stage as pantomime dames will be living in fear of the knock at the door, wondering whether we will be charged with wearing wigs, high heels and lipstick in a public place. Widow Twankey might have to be performed in secret locations to groups of brave dissidents.

This might all sound absurd. The proposers of the new law would, no doubt, claim they are only seeking to ban extreme abuse of gays and lesbians. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions. New laws so often have unintended consequences, especially when they are introduced not to combat a genuine crime but to establish the state's view of orthodox thinking.

If this legal change really came into practice, there is no doubt it would create a new climate of fear, stifling creativity and restricting the scope for humour. This is exactly the point made by Rowan Atkinson, the comedian who has campaigned heroically to protect freedom of speech in this country from the interfering busy-bodies. Speaking to members of the House of Lords last week, he warned that if the legislation became law, then writers and performers would adopt a form of self-censorship to avoid falling foul of the authorities.

In such a world, it is unlikely that Rowan would dare to come up with some of the dazzling performances that made his reputation - like the wonderful sketch in Blackadder Goes Forth, where he was being held in prison and sent for Bob Massingberd, the finest lawyer in England, to secure his liberty. Outlining the brilliant courtroom gifts of Massingberd, Blackadder recalled the lawyer's role as prosecutor in the trial of Oscar Wilde: 'Big, bearded, butch Oscar - the terror of the ladies; 114 illegitimate children, world heavyweight boxing champion and author of the pamphlet Why I Like To Do It With Girls. And Massingberd had him sent down for being a whoopsie.'

You can just imagine the outraged intake of breath from officialdom at that word 'whoopsie'.

In fact, even before the legislation is introduced, the censors have been at work, as I discovered to my own cost. In 2007, the BBC showed repeats of that wonderful sitcom Porridge, in which I was lucky enough to play the rather effeminate prisoner nicknamed Lukewarm. But in its determination to uphold fashionable thinking, the Beeb decided to strike out one passage where Ronnie Barker's character Fletcher, in response to a remark that Lukewarm always kept his cell clean, said: 'Well, that sort do, don't they?' I thought the whole thing was utterly ludicrous. Far from being homophobic, Porridge handled the whole gay issue with sensitivity as well as humour - indeed, with far more sensitivity than the clod-hopping zealots show today.

I sometimes have to ask myself what is happening to dear old Britain. Humour is meant to be part of our national DNA. Yet the politically-correct brigade are behaving like a bunch of Cromwellians, cracking down on any signs of laughter. In these times of mass unemployment, economic recession and financial crisis, hasn't the Government got anything better to do than waste taxpayers' money on this killjoy campaign?

Supporters of this change like to pose as the protectors of the gay community, but they are nothing of the sort. The idea that we are all such enfeebled victims that we cannot take a single joke is actually an insult. Most gay men and women love self-deprecating humour and camp exaggeration of stereotypes. That is why drag artists are so popular on the gay scene. It can hardly be a coincidence that the two greatest wits of the modern English theatre, Oscar Wilde and Noel Coward, were both gay, since the glamour of showbusiness and quickness of dialogue has such an appeal to large numbers of gays.

The great American comedienne Joan Rivers once put it well: 'Gay people were the first to find me out, they're so sharp. I'll look out in the audience and I see three or four gay guys in the front row or a couple of lesbians and I know it's going to be a good show.'

Camp humour is an integral part of British culture, as epitomised in the pantomime dames of the old music hall.

Even when homosexuality was illegal in Britain, the popularity of the BBC radio show Round The Horne, featuring the camp solicitors Julian and Sandy, or the performances of drag artist Danny La Rue, showed that the public was not nearly as intolerant as the political establishment believed. Showbusiness and comedy provided a route to acceptance, not oppression.

Recently, I read of a remarkable instance of such tolerance during World War II, on one air base of Bomber Command. You could not get a tougher, more hardened masculine environment, yet one flier, 'queer as a coot', used to provide uproarious entertainment by going on stage at the station in drag under the name 'Miss Dillis Fixey', an inversion of the famous female stripper of the time, Phyllis Dixey. To wild cheers, he would then perform his own striptease, only to reveal, on shedding the final garment, the slogan emblazoned across his chest: 'Not tonight, darling.' I suppose the modern censor would disapprove of that act, condemning it as nothing more stereotyping.

Showbiz, camp theatrics and dazzling wit helped to pave the way for gay rights. They should be cherished, not suppressed. It is bitterly ironic that, in the name of tolerance, the Government should be marching towards such a culture of intolerance.

The politically correct bigots should not be allowed to have it both ways. They cannot say, on one hand, that gay lifestyles should be accepted as a perfectly normal part of life, and then, on the other, demand special treatment for gay people to shield them from everyday humour. We are more grown up than that. But just as importantly, we must not be allowed to lose the ability to laugh at ourselves. In these times of crisis, laughter is more vital than ever.


Crucial medical research 'threatened' by EU animal welfare plan

Important medical research into conditions such as autism, Parkinson’s disease, strokes and Aids will be “closed down” if a European Union directive on animal experiments is passed in its current form, leading scientists said yesterday. Vital studies of brain and cell function that promise new therapies for serious disorders would be blocked by the proposed regulations, turning Europe into a “scientific backwater”, a coalition of research organisations warned.

The directive also threatens the capacity of European countries to defend against a flu pandemic, it was claimed. It would bring hens’ eggs, which are critical to the production of flu vaccines, under the scope of vivisection regulations, creating costs and bureaucracy that could drive vaccine manufacture out of Europe.

The proposals from the European Commission and the European Parliament would create new bureaucratic burdens for scientists without delivering benefits for animal welfare, and sometimes increasing suffering, the experts said. The new rules would impose stringent restrictions on monkey experiments that would effectively ban research intended to improve understanding of neurological conditions and infectious diseases.

Nine British research groups, including the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council and the Association of Medical Research Charities, issued a “declaration of concern” about revision to Directive 86/609. The European Science Foundation, the European Medical Research Councils and the Pasteur Institute in France also protested about its contents before a European Parliament debate that begins next week.

Sir Mark Walport, the director of the Wellcome Trust, Europe’s biggest biomedical research charity, said that the directive “would simply close down some aspects of medical research that can only be addressed by animal models”. He added: “It will increase the costs of research and the bureaucracy of research, and I’m afraid we think it will bring little or no benefit for animal welfare at all.”

One of the chief concerns is a clause that bars the use of nonhuman primates in research intended to investigate basic brain or immune system functions rather than to test new therapies for particular diseases. Primate experiments would be allowed only if they directly examined “life-threatening or debilitating” conditions. This would have blocked studies that have transformed understanding of the brain, such as the discovery of cells called mirror neurons that are involved in autism, the experts said. Roger Lemon, Professor of Neurophysiology at University College London, said: “Blocking basic research in nonhuman primates would render the EU a scientific backwater.” Research with implications for Parkinson’s disease, strokes, malaria and HIV/Aids would suffer.

Tim Hammond, of the drug company AstraZeneca and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations, said that the extension of animal regulations to cover eggs would be disastrous for vaccine production. “It would encourage companies to move outside the EU, which would give us real issues in terms of access to vaccines in a flu pandemic,” he said.

The directive was published by the Commission last November, and a European Parliament committee will vote on amendments next Tuesday. Animal rights groups urged MEPs to resist the campaign to amend the draft directive. Emily McIvor, the policy director of the Dr Hadwen Trust for Humane Research, said: “The revision of [the directive] is a great opportunity to make a better deal for animals in laboratories.”


Hunt supporters say decision to drop charges against three hunt masters proves ban has failed

Hunt supporters have hailed a decision to drop charges of illegal hunting against three members of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds as evidence that the ban has failed and leads to "confusion, cost and conflict". The case against joint-master Maurice Scott, huntsman Donald Summersgill, and whipper-in Peter Heard was dropped on Friday.

The Crown Prosecution Service said that, in the light of a High Court ruling in February, it was for the prosecution to prove a hunt was not carrying out exempt hunting. The case was the second under the Hunting Act to be dropped by the CPS this month. The three men were charged with illegal hunting in 2006, and pleaded not guilty on the basis that their hunting was "exempt" and therefore legal.

Mr Scott said: "This is a huge relief, not just for myself, and others facing the charges but for hunting as a whole."

Simon Hart, the Countryside Alliance chief executive, said: "There have only been three successful prosecutions of hunts, involving five people, since the Act came into force in February 2005. "The decision to drop this case suggests that prosecutions under the Hunting Act will now be even rarer. "It could not now be more obvious that this Act has failed and all it now promotes is confusion, cost and conflict."

The CPS dropped four charges of illegal hunting against a huntsman, Julian Barnfield, of the Heythrop Hunt, in Oxfordshire, earlier this month. That decision followed a High Court ruling that the use of dogs to search for a wild mammal in order to stalk it or flush it out was not in breach of the Act.



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, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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