In a country where people have been getting into trouble
with the police simply for stating their point of view
about homosexuality, it was imperative to safeguard
free speech under the Government's proposed "homophobic
hatred" law, part of the Criminal
Justice and Immigration Bill.
The Government has very reluctantly backed down and
allowed a free speech protection to be written into
its bill which became law two days ago. The decision
came after the Government was defeated for a second
time in the House of Lords, where peers voted 178 to
164 in favour of the protection.
Labour and the Liberal Democrat front bench peers were
against Lord Waddington's clear and simple amendment
that would help the police to fully comprehend what
does not constitute a criminal offence.
The amendment says, "for the avoidance of doubt, the
discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices
or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such
conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to
be threatening or intended to stir up hatred."
The Government insisted that the amendment was not
necessary as the wording of the Bill was clear enough,
but this simply was not true.
I have myself been threatened with police involvement
for stating my opinion on homosexuality.
Last year a potential customer emailed me regarding
buying rainbow flags for a 'gay pride' parade (my business
is flags). I explained that I did not stock these and
gave my reasons. I said more than he liked as he told
me that after getting advice he would be contacting
the police to have what I had written in my email recorded
as a homophobic incident.
I never heard any more about it, but others have been
persecuted for their beliefs, like pensioners Mr
and Mrs Roberts from Lancashire who simply complained
about their local council's promotion of homosexual
rights and requested that their Christian literature
was also taken by the council.
Two police officers questioned them in their home for
eighty minutes and told them they were 'walking
This is a good description of how a lot of people feel
when stating their views in the UK today.
Speaking in the House of Lords, Lord Waddington said:
"My understanding is that the Government do not wish
to see discussion stifled and people harassed, bullied,
interrogated and sometimes arrested for expressing their
views. However, if that is so, it really is time that
they did something about it."
He added, "When people are harassed, interrogated and
arrested as a result of wrongful action by the police
as they follow up what is often a malevolent complaint-such
as the one against Mr Hurst, who was handing out leaflets
inviting people to his church's Easter service-it is
little comfort to know that it is very unlikely that
a conviction would have followed."
Senior judge and 'gay rights' sympathiser, Dame Butler-Sloss,
agreed that free speech needed protecting.
As the Christian
"After the [Lords] vote the Bill 'ping-ponged'
back to the Commons. There the Government reluctantly
decided to accept the Waddington amendment. Only the
Liberal Democrat front bench objected, forcing a vote
on the matter. In the end the amendment was accepted
by 324 votes to 46 as the Government joined the Conservatives
to keep the amendment. The Government did this in order
to stop the Bill continuing to ping-pong between houses."
"The concessions came as the government faced
a possible strike by prison staff unless it got the
bill, which will ban them from taking part in industrial
action, through parliament by today [8th]."
Despite the circumstances, this was a rare fly in the
ointment for the homosexual lobby. While several prominent
homosexuals were supportive of the amendment, Ben Summerskill
and Stonewall were predictably unimpressed. Their website
states, "some people of extreme views could attempt
to avoid prosecution by citing a religious defence".
But then what Mr Summerskill considers to be an 'extreme
view' is likely to be a view held by most ordinary folks
with no axe to grind. He previously criticised
the "shocking" conduct of the Metropolitan Police for
failing to stop a Christian demonstration outside Parliament.
Some people want to stop criticism of their lifestyle
or beliefs stone dead. It is up to lovers of truth and
free speech to be vigilant and make sure this is never
allowed to happen.
We must be grateful to those peers who backed Lord
Waddington's free speech amendment because our elected
'representatives' tend to favour legislation that seeks
to frighten and silence us.