Saturday, May 16, 2009

Legal Issues: Freedom of Speech

Legislation making it illegal to 'discriminate' against homosexual people by criticising their practices and lifestyle, is in place in many countries. In the USA as you can read earlier this month, such a Bill was rejected by the Senate because it would have outlawed criticism of Same Sex Marriage e.t.c. while still allowing criticism of heterosexual divorce, co-habitation e.t.c.

Those who favour legislation against criticism of the 'gay' lifestyle call the criticism 'hate-speech' and the 'crime' 'hate crimes'. In California such a Bill was defeated because it was felt 'gay rights' would have exceeded heterosexual people's rights.

It is this kind of ambush that the proposed legislation in Uganda is aimed at addressing.

In 2009 the debate moves to the UK. Read on.

© Catholic Action UK

[In the UK] The offence of ‘inciting hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation’ is part of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 (‘CJI Act’).

Lord Waddington successfully inserted a free speech clause into that Act, which clause 61 (formerly clause 58) of the Coroners and Justice Bill now seeks to remove. Clause 61 has been passed by the Commons. It reads as follows:

61 Hatred against persons on grounds of sexual orientation
In Part 3A of the Public Order Act 1986 (c. 64) (hatred against persons on grounds of sexual orientation etc), omit section 29JA (protection for discussion or criticism of sexual conduct etc).

Section 29JA (which clause 61 seeks to omit) reads as follows:

29JA Protection of freedom of expression (sexual orientation)
In this Part, 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 provisions of the Bill are likely to be considered in the House of Lords shortly after its Second Reading on 18th May.

‘Stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation’ carries a sentence of up to seven years’ imprisonment. Without highlighting the legal distinction between ‘discussion’ on one hand and the ‘stirring up’ of ‘hatred’ on the other, ordinary people will be frightened into silence, unsure whether they can challenge the new morality that seeks to normalise and promote homosexual practice.

Nobody supports the stirring up of hatred, but equally no reasonable person should object to peaceful criticism and discussion of sexual behaviour. Repealing this clause would remove the clear legal protection for such criticism and discussion from the face of the statute. Issuing Guidelines to police and prosecutors cannot hope to undo the damage this will cause. If clause 61 is passed, the consequences would include a climate of fear surrounding the mere discussion of sexual ethics and potentially the silencing of the Christian view.

Let us stand as Christians for our freedom to make a peaceful and reasonable case for biblical sexual ethics.