Martin Parsons on Clause 58/61
Some interesting stuff from ConservativeHome:
The government is seeking to abolish this ‘Free Speech’ clause for purely ideological reasons. In fact, the 2008 Criminal Justice and Immigration Act has not even technically become law yet. During Tuesday’s Commons debate, the government argued that the ‘Free Speech’ clause would no longer be necessary as the Attorney General would draw up prosecution guidelines for the police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). However, as Conservative MP Gerald Howarth pointed out to the house, the existing CPS guidelines on prosecution refer to ‘dislike’ of the ‘perceived lifestyle’ of lesbian and gay people and as such, he observed,Â we could be faced with a situation where anyone who expresses a dislike for this kind of behaviour would face criminal prosecution.
Now let me make it clear that I wholeheartedly agree that it should be a criminal offence to incite someone else to threaten another human being. It does not matter whether the victim is a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew, a homosexual or even dare I say it…the former chairman of a bailed out bank! They are first and foremost human beings and as suchÂ deservingÂ of dignity, respect and protection from malicious threats. As such, I would support seeking to criminalise, for example, rap songs that say “hang lesbians with a long piece of rope” (an example cited by the gay rights lobbying group Stonewall) precisely because it is stirring up hatred that threatens people. However, in pushing through the abolition of the ‘Free Speech’ clause on a 3 line whip, the government, staunchly supported by the Liberal-Democrats have moved from protecting people to protecting a belief system(that ‘homosexual practiceÂ is morally good’). In doing so, they have exposed Christian ministers, some of the most upright and charitable of our citizens to the risk of imprisonment for simply referring to sexual relationships outside of hetrosexual marriage as ‘sin’, something that the Christian Church has understood to be the clear teaching of Scripture since the time of Christ.
It is therefore tragically ironic that on the very same day that the government pushed through this legislation, the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith should go on Radio 4 to emphasise that we should protect freedom of speech for radical Islamists in Britain.