Things that make you go “hmm” #3

What I love best about this is the fact that the complainant changes his problem with the evangelist half-way through and yet the Police still carry on with this charade.

Question. If a gay night club was handing out flyers for an evening in a location where there are a number of orthodox Jews and conservative Christians, should I treat that as a hate crime against religion?
Answer. Of course not….

21 Comments on “Things that make you go “hmm” #3

  1. An excellent post, Peter, and one that amply illustrates all the dangers associated with the Equality Bill currently wending its torturous way through the UK Parliament.

    No-one has commented so let me be the first. This case makes two main points for me:

    1) The clear link in public policy terms between biblical orthodoxy and the conservative evangelical position on sex being purely between a man and woman within marriage. Whatever we argue about on this site, this case clearly illustrates that the police, and by extension the government (who I have not yet seen deploring this abuse of police powers) understand that to be evangelical means to have the orthodox position on sex. That is of course why the police came on so heavy in response to what seems to have been an isolated complaint by a gay with a thing against evangelicals. If the Equalities Bill goes through in its current form, expect to see much more of this type of behaviour from the police targeted at evangelical churches.

    2)The importance of keeping the conservative evangelical position on sex as a key component of orthodox Christianity. Liberal contributors to this site clearly sincerely believe that extending marriage, ministry and full affirmation to ‘committed, loving and faithful’ is both the correct and loving response and can be made to stick as a benchmark in both the church and society at large. In my view this is an extremely naive position. They should be aware of two things: Firstly the definition that wider society holds of ‘committed, loving and faithful’ is significantly more relaxed than that held by Christians, amounting to little more than serial monogomy. Secondly, the wider, highly politicised and much larger gay rights movement of which they are a part has a wider agenda of extensive liberalisation of laws governing sexual conduct, such as Peter Thatchell proposals for further lowering of the age of consent. In this context, LGBT Christian activists who no doubt sincerely mean well are being ‘used’ by the wider gay rights movement to change public views and what is regarded as sin, and hence to prepare the ground for more extreme measures.

    • I wonder whether your response is a slight over reaction to what does indeed seem like a completely unjustified and unreasonable complaint against a completely innocuous leaflet. I want to make a few points:

      1.These cases which often generate headlines such as “School stops a child from talking about Jesus” always have to be looked at in context before we can ascertain what actually happened. We do only have one perspective on this video, we haven’t heard from the complainant or police.

      2. The police are duty bound to investigate hate crime, even when it seems spurious ( although they did seem to over react here…) A few years ago my brother was accused of racial discrimination after he spoke to a black member of staff about his poor attendance and punctuality. My brother is not racist! However the matter had to be dealt with through the correct channels and there was the possiblity of it going to tribunal. Was it stressful? – Yes! did my brother feel victimised – yes! did he develop negative views about people based on race? – no! Did he accept that the investigation was unavoidable – yes!

      3. Was the complainant being deliberately provocational and “anti Christian”? Quite possibly. Had the complainant had experience of condemnation by a Church in his past and so felt genuinely – but unreasonably – intimidated? Quite possibly!

      4. What do we do when conservative Christians feel their right to voice their religious convictions and act in line with their conscience is denied? I don’t know! I belive in freedom of opinion and conscience – but at the same time, gay people are increasingly being respected as equal citizens, have the legal right to have sexual relationships, have the right to access to equal services in society, have the right to be protected from harrassment and distress.

      5. Will the recognition of gay rights “prepare the ground for more extreme measures?” Is there a sinister “gay agenda” I really think not – but we are looking at a whole range of changes in society that I do understand seem horrifying to many conservatives – but I don’t think they are “gay driven.”

  2. Sue – I will comment further on this shortly, but I would really ask you to think about whether there can exist, in any meaningful sense, a “right to be protected from distress”. To me, that seems like a metaphysical and legal absurdity.

    • Well said wicked conservative! How on earth do you protect people legally against ‘offence’ and ‘distress’ in a free society? The only possible grounds on which free speech can be limited is on incitement to commit violence, which is already an offence without the proposed Equalities Bill. Otherwise the state will be prosecuting people based upon their expressed views, which history shows is the first step towards a totalitarian society.

    • Hmmm- I’m not a lawyer. Obviously, “distress” is one of those subjective terms and I guess the legal concept of “what might be REASONABLY considered to cause distress” should be applied. So, if a gay man says “this reference to me in Christian literature as “narcissistic and disordered” caused me distress”, we’d have to consider if it was reasonable that such terms might cause distress. If on the other hand a leaflet refers to Christians who believe same sex relationships are sinful as “retarded homophobes” we would have to look at whether that phrase might be reasonably considered to cause distress.

      I think both of the above might be reasonably considered to cause distress ( just my opinion, I’m not a lawyer.)

      A leaflet with a daffodil on it, inviting you to church would not, I think, in any reasonable society, be considered as likely in itself to cause distress.

      • I’m afraid, Sue, that in a free society hurt feelings are no business of the government, or the police.

        My concern is not with how to define distress, but with the very idea that the law should be used to save people’s feelings, or to interfere with the to and fro of everyday human interaction. I find all sorts of things distressing, from the grotesque pornographic exhibitionism of Gay Pride, to the idiotic comments made about the pro-life organisation for which I work in The Guardian newspaper. But somehow I struggle on with my life, and defend my lifestyle and principles without recourse to law.

        Good manners and civility in debate are a matter for individual citizens, not for the state.

        • I am not British so I’ll be blunt:
          I can’t believe Sue cannot understand that basic point!

          This is not an occasions for musing this is a time for outrage.
          But how do you expect a post-Christian society to protect Judaeo-Christian-derived values such as freedom of conscience, speech and dissent?

          There is A “gay agenda” of sorts and that is to destroy society as we know it. All vestiges of God’s created order (and anything pointing to it) must be destroyed and as such Christianity must go.

          How on Earth could you sit there Sue and juggle with legal jargon? Five policemen and two horses? I think you need to wake up. This is not a “misunderstanding” or an “overreaction” by someone with a “possibly real” fear.

          This person (gay or not) knew that he could use the law to intimidate other people he just didn’t like.
          This is not about the definition of “reasonable distress” at all!

  3. Um, I’m not Sue, but it seems to me there’s a bit of ganging up going on here. To Philip, wicked conservative and TAG – are you aware of the Public Order Act 1986? One part of it creates an offence of intentionally causing harassment, alarm or distress:

    “A person is guilty if, with intent to cause a person harassment, alarm or distress, he

    a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or
    b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,

    thereby causing that or another person harassment, alarm or distress”.

    There’s also a section creating the offence of conduct likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress. I’ll spare you any more quoting…

    Admittedly I haven’t watched the video at the top of this thread. But my point is that for over 2 decades there’ve been laws protecting people from ‘hurt feelings’ if you want to put it that way. Are any of you campaigning against this? Is there evidence that these laws are used to ‘prosecute people based on their expressed views’? (that’s not only meant as a rhetorical question).

    w c you said: “Good manners and civility in debate are a matter for individual citizens, not for the state” – but can they be if there’s a risk of violence or harm to someone? Also what about extending this to the question of truth – if I slander or defame the organisation you work for, why shouldn’t the law step in to deal with me?

    TAG what is your evidence for a ‘gay agenda’ that’s ‘out to destroy society’?

    I’m not denying that laws can be misused or interpreted absurdly but I don’t think that means such laws are of themselves absurd.

    in friendship, Blair

    • Thanks Blair, I appreciate your chivalry.

      I had a look in my staff handbook today, at the section on harassment. Staff are advised,

      “If you are on the receiving end of behaviour or remarks that are causing you distress and ANY REASONABLE PERSON would be in such a situation then you are being harassed and have a right to ask for the situation to be resolved.”

      Given that (and Blair’s fascinating exerpt), I think my response was actually quite accurate. I wasn’t “juggling with legal jargon” , I was just pointing out what I thought the law of the land actually says (whether you like that law or not.)

      If you read my post on the 25th June at 7.56pm (calmly) you might be able to see how measured and balanced it is. I do ask what we do when conservative Christians feel that their right to voice their opinion and act in accordance with their beliefs is denied? I also say that I don’t know! I do believe in freedom of speech ( within limits) and freedom of conscience but at the same time, citizens who are doing nothing unlawful and minding their own business, must not be harassed, dengigrated or discriminated against.

      Of course we need common sense, the vast majority of situations should be resolved through good will and mutual respect, not recourse to law.

      I am sure no one on this site would want to cause distress or offence to another, even over strongly held views. Colossians 4:6,
      “let your conversation always be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

      • I suppose it depends how you define “harassment”, “offence” and “distress”.

        My concern is this:

        These terms seem to be interpreted in increasingly broad ways. Sexual harassment and incitement to violence are obviously wrong and should be illegal. But should it be illegal to say “gay sex is wrong and people who engage in it without repenting will go to hell”? I can see that causing distress and offence to some people.

        This also brings me on to another problem with legal sanctions on ethical debates (rather than on harassment or stalking etc). Distress and offence are highly subjective concepts. Avoiding falling foul of the law should be within the control of the individual, i.e. I avoid being convicted of murder by not murdering. But there is nothing I can do if someone takes offence or be distressed by something I say. Now I know the law says there just be “intent”, but this is vague.

        Some of the opinions I hold are offensive to people. They will think that however gracefully I phrase them. Who gets to define what kind of offensiveness should be illegal?

        What would be Sue and Blair’s answer to my earlier question? If I just repeated the Evangelical position, with no threat of violence or intimidation, should that be illegal?

        PS Blair: I would encourage you to watch the video. You can’t really understand how outrageous this state-sponsored intimidation was until you hear the testimony.

        • Hi Wicked,

          If “some of the opinions you hold are offensive to people” then perhaps you should keep them to yourself when in a context where are highly likely to cause offence and distress to others?

          I personally think the law should address to what extent and in what contexts voicing such opinions is harassment as many conservative Christians ( and about half of my family by the way) might well need such clarity!

          Again, I’m not a lawyer, but to me one context where people should be cautious about voicing moral judgements is in the workplace. I, for example, may believe that heterosexuals who live together are committing a sin. I may well believe they are going to hell if they don’t repent and I may feel a burden to “save them” from this. If I voice my opinions about this to an unmarried colleague, she or he might well take offence.Their relationship is very dear to them. They are not breaking the law. It is none of my business. If I am in a position of seniority, they may fear (with some justification) that my disapproval of their personal life will lead me to deny them promotions or treat them unfavourably. But equally, if I tell a colleague that I am a Christian and they react with contempt, say that they think Christians are “weird” or “bigots”, I might feel offence and distress. Again, my faith is dear to me.I am not breaking the law!It is none of their business! I might fear that I will be denied promotion etc.

          I think the same rules apply in public places. I don’t see why the law abiding general public should be accosted about their private lives.

          The more difficult area is when we come to individuals and groups who exercise or promote a religious organisation or ministry. I personally think there must be more freedom in this area. So, a street preacher telling passers by that sex outsie marriage is wrong, would be harassment. Giving out an invitation to a church where the pastor and most of the congregation held these views should not ( I think) be seen as harassment. If someone then attends and is offended, it should be made clear to them that their attendance is voluntary and other churches with different approaches are available.

          I don’t know if that answers your question about “repeating the evangelical position” ( answer : depends on context.) However, I have known many conservative evangelicals and respect some of them greatly, I have rarely met anyone who would defend using a phrase like, ” gay sex is wrong and people who indulge in it will go to hell”, to a gay person, (or to a straight person who they judged might see this as “carte blanche” for prejudiced attitudes to others.) Some evangelical christians try very hard to act with kindness, gentleness and respect, even when people disagree – perhaps because these are the fruits of the spirit and Christian values in themselves.

      • Sue – No problem, but chivalry…? No chuck, being chronically argumentative more like :)

        Wicked – “What would be Sue and Blair’s answer to my earlier question? If I just repeated the Evangelical position, with no threat of violence or intimidation, should that be illegal?” My short answer would be no. Am at work so no time to say more and am not allowed to watch the video (because we’re not allowed to watch any internet video, not because of the content).

        in friendship, Blair

    • Blair, I do not believe in “THE gay agenda” but rather that there are many “gay agendas” (since all gays are not the same). I also do not believe that one has to be gay to have a “gay agenda”.

      Many straight libertines want absolutely nothing to do with the created order.

      More specifically the enemy of our souls (who is real, not figurative) is who I was referring to. He hates God and anything that points to His character in truth.
      That is why he has tried to lay waste to maleness and femaleness as representations of God’s character particularly when they are combined in marriage. This plot has largely succeeded as straightness is in an even worse mess than gayness (or maybe the same).

      Now the next step is to eliminate any trace of marriage altogether. This has already been partly successful in Europe where open-ended cohabitation is highly accepted.
      “Gay marriage” is the big end of that wedge.

      All in all the goal is to obliterate any representation of God’s character here on earth and as such, heterosexual, nuclear family norms have got to go.

      • I am slightly amazed that you believe this, TAG. Do you really see some sort of apocalyptic conspiracy fuelled by Satan and both gays and “straight libertines” who want “absolutely nothing to do with the created order”?

        It is accurate to say that cohabitation is accepted in most of Europe – but then in Britain in the Middle Ages church marriage was quite rare among those of peasant stock. If you have heard of people living “over the brush” for cohabitation, this is because this was a (secular) rite that announced a couple were committed and would live together.

        Because the majority of people are straight,heterosexual unions and male and femaleness will always exist. Gay people having rights does not affect marriage or heterosexuality in any way.

        For centuries gay people have been ridiculed, abused, shamed and treated as less than human, if there is a “gay agenda” it is a desire to see gay people recognised as equal, fully human and treated as such.

        • Sue I am not a Calvinist so I am of the belief that God created the universe and gave created beings a free will which Satan (Lucifer at the time) abused in a bid to overthrow God (I will be like the Most High…). God then threw him out of heaven.

          And so ever since then, Satan has been trying to destroy God’s handiwork most notably by trying to convince man to reject God (and replace Him with themselves). This is a battle that happens in real time.

          So yes it is a conspiracy and having had thousands of years to study man, Satan knows how to deceive. In fact he got man on the first try in Eden.

          But I must ask. Are you a Christian?
          What is Christianity to you?

          I don’t want to draw wrong conclusions but for some people Christianity is a philosophy first outlined by a nice man named Jesus who lived a long time ago who taught that we should all love one another (sort of like “Humanism with Prayer”); but that if Buddha–a comparable philosopher–suits you more you can follow him instead.

          For me, the Bible/Christianity is not a philosophy (among others) but a description of what reality is.

          So yes, Sue, Satan is real and he does conspire in real time to defame God and degrade his creation because he hates God; and he does this mainly by manipulating our bent to sin in the worst ways.

          • *sigh*

            Hi TAG,

            I am a Christian.

            To me, Jesus was the son of God incarnate, died to save us from our sins and rose again. I also believe in free will and in grace and redemption, that in Christ we can become a new creation, saved through his giving love and grace and called to live our lives by and through that selfless, giving love.

            I believe in evil / the devil as a very real entity and see our capacity for pure evil in the atrocities we inflict on each other. I don’t, however, see Satan or the Satanic in the loving relationships of gay people or in the movement for gay rights within society, which I see more allied to a Christ like love and passion for justice and truth.

            • Well I did say that there were many “gay agendas” and that not all are anti-Christian.
              I have a “gay agenda” of my own in fact–several even.

              But because I see gay relationships as sinful, I do not see God’s hand in them; no matter how “loving” they may appear to us to be.

              The nature of a deception is that it is easy to believe. Many people will cry “Lord, Lord…” on the last day.

              When you expressed surprise I wondered what was surprising about the idea that the carnal man is at enmity with God so I just had to ask.

              • TAG –

                What is your scriptural basis for divorcing the effects/results of someone’s actions from the conclusions you draw about whether or not those actions are loving, good and acceptable to God?

                I know I harp on about this, but in Romans 13, Paul tells us that all of God’s law is summed up in ‘love others’, and he goes on to explain that ‘loving others’ means not causing them harm.

                This seems to clearly indicate (as common sense would also dictate) that we need to look at the effect of our actions/interpretations of the law in order to see whether or not those actions/interpretations are consistent with God’s law.

                Judged by the standard of Romans 13, gay relationships ARE allied to ‘Christ-like love and passion for justice and truth’.

                Unfortantely, the same cannot be said of the evangelical position condemning all homosexuality (with the resulting damage that has caused in so many, many lives).

                • I went back and read Romans 13 again.

                  The short answer is that if we cause other people to sin against God by engaging in homosexual relations with them then we do not love them, and are in fact causing them (and ourselves) grievous harm.

                  “Harm” is measured in light of eternity–not temporal pleasure (or lack of it). Indeed, after Eve ate the fruit there was no immediate “harm”. It wasn’t poisonous. In fact it tasted good enough to take to her husband who also saw no harm in eating it.

                  Anybody who has children will understand this. Vaccinations, dentist visits and punishments, green vegetables all cause “distress” to children…

                  I myself couldn’t care two hoots about gay relationships. I’d be in one myself if the Bible didn’t so clearly forbid it because I’d see nothing wrong with it at all.
                  However, part of the definition of faith requires that I accept things that I cannot understand until I can see God face to face.

                  True faith says that God is able and willing to impart grace to all those who need it in order to overcome sin–no matter how unsurmountable it may seem.

                  • Very well put, Trinidad.

                    I mean, it’s clear that it takes a very liberal, modernist interpretation of Christianity to validate homosexual sexual relationships. And if one is consistent, one ought to apply the same liberal licence to the whole of the Bible and reject what should be the myth of the resurrection.

                    I just don’t get this idea of selective frame of reference.

                    And more on the original topic, I think people are getting too thin-skinned. Better to love and engage in dialogue with someone making racist remarks than call the cops on him. I think that’s the Christian thing to do.

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