Official Blog of the Bishop of Durham

More Freedom of Expression = Hate Crime

Posted by NT Wrong on June 3, 2008

I spotted this on Jim West’s blog.

“Two Christian preachers were stopped from handing out Bible extracts by police because they were in a Muslim area, it was claimed yesterday. They say they were told by a Muslim police community support officer that they could not preach there and that attempting to convert Muslims to Christianity was a hate crime. The community officer is also said to have told the two men: ‘You have been warned. If you come back here and get beat up, well, you have been warned.'”

The right to free speech has been under attack since September 2001, with an increasing amount of ‘anti-terrorist’, ‘state secrecy’, ‘defamation’, and ‘media censorship’ laws. The police will, on top of this, frequently overstep the power given to them. And this is what occurred here. 

If there are Muslims in the United Kingdom who cannot deal with an American Christian missionary giving out bible tracts on an open street corner, I say send them even more Christian missionaries! Keep sending them until they can recite the Four Spiritual Laws by memory!! The thing about free speech is that, given enough of it, you will find you can just ignore the dumb stuff that you’re not interested in. Easy, huh?

5 Responses to “More Freedom of Expression = Hate Crime”

  1. steph said

    Na – I think all irritating, insulting, amusing, door to door sellers of religion (for which you pay with your soul) and other things (paid for with your livelihood) should be outlawed:-) … but army recruiters who haunt US student campuses, selling army cadetships for which you pay with your life are worse.

  2. steph said

    I like Doug Chaplin’s take on this (Metacatholic blog). He’s just posted it in the last hour or so.

  3. ntwrong said

    I had a look at Doug Chaplin’s comments. There’s different ways of talking to other people, some of them better than others. Some of them, like the American fundamentalist street-preachers, is most probably insensitive, and probably quite rude (I’m guessing). And that’s exactly the kind of free speech that needs protecting from government interference. Nobody’s going to object to somebody ‘toning down’ their message so as not to offend anybody. Muslims should tell obnoxious American fundametalist street-preachers that they are being impolite (if they are). But as soon as such behaviour becomes prohibited, you start down a slippery slope.

  4. steph said

    I’m not so sure. Even though they most likely were aggressive fundamentalists I still don’t think we should expect other cultures to behave as we would. If you enter aa Japanese house and don’t take your shoes off, the occupant will not ask you to remove your shoes even though it is offensive. Not a very good analogy (prostitutes selling their wares in family suburbs?) but I think fundamentalists should be advised not to antagonise Muslims by disturbing the peace. The only street walking door knocking proselytisers I’ve encountered have always been fundies of some sort – generally 7th day Advs, Mormons or JWs. Other organised religious groups have more people friendly ways of spreading their message. The Salvation Army are one example. Why shouldn’t we learn to be culturally sensitive in the 21st century? That was my incentive for enrolling in Religious Studies in the 20th.

  5. ntwrong said

    I would have liked the fundies to have been more polite, too. But to legislate politeness is dangerous. Protestors, journalists, and academics might also find that the government considers them ‘impolite’ and should be silenced. It’s a slippery slope.

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