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Government consults on removing ‘insulting’ speech from public order laws

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  1. In terms of common law, the use of “insulting” is difficult and it would seem that work would need to be done through the courts to establish how it should actually be defined. It’s a little nebulous and that always makes enforcement problematic. Repairing a badly drafted law is one thing, abandoning to concept completely is another. Consultation is definitely needed.

    1. Absolutely consultation is needed …

      Although in the consultation consideration should be given to the interpretation in case precedence of the word “insulting” in hearings related to the public order act.

      There are arguably semantics about the difference between insulting and abusive. It is in part a matter of perception from the recipient.

      It would be interesting to see whether the attempt to remove insulting from section 5 public order act 1986 would also apply to section 4a of the public order act etc (intentional harassment, alarm or distress) or other aspects of the act where insulting is used as part of the statute.

      Personally, I think clarification should be sought on what insulting, and abusive are deemed to mean in law.

      1. I think abusive suggests a definite intent to abuse or insult, but insulting could be unintentional. But I would not expect someone to be charged if the insulting was unintentional anyway, so I’m not sure what difference it all makes.

        Street preachers of any religion are a noisy nuisance and block the pavement, so maybe some one should move an amendment to ban them altogether. In a diverse society they increasingly can lead to public disorder. It’s not a matter of freedom of speech, but of where it is appropriate to carry out such activities, and whether they target minorities for abuse.

        1. But surely thats where the use of section 4a and section 5 are distinct?

          section 4a relates to causing “intentional harassment, alarm or distress” by the use of “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour”

          section 5 makes no reference to intentional so clearly relates to behaviour either not specifically directed at an individual or group who then found the behaviour offensive or where the accused is reckless in their behaviour.

          Its not a matter of freedom of speech, I agree. Freedoms carry with them responsibility including consideration of what others (whether you specifically target them or not) may feel if you engage in particular commentary or behaviour.

      2. I’m not a lawyer Stu but I always like terms to be defined unambiguously if at all possible and is why I lked what you wrote.

        1. Thanks John.

          I think its safer for everyone – those accused, those upholding the law and society as a whole where the law is unambiguous. That said, the law can not conceive of every circumstance – and thus wise decisions by either a jury of our peers or magistrates/judge are appropriate.

          However, where possible words that could be misinterpreted should be clarified.

  2. Fine

    So we’ll be allowed to hang around outside churches and scream ‘stupid morons’ and ‘If Jesus was real, he’d be gay’ at the worshippers?

    1. That doesnt sound like a fun thing to do on a Sunday morning…Leave the law as it is and give better guidance to the police and courts..Both Stonewall and the police want to keep it and in this particular case I agree with them. Who needs a public slagging match on the streets…not much fun for anyone apart from the hard nosed militants of all sides..

      Where is this public consultation on the govt website anyway?

      1. I agree, John

        The police and courts (and the CPS aaargh!) should be the ones interpreting this law and enforcing it on a case by case basis with reasonableness to each situation

        If the police get some cases wrong by either over zealousness or other actions then the CPS and courts are there to test it – doesnt mean the law should change

        The law is there to protect freedoms including freedom to have a quiet life, peacefulness AND freedom of speech

        1. de Villiers 14 Oct 2011, 5:05pm

          I prefer clear laws that do not leave out prosecution to the discretion of someone else.

          It is far better to have narrowly defined laws where we all know what we can do rather than have rather broader laws where most things can be criminal save for the generous act of a prosecution lawyer not to prosecute.

          1. @de Villiers

            I do agree although if they are too narrow then we have to re legislate sometimes …

            It is also important to have checks and balances, and that was the theory of the CPS to ensure police were neither over zealous nor corrupt in their decision making (not convinced it works totally but I can see the theory behind it).

    2. If you intend doing that, then it gives greater weight to the agitated and offensiveness of some of your comments elsewhere on PN

    3. hope you don’t do that at my church David :-)

      fyi the issue of homosexuality has hardly ever arisen there and if pressed we would endeavour to be sensitive and respectful.

      I regret though that not all Christians are like that.

    4. dAVID, you sound like one hell of a bigot. What on Earth would that do except make you look like a religion-phobic asshole?

      1. Absolutely Fox …

  3. This isn’t direclty related by this consultation taken together with “Clearing the Ground – a parliamentary inquiry to see how the law treats Christians.” which has almost completed seems a plot by the extreme Christians to wind back various laws in their favour and not in our favour…

    http://www.eauk.org/media/clearing-the-ground.cfm

    1. Fyi the evangelical alliance is not an extreme group and main mainstream churches belong to or support it.

      Personally, I am heartened by what I read in the article. Whether you like it or not, Christians do more per person supporting the needy in our society than those are not (for example most of the homeless initiatives in my area are linked to Christian initiatives) and if Christians are being marginalised not only might this be an injustice it could mean society shooting itself in the foot.

      1. I doubtwhether Gary Streeter’s enquiry and the EAUK one sided control of that enquiry has anything to do with their charity work in doing “good” and more to do with their insistance that they have a rights to persecute LGBT people.

        1. But many EAUK members are engaged in good works and I fear they may be less effective if having their right of free speech curtailed. I think it is unfair to say EAUK persecute LGBT folk. Their remit is to find a Christian response to the issues of the day and when is that tantamount to persecuting people?

          1. Perhaps when they shout at them in the street, oppose legal equality for them, claim special rights to turn them away from hotels or other businesses, make up stories about what ” causes” homosexuality, go to Uganda and demonise us with forseeable results, oppose decriminaisation in Singapore, oh loads of other reasons, the stories and bigotry are endless and primarily come from evangelicals.

          2. JohnB – what is the EAUKs “christian response” to homosexuality , gay couples adopting children, gay marriage exactly. You’ll find that is is their intention to use all means to scupper LGBT rights. Personally I dont want to curtail any “good” works” in the true sense of what that means and I’m not sure in what way you think their free speech is currenlty curtailed or in what way you think their good works have been curtailed. by preventing free speech..We do have free speech in the UK…We’re renowned for it. This piece of law has nothing to do with free speech.

      2. Evangelical alliance not an extreme group?? Arent they the ones who advocate “any means” to ensure their idea of society?

        1. benjii: not sure I understand your point “any means”. EA have ideas about society, as have we all, and they are exercising their remit in expressing those views, most of which have been accepted here in the UK for a lot longer than the secularist ones that seem to be gaining favour.

          1. JohnB

            To be fair to benji and others the EA did make a very disturbing commentary in their report “Faith and Nation” which considers the need for civil disobedience (including where appropriate violence) when upholding “Christian values” which as a non-Christian observer find a paradoxical response to seeking integrity and responsibility.

            It was discussed in this article:

            http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1533302/Christians-ask-if-force-is-needed-to-protect-their-religious-values.html

          2. “any means” sounds clear. Often it appears to include lying and deception, particularly on the Internet.

          3. Dr Robin Guthrie 14 Oct 2011, 5:14pm

            Calling black people derogatory names was deemed an acceptable remit of expression in the UK’s past however society moved on and decided it was no longer acceptable and rightly so.

            Your argument holds no water.

      3. “Fyi the evangelical alliance is not an extreme group and main mainstream churches belong to or support it.”

        . . . .

        The Evangelical Alliance is an “alliance of extreme groups”, and this is exmplified by thier stance on homosexuality which deviates radically from the mainstream views of the UK in 2011.

  4. Mumbo Jumbo 14 Oct 2011, 1:03pm

    Off topic but this egregious Charles Moore article in the Telegraph simply has to be seen to be believed.

    Take a stiff drink and plunge in:

    http://goo.gl/DcsQ7

    I did warn you……..

    1. quite like the article myself – but then I would :-)

      1. I was wondering what you liked about the article?

        1. “For the entire history of civilisation, marriage has been defined as being between a man and a woman. Throughout that history, almost all civilisations have regarded marriage as central to their survival. ”

          That’s the first paragraph and I like the first paragraph. Now paragrap 2 says … :-)

          1. “For the entire history of civilisation, marriage has been defined as being between a man and a woman.”

            . . . . . . . . . .

            Interestingly, this is completely inaccurate.

            Most people seem to forget that Statutory law did not exclude homosexual marriage before 1971, although some lawyers have argued that common law could be used to make void homosexual marriages.

            Curiously though in 1973, the legal definition of marriage was changed, so that it then became defined as referring to the union between a man and women.

            On needs to be aware however that this change in the definition of marriage, occurred in the same year when also in 1973, homosexuality was dropped from the DSM manual of mental disorders rendering it no longer a mental illness.

            Your argument of the timeless nature of heterosexual marriage is a fantasy and myth. Heterosexual marriage has only been firmed up legally for about 28 years.

    2. It’s such bollocks! Some fairly good comments below, though.

    3. Disgraceful. Flashmob!

    4. de Villiers 14 Oct 2011, 5:06pm

      He is a person that is up for persuasion – to be engaged with rather than condemned.

    5. I think recent converts to Catholicsm must be the worse. I think theyre trying to prove that they are more Catholic the rest…inferiority complex perhaps ?

      1. As good and as reasonable argument for ‘the other side’ as I’ve read. But it all implodes if, during his rant about bed and breakfasts having the right to turn away homosexuals, you remove the word ‘homosexuals’ and insertvthe word ‘blacks’. Even he wouldn’t dare suggest they have the right to turn black people away because, thankfully we’ve finally reached an age where all but the terminally stupid see thiscas grossly wrong. Well, same applies to us. Simple as that.

    6. PumpkinPie 14 Oct 2011, 7:10pm

      Stopped reading after the second paragraph. The first paragraph alone proved him to be an arrogant, lying imbecile with not a shred of historical or cultural knowledge. Still, I decided I’d give him a chance. I wish I hadn’t.

      I’d need a very, very stiff drink to wade through any more of that malevolent nonsense.

      1. de Villiers 14 Oct 2011, 10:44pm

        Not everyone who disagree with you is a liar.

        1. PumpkinPie 15 Oct 2011, 8:34pm

          What? The things he posted in that first paragraph are demonstrably false.

          1) Marriage has most certainly not *always* been about” a man and a woman” – the very idea is absolutely ludicrous!
          2) *All* civilisations have most certainly not “regarded marriage as central to their survival” – they’ve regarded breeding as central to their survival, no matter who the hell it’s with.

          The man opens up with two absolute clangers, both complete fallacious and indefensible, and so very obviously coloured by his own biased personal beliefs, and I’m supposed to give him a gold star for trying? Respect his intentional distortion of facts because it’s just his opinion? Nuts to that! The man is *demonstrably* a liar, and thus I have no time for his writings.

    7. mmm… you’re right… off topic…

    8. “For the entire history of civilisation, marriage has been defined as being between a man and a woman.”. . .

      . . . . . . . . . . . .

      Interestingly, this is completely inaccurate.

      Most people seem to forget that Statutory law did not exclude homosexual marriage before 1971, although some lawyers have argued that common law could be used to make void homosexual marriages.

      Curiously though in 1973, the legal definition of marriage was changed, so that it then became defined as referring to the union between a man and women.

      On needs to be aware however that this change in the definition of marriage, occurred in the same year when also in 1973, homosexuality was dropped from the DSM manual of mental disorders rendering it no longer a mental illness.

      Your argument of the timeless nature of heterosexual marriage is a fantasy and myth. Heterosexual marriage has only been firmed up legally for about 28 years.

      1. “For the entire history of civilization… ”

        Good grief, are you even remotely aware of Chinese and Indian same-sex commitments, not to mention
        ancient Egypt where a same-sex couple was interred in a pyramid in the hope of being together for an eternity of joy, love and bliss?

        Then there the myth of Gilgamesh, and later Achilles, which express the intimate and lasting love commitment between two men.

        1. That was meant for JohnB, not you JohnK.

  5. I have no problem amending the law as long as we are free to hurl abusive, offencive and insulting words and demonstrations against religious nutters, give back what they give to us. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. A level playing field is needed if the law is changed.

    1. Spanner1960 14 Oct 2011, 1:43pm

      Absolutely. But don’t get upset when they retaliate and call you a dirty faggot.
      Personally, I go with free speech. “Sticks and Stones” and all that.
      I do think there ought to be a definition of what could be called bullying, though.

      1. I almost entirely agree with you Spanner1960 (Whats going on this is twice in a short period of time!) …

        I do think the issue of being insulted and offended can be over egged and people need to be able to ignore provocative comments … there is the issue of freedom of speech vs responsibility but there is also responsibility of the recipient to not worsen the situation …

        I do think a definition for bullying could be very useful – perhaps connected to a review of the protection from harassment legislation (which I think if my memory serves me right is already underway or proposed).

        The slight proviso on my complete agreement with you would be to ensure that any reviewed legislation could take into account any behaviour that did offend appropriately along the lines of outraging public decency …

        1. Spanner1960 15 Oct 2011, 8:29am

          Careful Stu, you might actually start to like me at this rate.
          I think the bottom line is, if someone calls you a fag the once, get over it. If I continue to do it over a period, then that amounts to harassment and/or bullying, and needs top be dealt with.

          I do think people need to develop a thicker skin in many cases, and not go into fits of apoplexy every time someone drops a clanger, but in the situations where it is a constant barrage of insults, it wears people down and can be very soul destroying and negative, and I really think not enough is being done to address this, both in the classroom and the workplace.

          1. Lol

            Its not that I dislike you, Spanner1960 lol

    2. Perhaps the appropriate response to an offensive street preacher is to have a flash mob ready to respond with a ghetto blaster and surround him dancing lady gaga’s born this way?

      1. The Gay Flash Mob Response Unit 14 Oct 2011, 3:09pm

        YES! Excellent idea!! don’t forget the glitter!

      2. Here are suggested instructions. Learn these steps in the video, locate homophobic speaker, surround and dance! Have a good time and drown out the homophobia!

        1. Oops the video:

          1. I prefer this one lol:

      3. I like that – a lot … with purple glitter and maybe an encore of “The Edge”

    3. What good would a slagging match do….? If they are insulting you in the name of God or Jesus they are already a hypocrite and that’s all that really matters.

      1. My thought entirely

  6. I imagine this change will delight the EDL because they’ll be able to insult Muslims, Mohamed etc and the police won’t able to do anything about it. The change could cause lots of problems for all sorts of people. In my view the government would do well to leave things as they are at present.

    1. And you’d be wrong. The EDL acknowledge that this will mean that homophobic preachers will be able to insult gay people. But religions will stil be protected under the Religious Hatred Act 2006, which was specifically brought in to protect islam from criticism. (Only the House of Lords ensured that there were ANY freedom of speech clauses in that draconian Act.) The Religious Hatred Act requires the involvement of the Attorney General before someone is prosecuted under it. And in May 2010 such a politically-motivated charge was brought against 2 men from EDL who climbed on top of a derelict building (a proposed mosque site) and played the call to prayer. They were charged under that law, because the local muslims and SWP threatened to riot unless something was done to stop a political protest. Of course, no such draconian measures were taken against the muslims who put up the Gay Free Zone posters.

  7. If the law is being used in a discriminatory fashion, the guidelines need to be fixed. The police have discretion which cases they further and which they don’t.

    1. That means changing the entire policing system – not necessarily a bad thing but has huge implications …

      Part of the concept of policing in the UK – unique to the UK and NZ is the concept of policing by consent … that requires an officer to have an element of discretion …

  8. Its there for a purpose and should not be amended. It acts as a deterrent otherwise these right wing Christian MPs wouldn’t be moaning about it.

  9. I think most, if not all, of us have been insulted at one time or another when the perpetrator may not have been aware he/she was insulting us.

    There is is something rather perniscuous if having taken offence the person who is affronted can then complain to the police and someone is then charged or arrested as a result.

    Sadly, the law is ambiguous on this point and therefore it does need to be changed. One of the things we treasure in this country and our forefathers have fought wars over is safeguarding the right of free speech.

    Personally, I am forthright saying what I believe but I try to be sensitive too to the feelings of those who disagree and also accept some folk will respond untowardly, sometimes with interest!

    By all means charge those who deliberately incite hatred but be careful where we draw the line.

    1. The Lady GaGa Gay Flash Mob Response Unit 14 Oct 2011, 3:13pm

      I see a great future for our little band then.

    2. There’s over 55 million people in the UK, we’ve all been insulted more than once in our lives but there haven’t been 55 million times number of insults taken to the police and to the court. Your view of this law is simplistic!

      1. but people have been arrested for expressing a view that any reasonable onlooker would not regard as inciting hatred – since when does that make my view of the law as simplistic?

        1. Invoking the old testament death penalty against a minority sounds like inciting hatred to reasonable people.

          1. I would like to listen to the context first. The OT is quite explicit in its condemnation of those who flout the law but to use that to get at gay folk when there are lots of other “lawbreakers” around (i.e. all of us) is imo wrong.

          2. The context is a nutter screaming at you in the street because you are holding your partner’s hand.

          3. Tell me truthfully – were you trying to wind the preacher up? :-)

            Whether or not he was inciting hatred, I can’t say, but for what it is worth, I don’t think the action you describe is appropriate for a man of God. I doubt whether Jesus would have dealt with you in that way.

      2. Most people have better things to do. I certainly need to get on with my shopping rather than reporting street preachers to the police. However a few people do make complaints about insults, even if the police do use their discretion and decide nothing needs to be done, they only do that after questioning the parties involved at some length, requiring them to attend the police station to do so.

        It’s an absurd law and an a front to the traditional liberties of an Englishman.

        1. What traditional liberties? They are mostly relatively new. Women didn’t even have the vote till 1918, and even then they had to be over 30.

    3. But equally there are times when someone could claim to not have intended to offend, but if they had thought it through (which some of them will have done in any case) they would have realised the potential to offend, insult or harass and therefore the option to prosecute (particularly for repeated offences) where there is a recklessness as to whether someone may be offended must remain an option …

      I think thats why the public order act has a tiering system of offences ranging from section 5 (the lowest level of offence) up to section 1 (riot), in between there is section 4a intentional offence, section 4 threatening behaviour, section 3 affray and section 2 violent disorder …

      We need to particularly deal with those who intend to offend but have a piece of legislation which can deal with those who repeatedly allege there was no intention to offend but there has been an insult etc caused …

      1. Interesting thought Stu. I am not sure how you can make a law that distinguishes those who seek to do harm through their words and those who don’t. I agree we all have or should have common sense enough to know when people will take offence but I fear that even when our intention is not to offend we will know by instinct and experience that some folk will take offence. I am personally grateful to the PN organisers for letting me make comments that some people find offensive. That is never my intention. While I don’t claim to have the whole truth and sometimes have to admit to being wrong, I am keen to for truth to come out and is why I engage in debate. Sadly, though, some do use words to incite hatred and while recognising the practical difficulties, would love to see that stop.

        1. @JohnB

          As you will not be surprised to hear, I do not always agree with you – and would expect that you do not always agree with me.
          Nonetheless, I do find you one of the non-gay contributors on here that seems to try to be both understanding and learn lessons (where appropriate) but also sticks to their principles and tries to explain them – despite the likelihood for disagreement. I find that valuable. I find it disappointing that you are not always afforded the same respect as some other contributors from all those on here. That said, there are many debates that have been had which are constructive and there is more understanding on both sides.
          When there is any debate, there is always the potential for offence to be cause, intentionally or otherwise.
          I do think section 5 of the public order act does deal with reckless behaviour – partly as an arrest can only occur after being warned by a police officer re the offending conduct.

          1. Thanks Stu for your kind comments. Someone once told me that if you enter the lions den you need to expect to have to face lions. That said, I have appreciated constructive and respectful debate with folk like yourself and while we are not always going to meet in the middle, I believe the long term effect will be positive. Sadly, when folk disagree there can be a tendency to vilify and demonise and no doubt when that happens people can take offence and is why the sort of situations we are discussing arises.

            Btw I find the EA one of the less rabid Christian agencies and one on the whole I agree with (but then I am biased). The paper you cited is interesting and I need to return to it. I think it is right to try to influence society for the common good but we also need to obey the law even if we suffer as a result, The exception is if obeying man’s law we disobey God, On a secular front Gandhi’s program of civil disobedience is one most folk today will agree with.

            Some of the conundrums we face in these debates I have written about in more detail – I need to put it on the web and let you have a link sometime.

          2. PS Stu: I appreciate your confidence in the legal system and the police ability to act appropriately. While I will need to do more fact finding, it seems to me that more than once the police have been found wanting because they have come down heavily on folk who were not breaking the law but had managed to upset a complainent. While I suspect when one resorts to law there will always be anomolies and a potential for justice not to be done, I do feel legislators need to be more helpful by making the law non-ambiguous as possible, and here we have an area where this could happen,

          3. @JohnB

            I would agree with civil disobedience in certain circumstances – although I would never condone violence …

            The values that are sought to be upheld may (in some part) be values I would agree with, although not necessarily believe that civil disobedience was an appropriate mechanism to uphold them.

            If we are talking about human rights, integrity etc etc then I would support endeavours to uphold them – I would not seek special treatment for Christians, which is my interpretation of what the report “Faith and Nation” seeks to propose.

          4. @JohnB

            I do have confidence in the legal system to (usually) uphold the law and do so without fear or favour

            That does not mean there are not errors. In any system, be it legal, philosophical, medical etc etc where humans are involved there is room for error. Nonetheless, it is the errors that get the most publicity and not the thousands of cases that are dealt with appropriately every week. Very few of the public order offences I dealt with in the police made media attention, and none of those that did were because of police error (more because of the scale of the disorder etc involved).
            Usually it is the more serious cases, or the cases where police make errors that get publicity.

            Nonetheless, there are checks and balances in the system – the police make decisions, the CPS review those decisions, there is potential for a court case, appeal, IPCC investigation etc etc

            The vast majority of public order is dealt with effectively in the UK without media frenzy.

          5. Thanks Stu
            While I am probably a little more sceptical than you regarding the fair works of the wheels of justice, I do as a whole think much more is got right than wrong. In fact I have good reason to value the work of the police. Tonight I do a stint with Street Pators and being able to work with police on what can be some difficult situations is something I value.

          6. I agree that no group should expect special exemption and favour. I must admit I do not read what the EA writes as doing so. I think though there is an issue of trying to achieve a fair balance. Where I come from, I know all to well how Christians feel their faith is under threat and some of the recent high profile cases seem to illustrate this. LBGT rights and Christian rights need to balanced I feel and I fear sometimes that balance is not there.

          7. Some examples!?
            1. A relationship counsellor lost his job because he asked not to counsel a same sex couple on how to improve their sex life. This decision was upheld on appeal to an employment tribunal.
            2. Two bed and breakfast owners refused to accommodate a gay couple in a double bedroom in their own home, even though they had previously declared their policy. They were fined.
            3. A Catholic adoption agency had to close down because it refused to place children that were ready for adoption with same sex couples.
            4. A Christian couple, with a good record for fostering, were turned down from fostering more children when they admitted that they would not tell a child that it is perfectly ok to be gay.
            5. A civil registrar lost her job after requesting she be excused from conducting civil partnership ceremonies involving same sex couples.
            6. An open air preacher was arrested after a gay man complained to the police that he found some of what the preacher said (particularly relating to his homosexuality) to be offensive.

            PS I also think Christians have a fantastic opportunity to serve the most worse of in our society and in a strange way I think this can / should strike a chord with gay folk!

          8. Stu: sorry to go on … but I really value the exchange we are having – seems a bit like a postal chess game :-)

            but pre-empting a possible response from you, this is what went onto write in the paper I prepared on the subject:

            Some would say that these happenings are acceptable as a line needs to be drawn in order to combat discrimination against gay folk. They might also point out that while understanding Christians want to act according to their conscience, they often do not act consistently when they direct their actions against gay folk and not other “sinners”. For example, would the relationship counsellor counsel mixed sex couples who are not married or civil registrars conduct marriages of divorcees who have been refused marriage by the church? The Christian retort is often that conscience is indeed the important issue and we cannot do what our conscience disallows and are perturbed that the respect once given to Christianity is no longer being afforded. Moreover, it is claimed that our intention to discriminate and relevant services can be readily obtained elsewhere. Some would also point out that in many cases gay rights take precedence over religious rights and that a better balance is needed.

          9. @JohnB

            I will respond to your comments fully either later today or tomorrow but all of the examples you give I feel were appropriately handled by the courts/

            Yes in the case of a B&B the business is also their home – but nonetheless it is a business and customers are entitled not to be discriminated against by a business. Would the same have happened with an Asian or black couple or an unmarried couple?

            In terms of fostering, adoption etc – whilst there may not have been any issues with prior parenting, how would they have handled a child in their care who was gay – would they have made him/her feel wrong that their attractions and seeking of relationships was wrong. Would they have potentially psychologically damaged them?

            Dont get me wrong I believe people have a right to freedom of religion and to exercise their faith but they (like everyone else) have to do so responsibly. That includes preaching. Personally street preachers irritate me.

          10. Thanks Stu for your comments. I look forward to your further thoughts.

            All of the examples I cited have (I think) been discussed on PN and while there was as one would have expecedt a bias in the main thrust of comments, I can say it has helped me to see “the other side”, which is why I could say so in my further comments.

            While I don’t know the B&B owners or the foster parents, I do empathise with them. In the former case it was their home as you point out and while in this day and age we wouldn’t normally expect people to inflict their personal values when running a business that one would expect to be open to all, the very nature of what they are trying to offer clients means their values are intrinsic in what they do offer.

            As for the foster parents, I don’t believe there is anything to show they would harm children by stating what they believe is to be right or if guilty of being homophobic. The travesty is that in a day when foster parents are desparately needed two excellent foster parents are prevented from practicising because of their integrity.

          11. @JohnB

            I promised you a further response …

            I agree with you that when the law is drafted and enforced there should be no bias towards any individual or group. The police (or other law enforcement agencies) should be seen to act without fear or favour.

            I can appreciate that some Christians may feel that they are under attack by some recent judgements by the courts. That said, how do you think LGBT people have felt for many years? There does need to be an ability to balance competing rights. No right however entitled another person to discriminate against another on grounds of race, orientation, faith, gender etc etc

            If Christians do not see some “sin” as worse than others then why would a B&B run by a Christian couple not enquire if a heterosexual couple were unmarried but ask if a same sex couple were in a relationship? Surely that is hypocracy and a demonstration of homophobia? I do not accept that either premarital sex or homosexuality is wrong, but thats my opinion….

          12. … I do think that adoption and fostering agencies need to consider how an adoptive or fostering parent would respond to (whilst possibly hypothetical situations) issues that could have significant impact on childrens lives. A gay person who is told (and I know this from personal experience) that their orientation is wrong and sinful (because the cliche of love the sinner, hate the sin does not make a gay person feel any more valued) is often made to feel that they themselves are therefore wrong and made insecure. That guilt trip is a horrendous issue to cause a young person, who having required fostering or adoption in any case may well have significant “baggage” to deal with in any case.

            A civil registrar is paid to conduct civil CPs or marriages not hold religious opinion. In the same way that a paramedic or probation worker could be disciplined for overt discussion of their religious views, so should civil registrars. I would be appalled if a civil registrar refused to ….

          13. … marry a black couple, mixed Jew/Muslim couple, mixed RC/Methodist couple etc etc – so why should gay couples be seen differently? The registrar is entitled to their beliefs and opinions, but much the same as the probation officer, doctor or judge they should not bring them to work..

            If I paid attention to some open air preachers comments about homosexuality, I am sure I would also find them offensive – and ignorant (the lack of hermaneutics and exegesis from street preachers on the rare occasion I have heard any of what they say is laughable sometimes). Fire and Brimstone is not appropriate language for the High Street.

            I do agree that some of the best aspects of many Christians is their desire to support various issues within society – and indeed I agree some of these areas are issues which many LGBT people can probably have an affinity with. It demonstrates to me that charity and welfare are not solely issues linked to faith and belief.

            I do think you point out a crucial..

          14. … point in terms of special consideration by some Christians of gay “sin” which is treated more forcefully and with greater acrimony than against other comparable issues. Its this hypocracy that makes the claimed compassion by some Christians in the love the sinner not the sin approach seem faux and false.

            I do not accept that Christians are being treated any worse. I feel LGBT people are being treated equally by society for once, and this is part of society growing up and accepting responsibility and integrity for how they act.

            In terms of services being available elsewhere, would it be permissable for a B&B to reject black people because there was another B&B down the road that would take them? Of course not. So why should they be allowed to bar LGBT people?

          15. Stu: I agree, no police or anyone in authority come to act should act with fear or favour (although all of us I feel have our own biases, which if we are honest we need to recognise).

            I agree, gay folk have suffered terrible discrimination in the past and even now methinks homophobia is still rife in our society. I am particularly concerned when homophobic attacks are directed against vulnerable folk e.g. school children. We may have different ideas as to how we do this but I would like to think we can agree it needs to happen. Overall, I feel our society would be better off if the rights and aspirations of all its citizens are recognised and respected and rather letting the pendulum swing one way or another getting a fair balance is what is needed.

            I think to be fair to the B&B owners they did declare that their policy applied to ALL unmarried couples. I suppose it was easier to spot it being circumvented when the couple who turned up at their establishment were of the same sex. I do suspect too they were set up on this occasion.

            But your point is a fair point (and one Iris made to me in a PN exchange a little while back). Christians do have a tendency to be selective on which “sins” they make their stand on, and this is unacceptable (something I acknowledged in my further comments which were trying to weigh the two sides).

          16. Thanks Stu – just realised you made further comments.

            I did run by some of the arguments you presented re. fostering and adoption a while back with a Christian friend who has been successfully fostering for years.

            Besides stating the obvious that the situation has never risen in reality, he pointed out firstly he would try to bring the child up in accordance with the wishes of the natural parent. While, if pressed, he would not state (for conscience sake) a view opposite to one he held, he would respect whatever decision the child makes including matters of sexuality and provide guidance on this or any moral issue come to that only when this is appropriate and called for.

            I agree with civil registrars should in principle do whatever is demanded by the job, i.e. including conducting ceremonies for civil partnerships. However, given the view in our society, up to recently, has been to only recognise mixed sex unions, I think some slack can and should be made, without jeopardising the rights of same sex partners.

            I realise race is often brought into discussions such as these (and let it be said I am white and my wife is black so I can declare an interest here) but I am not sure the comparison is always fair. While I understand while many gay folk will say they had no choice in being gay, they do have a choice as to whether they enter into a gay (sexual) relationship. As for black people – they are born black and will remain so – they really don’t ever have a choice in the matter and to treat them untowardly (as has happened regularly in our recent past) is wrong.

          17. Correction: when earlier I spoke about homophobic abuse, especially against vulnerable folk, I meant to emphasise the need to combat this, which I strongly support.

            Also, when I spoke about acting untowardly against coloured folk, I should have added that the same should apply to gay folk. I regularly meet gay folk in the course of my work etc. and (I hope) I afford them the same respect etc. as I do with straight folk.

            The matter of choice or no choice got me thinking further. We don’t choose to be old, disabled, female or black and to discriminate in those areas imo goes against right notions of natural justice. I already made my views on sexual orientation clear – some folk are that way for as long as they remember and my Christian belief would never condemn them for this. Where the contention is, is whether being (same sex) sexually active is right or not? Religion clearly is a matter of choice and I understand the secularist argument that where traditional religious belief is at odds with other beliefs, e.g. on the issue of sexuality, then it is the other beliefs that need to be given priority. Myself, while I want to do the right thing to all folk, gay or whatever, my priority has to be to act according to conscience.

            I think in many ways what we are seeing nowadays is a clash of cultures, at least in the West … orthodox religious belief is on the decline and atheistic secularism is on the rise. It is difficult for the two to comfortably co-exist and is why I suspect the reason for the indignation that is so evident in many PN comments., and is why, incidentally, I value our discourse on these matters.

          18. @JohnB

            I think we are probably agreed on the need to reduce and (if possible) eliminate all forms of bigotry and prejudice whoever is targetted and who carries out the bigotry. We may perceive some things differently as to what is actual discrimination, but on the broader issue I think we are agreed.

            I also agree we all have our own biases and sometimes it is difficult to keep these in check.

            I do not see the gaining of equality for LGBT people being a swinging of the pendulum in our favour that should be seen negatively by Christians. It should not be a case of LGBT people gaining credibility as humans means less rights for others.

            When I was a police officer, I felt the law on drugs was ineffective and irrational – but I was paid to enforce it. I enforced it. As a paramedic, I may not like certain people but I have treated terrorists from prison, murderers, paedophiles etc because I have to treat people fairly. If I ran a business I would because of my humanity want to ..

          19. … all my clients or customers equally regardless of their gender, age, faith, orientation, race, disability etc …

            You mention that people can not choose their orientation but can choose whether to engage in sexual behaviour or not. Well, that seems like tacit acceptance of discrimination. If a heterosexual is attracted to someone of the opposite sex then (if we follow your ideology) they can consumate that with integrity within the arena of marriage. If they then are attracted to another person while married, they have the choice of whether to commit adultery or not. If they are gay, sure they have the choice whether or not to have sex but there is no option of the sanctity of marriage that you would talk about – nor is there an alternative sexually, as they are not attracted to the opposite sex. Effectively they are being told they can not engage in an activity that is natural to them. They were made gay but cruelly they are not allowed to pursue natural thoughts about …

          20. … a sexual element to that relationship. We were made sexual beings. It is therefore, to my mind very appropriate to compare orientation to race – it is something over which we have no control.

            I have no idea if the B&B couple were set up or not. Even if they were, there have been numerous other examples of businesses being prejudiced and unfair to gay couples on supposedly religious grounds.

            I have no doubts some Christian adoptive parents or foster parents could handle the situation of a gay child in their care carefully and sensitively but I fear some would not and if concerns arose during the selection process then the requisite agency would be fair in declining their services.

            I do worry that you are right that there is a clash of cultures. I will remain stoically secularist but supportive of the rights of others to hold faith provided they do not damage the rights of others.

          21. Stu: the following is an extract from my paper and relates to your point about LBGT equality:

            Alleged areas of “gay discrimination” concern marriage, and fostering and adoption. Some gay couples have expressed a desire to marry (currently only civil partnership is open to them and some see this as inferior to marriage) and they feel they should be entitled to the same opportunities as heterosexual couples. They claim them being allowed to marry should not be seen as a threat to heterosexual marriage, and might point to studies in countries, where gay marriage has been adopted, which proves the point. They could even suggest those concerned should be looking instead at the high divorce rate among heterosexual couples. Some Christians respond by saying that marriage was only ever meant for heterosexual couples and to allow gay couples to marry would undermine this most important institution for the coming together of opposites and mean redefining marriage, and would lead to further societal disintegration. Moreover, traditional marriage has stood the test of time immemorial and until relatively recently has been widely accepted as the only union recognised by society, with strong such marriages being essential for healthy societies and the nurturing of children.

            Regarding adoption and fostering, some gay couples feel they should be allowed to foster and adopt children and they would be good parents, if given the opportunity, and would provide everything a heterosexual couple might be expected to provide, for example a happy, safe and secure home, where the child is loved and looked after. As for needing good other sex role models, this could be provided by friends and other family members. Some Christians, having firstly pointed out that the welfare of the children involved should be the main consideration, feel children being placed with traditionally married couples is the appropriate setting and is in the best interest for their future welfare.

            A further area of contention regards what happens in schools. While there are wider issues around what is taught concerning relationships, sex education and values generally, the insistence (so it seems) on teaching children that homosexual relationships are acceptable does raise concerns. Some of the controversy around “Section 28”, introduced in 1988 by the Conservative government, to prohibit the intentional promotion of homosexuality in schools, illustrates much of the interest, passion and polarisation of positions by a wide variety of interested parties. This was repealed in 2003 by the Labour government. Our current Prime Minister has gone on record to distance himself from the actions taken by his predecessors from his own party. What is taught in schools regarding homosexuality will no doubt remain a bone of contention for some time to come. It does appear, in state schools at least, that it may not be possible to offer views, such as expressed in this paper, as a corrective to the more accepting views, i.e. “it is ok to be gay”, that seem to be favoured by the powers that be. While this is one example of the battle that is taking place in our culture, what can not be denied are the documented instances of insidious homophobic bullying, which not only result in distress for the victim but, in extreme cases, suicide. How we combat this ought to concern us all.

            PS the point about the study is from you Stu – I am listening :-)

          22. Stu: I don’t have a problem with the principle, and often the practice, of LBGT equality, especially in the multi-cultural society which is ours. Some of the changes in recent years were much needed, although sometimes full equality is not possible (you mentioned the issue of drugs for example – the question is where to draw the line sometimes). While I am a great believer in the rule of law I am also a believer in a higher law (i.e. God’s) which is why I make the points I do. According to the “good book”, it is righteousness that exalts a nation, not its commitment to equal opportunities.

            Once again you challenge me to examine my own position (a good thing). I realise, for me, a logical extrapolation for my beliefs is that if a person does has have a same sex sexual orientation he/she must either change that orientation (even if desirable, it is not necessarily possible) or remain celibate. As one who married in my middle years, I recognised the need to be celibate until then and was resigned to the fact it could be so for life. Now I am married, I recognise the need to remain faithful to my wife. Such an option (if adopting my beliefs) is not open to a gay person, and truly I do recognise the anger and pain. Obviously, most gay folk don’t adopt my beliefs (their choice and one I respect) but as a preacher I can only preach what I understand to be true.

            Going back to our earlier discussion on common ground, it is my observation that gay folk often have a strong commitment to social justice, often more than some of the straight Christians I know. As one who works among homeless folk and asylum seekers and have seen first hand the distress and destitution that can result, I welcome to opportunity to join forces with gay folk in tackling some of these issues.

          23. @JohnB

            Whilst there are some areas of common ground, there are clear distinct differences in our views on other issues.

            I do acknowledge that you have (and do) listen(ed) to me and others. I try to listen to you and have had to reassess some of my thoughts at times, rarely changing the fundamentals of how I see the world, but sometimes giving me an alternative perspective of how things could be interpreted.

            Ultimately, I do not think that anyone is seriously trying to stop people exercising their faith. There is a significant aspect (as I understand it) of faith the is a personal matter between the individual and their God. I do understand the perceived mission to serve and (to an extent understand) the desire to talk about faith. All of these things should be done with care and sensitivity.

            Section 28 was not about stopping promotion of homosexuality, it was about stopping homosexuality being talked about so then relationship education and sex education could not …

          24. … address legitimate concerns about sex education that were presented by young people themselves. The failure to address the reality of homosexual relationships in society causes a cloak of secrecy to pervade the idea of homosexuality and give the young person who knows they are gay a sense of being damaged, unvalued by society and evil – I know I was one such young person …

            I think society has a duty to educate people about safer sex, relationships, responsibility, fairness, equality etc etc. I think society has a duty to care and protect all children and ensure they are given the best chances in life. This should enable teachers to educate appropriately to all social circumstances including raising awareness of gay relationships and answering legitimate questions from concerned young people. Equally, fostering and adoptive parents must be seen as being able to handle a variety of situations and if concerns arise either during the selection processes or whilst a child is ….

          25. … “in care” need to be carefully considered by the appropriate authorities and where necessary action should be taken.

            I have to say I can see you have wrangled over the wording of your commentary. You have tried to be very balanced whilst remaining true to your personal beliefs.

            I do think those who feel introduction of same sex marriage will lead to a disintegration of society are scaremongering. What the introduction of same sex marriage will mean is that men will marry men and women will marry women. The world won’t stop. Society won’t break down. The same arguments were exercised when homosexuality was legalised and society is still here.

            No doubt we will return to these debates in the future. There are areas where I suspect we will never agree upon, however …

          26. Thanks Stu once again for these further comments. I guess our exchange as far as this thread is concerned is near the end but do feel free to have the last word.

            I note your point about Section 28. I need to check this out. I picked up the notion that its purpose was to stop the promotion of homosexuality in schools from Wikipedia (which while good is also flawed). I agree the net result in some / many cases was that the subject was never spoken about. I remember thinking at the time this was a bit like a sledgehammer to crack a nut. I agree with you that the subject needs to be discussed, especially in the light of homophobic bullying. I also felt then that there was an “left wing secularist” element trying to promote a “gay agenda” but with the benefit of hindsight it might have been better to teach children to see different perspectives, although I suspect one’s inherent bias might well have determined what is taught.

            As a passionate educationalist myself, my mantra is always to present all sides of an argument where possible and my concern is the Christian perspective is being continually squeezed. As a dad, I teach my 13yo the Bible because that is what we as a family value and he is not going to learn this elsewhere (almost certainly not in the otherwise excellent school he attends). I also encourage him to look at all angles. I feel privileged that because of my community connections he is able to communicate with and question Muslim, atheist and gay friends, as well as Christians. I hope that continues and recognise he has to make his own decision and we will love him regardless..

            For me understanding the issues is a continuing journey and as you rightly discern I struggle sometimes to get the balance right. But like you I have a view of the world that governs my beliefs. Nevertheless, there is a lot of value, as you intimate, in trying to understand other people’s perspective. I appreciate you are one of the few folks in these forums that go out of their way to do this. Best wishes :-)

        2. Ahh street preachers – would love you to come and listen to me Stu. I wonder if you would still be irritated :-)

          Actually, I don’t do too much street preaching these days but I value the freedom to do so and recognise there is a time and place for everything.

          One of the reason I do street pastoring rather than street preaching is it is a way to show practical love in a way that speaks louder than words. Without wanting to brag or anything, around 2am today we met this middle aged lady, who was rough sleeping and on the streets. She had huge issues and lots of sadness in her life. But we had a great time. We listened mainly and was quite content to leave it there, although in the end she wanted us to pray with her, which we did. Not sure when we will meet again but for me that is more appropriate way to engage at this time.

          Sadly, some street preachers aren’t that wise. Always I feel there is a need to speak truth etc. including using this means but also being sensitive to the folk who hear us.

          1. @JohnB

            Whilst I would be more than happy to sit and have a respectful conversation with you, I doubt I would value your preaching (nothing personal!)

            I think if people are prepared to talk and both sides are sensitive to know where limits are and what is appropriate, that then engaging in either general discussion or even discussion on belief systems etc can be beneficial and interesting to both sides. However, all too many street preachers are offensive in their approach and at times aggressive, confrontational and insulting. If this persists when asked to stop because of their offensiveness and harassment – I think its a responsible act of the police to then act.

          2. No worries Stu, I don’t take it personally. I agree in our case respectful, reasoned discussion is far better.

            I do worry when preachers do cross the line (although we may disagree where that line should be drawn). Imo the object of preaching is to declare the gospel of salvation, not to have a go at groups in society one might disapprove off.

  10. So, that’ll be the end of blasphemy laws?
    and, thuggery infilcted on so called apostates, too? Good-oh.

    1. Blasphemy was abolished fairly recently. But I think the religious extremists are trying to get it back by the back door, calling it something else.

  11. Let them call us what they want as long as we get a crack at calling the religious nutters what we want with impunity. While we’re at it, how about banning censorship on t.v. We really don’t have total freedom of speech or expression in our country and when I say expression, I mean within reason. i find it amazing that women’s breasts and and sometimes vaginas are often not censored but male genitalia is, even a male derriere at times. Definitely a double standard.

    1. Dr Robin Guthrie 14 Oct 2011, 5:05pm

      Yeh. That one really p!sses me off….

      Baps and middens for all to see but not even a glimpse of a nice k-nock.

    2. But we won’t have that right to insult “religious” people back, as there are special laws protecting them. The playing field will not be level.

  12. Peter Tatchell 14 Oct 2011, 5:13pm

    What this report neglects to mention is that this draconian law has been used to arrest peaceful and otherwise lawful LGBT campaigners. I’ve arrested about 20 times for exposing and criticising Christian and Islamist fundamentalists -and over a protest against murderer Mugabe. So have other LGBT campaigners.

    1. recently?

    2. Where you shouting abusive or insulting words? Where you ultimately prosecuted?

      1. Bloody auto spellcheck, that should say “were”.

    3. As much as I support you and your fight for equality and everything you stand for I cannot agree with this

      The law needs reforming maybe to make it clearer it should not be scrapped completely.

    4. As much as I support you Peter, and suspect that your arrests were probably morally wrong – that does not make the law wrong.

      The law has been appropriately and successfully used many thousands of times in England & Wales to protect peoples human rights.

      The protection of one persons rights ultimately means anothers may be curtailed (especially when someone is arrested as a method to ensure the other persons rights are protected).

      I suspect that the law was enforced in either an over zealous or inappropriate manner – that does not mean the law itself was wrong.

    5. If modifying the law in such a way as to allow protest against the like of Mugabe and religious fundamentalists responsible for many worse case scenarios in this world – which is the only world we have – then I think it certainly is worth considering seriously, and not a minute too soon.

      1. @Jonpol

        Lawful peaceful protest is allowed ..

        I suspect this was over zealous police action, which changing the law does not solve

    6. Applying pressure to dangerous religious beliefs ought to be compulsory if you ask me.

      For example, think of an 8-year-old girl being held down by two or three adults while her genitalia are cut off with a razor blade.

      That is evil, and we should have every right to protest such absurd practices and to remind the faithful that there is a price to pay for such barbaric religious beliefs.

      1. @Jonpol

        I have no problem in applying pressure to dangerous practices linked to religious beliefs eg female circumcision, child sacrifice (as recently shown on BBC news in Uganda) etc etc. In fact, I would encourage robust and sustained pressure to be applied.

        That does not mean that relgiious people should be assumed to be involved in such dangerous practice or stereotyped as such.

        Deal with the barbaric and blatantly cruel. Does with immorality and ignorance. Do not allow that whether deliberately or from what is absent in comments to suggest that all religious people are that way.

        Its no different to saying that all gay men are riddled with HIV, promiscuous and should be locked up in mental health institutions … thats wrong and should be confronted … but using similar language re religious people is also wrong.

      2. It is quite challenging to come across secular or non-believing people who are reluctant to admit how much mad work is bieng done because of religion in this world.

        It’s hardly likely that Peter Tatchell was arrested for protesting the non-violent beliefs of Jain monks.

        1. I fully admit that there is some mad work done because of religion …

          I think some peoples blanket prescription of aggression and antipathy towards religious people and stereotyping them as anti gay and bigoted is wrong

          1. AnthonyFrom Ayrshire 16 Oct 2011, 2:01pm

            @Stu

            I understand what you are saying about making generalisations about religious people and stereotyping them all as evil and anti-gay, but I think the point Jonpol is trying to make is that you sometimes come across as trying to defend religion and it’s almost as if you can’t see the harm some religions and religous people are doing to gay people and the gay equality movement.

            I know you don’t think so because you say so in your comment above, but I think Jonpol is perhaps frustrated at what appears to be your appeasement of this.

          2. @AnthonyFrom Ayrshire

            Thanks for trying to pick through what I am saying

            One thing I am not is pro-religion

            I do think that homophobia is wrong – wherever it comes from

            I also think faith hatred is wrong – wherever it comes from

            I also think stereotyping is lazy and damaging whatever the basis of that stereotype

            I find that gay people who resort to lazy and damaging attacks on other minority groups undermine the cause of LGBT equality and that infuriates me … we are more sophisticated and have more decency than that – or at least some of us do …

            I think Jonpol is trying to be balanced on his approach, as are you Anthony … but rather than asking for clarity, he is presuming things … “reluctant to admit how much mad work is being done because of religion in this world” … I have never denied that nor would I, what I have said is don’t steroetype, don’t condemn those who do value and support us as LGBT people and remember LGBT religious people …

        2. It is astonishing to see how many problems in the news today are a direct result of what people believe about God.

          I suppose most people oppose violence spurred by religious fundamentalism, and it seems few agree on how to address it.

          Perhaps we should consider that religion itself – not its more extreme forms – is to blame.

          1. We could look at lots of things in a biased way … I appreciate there are lots of problems (some horrific and fundamentally immoral) with religion – but to focus on this area is to be blinkered and forms a barrier to dealing with extremism and fundamentalism. There are lots of good done by people who are religious (and whilst one could argue that so are there by non-religious – hopefully me included), some of the good done by religious people is motivated and inspired by their faith.

            I think extreme forms of faith are to blame for lots of evil in the world. I think they should be castigated and condemned. However, we should not allow our condemnation of bad and wrong approaches to issues to colour our view of those who do not hold the same views (regardless of other beliefs they may have which we may or may not agree with).

          2. Looking at religion itself as the culprit would mean considering that the doctrines of modern religions are no more tenable than those which, for lack of adherents, were tossed onto the scrap heap of mythology thousands of years ago.

            Briefly, there is no more evidence for the existence of Yahweh and Satan than there was to keep Zeus enthroned on Mount Olympus or Poseidon reigning in his watery domain.

            My intention is not to offend the faithful, which is something I have carefully avoided doing, but merely to ponder how beliefs about the world can exist entirely free of reason and evidence, especially since the two books ‘written’ by the Creator of the universe are essentially at odds with one another.

            That is not to say that the deepest concerns of the faithful are trivial or even misguided, only that spiritual aspirations can be fulfilled without faith in untestable propositions.

            Finally, I do appreciate input from an honest agnostic theist such as yourself.

          3. @Jonpol

            I dont deny that if you took some of the starting points that you make then indeed, many (if not all) religions would be perceived as redundant …

            Wouldnt call myself a theist … more agnostic/humanist ….

            I have noticed that most of the time you are very careful in your wording … and personally I appreciate that, not because I share the beliefs that could be offended by less sensitively spoken words, more I feel the issues I wish to pursue, namely equality and fairness, are damaged by careless commentary

          4. Fresh moral imperatives are typical of our technological advances, aren’t they?

            Am I exaggerating when I say that religious differences (beliefs), coupled with technical advances in the art of war, represent a threat not only to equality, fairness and human rights for all, but also to our survival?

            I am reminded that Peter Tatchell is an internationally known human rights activists, and perhaps we should listen more carefully to what he is saying on the issue of removing ‘insulting’ speech from public order laws.

            In the meantime, unless words like “God” and “Allah” go the way of words like “Apollo” and “Baal”, they will continue their destructive paths, and examples of that abound in the headlines every day.

            Thanks for your feedback.

          5. @Jonpol

            What do you imply by fresh moral imperatives, before I respond to that just wanted to make sure I was interpreting you correctly …

            I would accept that you are potentially right in terms of technical advances in warfare when couple with religious fervour can be a threat in terms of human rights etc and needs careful and wise reflection and response. Equally, the same advances linked to political ideology, greed or dictatorship can require similar wise and careful reflection in terms of response.

            I don’t disagree that we should listen to Peter Tatchell on commentary on certain issues in law, but we should balance his comments with those from others who have experience in this law – including those (like myself) who have enforced this law on many occasions.

            I doubt you will lose words like God and Allah. Even if these particular words disappear others with similar meanings will be born. As much as I dislike it, there appears to be a need (whether reasonable or not) for…

          6. … some humans to seek an external influence …

          7. There was a time when the metaphysics of martyrdom inherent in the Koran and the literal truth of the Book of Revelation were considered more or less harmless.

            Today, however, chemical, biological, sophisticated killing machines and nuclear weapons have entered the scenario of religious differences.

            Recent conflicts in Palestine, the Balkans, Northern Ireland, Kashmir, Sudan, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and the Causasus are a few examples of places where religion (divine moral imperatives) has been the explicit cause of millions of deaths in the last ten years.

            Isn’t the outcome of using the moral imperatives of ‘revealed scriptures’ obvious then?

            It seems to me the time has come to support moral values and responsibilities outside of the untestable propositions of faith; common testable moral values promoting the well-being of humanity in this world, here and now, and for all.

            Sorry for preachiness, but you did ask !!

          8. @Jonpol

            I did indeed ask … lol … and the “preachiness” is excused

            I partly agree with you. I fully accept that many of the serious conflicts of recent time have some roots in religion, although not all. I also concur that increasingly sophisticated technology whilst having positive implications for humanity eg electricity from nuclear power, does have potentially serious consequences to be used in warfare (be that of religious or other motivation).

            I think it is a little broader than the way you state it. Everything you say in the last comment is correct – although my emphasis may be slightly different. I would add that its not simply religion that has these consequences – any abuse of power could have a catastrophic impact on humanity.

            I agree morality and ethics do not need to be rooted in religion, nor does immorality and unethical practice. Abuse of power is the problem and that can be from religious leaders or not.

          9. Shall we wrap it up then by agreeing that a belief is a switch that, once pulled, activates almost everything else in a person’s life?

            Our beliefs define our vision of the world; they dictate our behavior; they determine our emotional responses to other human beings.

            By all means, please add a last word. :)

          10. @Jonpol

            I agree that beliefs can have an impact on how we perceive the world. I dont think its always as black and white as you portray it, but sometimes it can be.

            What I mean by not as black and white is that someone may have a deep seated belief system and then have that challenged. I could give two examples I have read about recently. i) a roman catholic who discovered her son was gay and met his partner and was prsuaded that them marrying (in Spain) was a good idea – arguably this would have been an anathema to her beliefs, she retained her faith but felt the teaching from her church leaders was wrong … ii) an atheist from New Zealand who had a friend who was agnostic who developed severe kidney failure and was struggling on dialysis and given 6-12 months to survive. Her friend knew a ‘faith healer’ who spent time with her to try and heal her. The friend, with no change in routine medical treatment regained an extra 50% kidney function in the space of a few days which…

          11. … was sustained afterwards. This event, unexplained, did not change the atheists belief, but made them question what had happened and if there was some link to the faith healer.

            My point from these two illustrations is that people can maintain their belief systems yet experience and accept something that doesnt fit in to it.

            Wherever there are humans, beliefs or both – rarely is anything black or white.

  13. I wholeheartedly support Stonewall’s position.

  14. I don’t think the proposed change in the law will make much of a difference. The religious will still be free to continue their ghastly bigotry but we shall be denied recourse. Let’s be honest, most anti-gay hate speech is religiously motivated -and they have privileged protection under the current pseudo-blasphemy laws. It’s OK for them to insult us, but if we criticise their stupid belief systems, we are the ones who end up in court.

    1. Absolutely right! I’ve been saying it for a long time. I’d be ok changing the law provided it gave us the right to insult religious people as much as we want and calling them names. Fair if fair, why should they get a free pass?

      1. If evidence of PN for the past few days is anything to go by, there are already plenty of insulting words and behaviour being thrown at those who are religious

        As a gay man I have suffered insults at the hands of religious and non religious – two wrongs does not make a right

    2. It seems criticizing religious beliefs (untestable propositions) is considered taboo in many of our societies.

      Isn’t that why Socrates had to take the hemlock?

  15. Causing insult based on chosen beliefs should be allowed. That means I’m allowed to tell Christians I think their beliefs are utter tripe.

    Inciting hate based on how people are is different. We should be able to get homophobic preachers under that law instead.

    1. PumpkinPie 14 Oct 2011, 7:14pm

      Absolutely 100% agree with this. There has never been such a thing as complete freedom of speech, and harassment, bullying and hate speech should never be protected.

      1. PumpkinPie 14 Oct 2011, 7:17pm

        Although, I feel I should point out that I would never promote the idea of randomly heckling and insulting the religious – that would be harassment. Still, race, sex, gender, etc. – that’s the stuff that should be protected. Beliefs are chosen, those traits are not.

        1. Whether religion is chosen or not, we all have a right to freedom to choose … those rights should be protected as much as equality is

          1. Dave North 14 Oct 2011, 9:47pm

            Drivel.

            Freedom to spew hate. You wish to retain that “right”. Typical.

          2. I definitely do not want freedom to hate

            As a gay man I despite homophobia

            I also despise hatred of faith

            I also despise racism, transphobia, etc etc

            Freedoms carry responsibilities, which should be exercised – and if they are not then action can and should be taken

          3. Chocolate Starfish 15 Oct 2011, 10:45pm

            lets not forget the right of out=r chikldren ti]o eat omne anothers faecal matter where there is consent

      2. Spanner1960 15 Oct 2011, 8:40am

        If you mean you should be entitled to stand outside a church and wave placards, then I say no. If I want to say “I don’t believe in God”, I should be entitled to, as much as if I were to say “I think homosexuality is wrong” – that is my personal belief, and I should be allowed to express my own thoughts. It is when those opinions are then forced on others that I feel there should be controls.

        The law regarding “incitement to racial hatred” springs to mind. If I say “I don’t like black people”, that is my prerogative. If I start posting leaflets through people’s doors saying “Send the lazy sods back home where they came from”, then I am not only insulting them, I am also trying to get others to think the same way, and that is wrong.

        1. I kind of agree (getting scared now)

          But, what about protests such as those by WBC?

          1. Then we would need protection in the form of Leather clad bikers…

    2. Depends how the insult is appraoched and whether there is harassment etc involved

      But I should be able to have a conversation with someone and tell them I think their religious beliefs are a load of trash …

      However, I should not be able to harass or repeatedly insult someone about their faith – nor should they be able to due to either my lack of faith or my orientation

  16. Paul Lacey Sr 14 Oct 2011, 7:28pm

    Solution is to enforce current laws to stop LGBT people being made victims.

  17. So does this mean, fundies can call us all manner of derogatory names and incite hatred and there’s nothing we can do about it?

    1. Chocolate Starfish 15 Oct 2011, 9:01pm

      Not just fundies. Anyone may call you disgusting , perverted, degraded, loathsome, abhorrent scum!

      1. “Anyone may call you disgusting , perverted, degraded, loathsome, abhorrent scum!”

        Anyone, but so few do. Only the angry, damages and ignorant. You’re poor mother knows someone like that, doesn’t she?

  18. I tried to comment earlier with the words “p*ki, n*gger, sp*z, and w*g”. Obviously it did not pass the censor. Free speech? There’s no such thing!

    Let’s face it, this proposed change in the law is down to pressure from the likes of the Christian Institute so that their doting followers can insult the gay community with complete impunity, under the guise of “religious liberty”.

    If we get rid of political correctness then let it be right across the board and let’s not be afraid to use words like “n*gger” or “p*ki” through fear of offending someone. But I doubt this will happen anytime soon as PC is now too deeply entrenched into our culture.

    I’m happy for this to happen so long as the law defines specific words and language that will no longer be deemed “offensive”. Until that happens, society will always fear upsetting groups that are seen to be off limit, but continue to ridicule those seen as an easy target. Who will determine the boundaries? Comedians?

    1. Spanner1960 15 Oct 2011, 8:54am

      That is actually very true. This site even blocks the word N*z* for some bizarre reason.
      Maybe it’s because it’s run by a J*w.

      I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, word are just words and only have power when people respond to them. If everyone just laughs it off, then it deflates the whole issue. I find it quite odd these days to see shows like “Mock the Week” throw the occasional “fark” in the middle of it, but the word has become almost acceptable. The same needs to be done with the insults. We can say qu**r, but we can’t say p**f. Who says, and why?

      (and I had hell’s own job posting this comment!)

  19. So why was the Tory MP who compared gay marrige to beastality, not prosecuted? I found those words insulting! It seems for some the law has already changed!

    1. Spanner1960 15 Oct 2011, 9:00am

      Prosecuted for what exactly? He was voicing his personal opinions.
      If you found what he said insulting, then fine, say so, but don’t stop people saying what they think just because YOU think it’s wrong. It’s the thin end of the wedge, because very soon you will end up gagging people from saying “I think the Prime Minister is an idiot” like they do in some countries. If you insult the King of Thailand, they will execute you.

      People need to be able to express their opinions, however distasteful you may find them, as long as it is not being used in a way to persuade others to follow that opinion.

      1. A politician tweeting that was obviously with a view to persuading other people.

      2. So do you disagree with the Tory party,and it’s suspension of said MP, and also with Stonewall who supported the action ? If it’s not wrong then why did the Tory’s take action? Opinion is one thing. Offence and hatred is another. It’s where the line is drawn. You don’t seem to want any line at all! Can you imagine what possible reaction there would have been had the MP made that comment about a Muslim/Sharia marriage? I also think he is/was, in exactly the sort of prominant position to ‘persuade others to follow’

        1. Spanner1960 16 Oct 2011, 6:11pm

          I didn’t say I disagreed with the Tory party.
          You stated the guy should be, quotes “prosecuted”. That means he is being taken to court for breaking the law. Whether he broke Conservative party rules is an entirely different matter, and it is down to them to decide whether he was right or not.

          “Wrong” is a very subjective term. Vegetarians consider it wrong to eat meat, yet the majority of people do. If it is not entrenched in law, then it is legal to do so, and what this man said was totally legal and above board. If others think this is not the case, then it it is down to the democratic process to change the law accordingly.

    2. Did you make a complaint to the police?

      1. If not, tthen the police will take no action unless either they receive a complaint or they witness the offence themselves at the time it is carried out

        1. Spanner1960 16 Oct 2011, 6:13pm

          Stu: What he said was entirely legal. I wish people would leave the police out of this, they have better things to do than trying to subdue tittle-tattle.

          1. @Spanner1960

            I think you are may be right that what was said was legal … although I can see that his comments were insulting and thus public order offences may come into play …

            Although, if someone else found it so offensive then I would encourage them to make a complaint to the police, so that an investigation can be carried out and (if necessary with reference to the CPS) decision made by independent outsides as to what the public interest in this matter is … An investigation may be sufficient to cause Mr Malliff to think before he tweets in future …

    3. The word is bestiality.

    4. Rather than reporting to the police, why not engage the Gaga Flashmob Response Unit. It sounds much more fun.

      1. I do agree the flashmob response unit sounds more fun …

        But if they want prosecution – then they know what to do …

  20. Supressing someones opinion does not change their mind. I say let them speak then you know where you stand.

    1. Spanner1960 15 Oct 2011, 9:05am

      To an extent, that’s true, but equally expressing one’s opinion in the right way can convince others to follow your way of thinking. That’s how Adolf Hitler rose to power; whatever is said about the man, it cannot be denied he was a phenomenal force at delivering a speech, and convinced millions.

      1. Stupid people will do stupid thing that can’t be helped. I would rather know what is in another persons heart and take than take the risk of dealing with someones repressed hatred

  21. Look the internet is full of insulting words to gay people, that ‘s not the issue , just like the Tory councillors words about comparing gay marriage to marrying your pet dog is insulting to gays. It’s to do with a public order effence, it carries a much lesser penality thant incitement to hatred. We all need protection from both and yes, one crime is worse than the other, that’s why the penalities are different…

  22. again off topic but kinnda of related to that previous comment about Charles Moore , here’s another article from a Moore (Suzanne – don’t think they’re related). I find thiis type of attitue towards gay marriage is as bad as the other Moore’s attitude towards it. How patronising for other’s to presume that they have any understanding why a particular gay couple may want gay marriage and to mock or criticise it and analyse it…We must have the same rights as straights and make our own minds up like them….

  23. I’m not bothered what people call me as my skin is thicker than that; but I am bothered about what people do.
    That to me is the point.
    Likewise I do not expect others to react if I call them. They just as myself have to take that on the chin.
    It’s called freedom of speech and if we go against that then we are as bad as the fascists.
    Education backed up by sensible legislation is the key.
    How many people think that drinking and driving is acceptable these days? Thirty years ago things were different.

  24. Is the cure for HIV possible in our lifetime?

    Please watch the following video all the way through and then pass the link on to as many of your friends, negative or positive, male and female, as you can.

    1. Chocolate Starfish 15 Oct 2011, 5:22pm

      The disease is fully deserved, especially as it is 100% avoidable by applying abstinence until mutual monogamous marriage.

      1. So rape, blood transfusion, trauma, pregnancy, …

        Yeah fully avoidable …

        Learn the facts not the rhetoric

        Your ignorant, bigoted, evil comments are indefensible

        1. Chocolate Starfish 15 Oct 2011, 11:00pm

          These are the innocents harmed ar killed by selfish immoral desires and of course they do not deserve the product of other persons innoral lusts and lapromiscuity,
          The majority however (the non innicents acting in possession of the facts (bare backers etc) fully deserve to catch HIV as do all homosexula since itis well documented that there is no 100 safe sex between homosexuals as opposed too 100% safe sex amnong mutually monogamous married couples that practiced abstinnence before marriage.

          1. 1) The majority of people with HIV/AIDS are heterosexual.

            2) Sex between two mutually monogamous people who practiced abstinence before embarking on their relationship will always be about as STD-free no matter the genders or types of intercourse involved.

            3) Lesbians have a vastly, vastly lower risk of STD contraction than both straight and gay couples. Why do people like you, who claim to only have the public’s safety in mind, never proselytise lesbian relationships? No risk of pregnancy, very little risk of STDs – by your criteria, they’re the ultimate form of sexual relationship!

          2. I’d be more concerned with your appalling grammar and embarrassing grasp on English, “chocolate” – you sound positively stupid. Besides, Pumpkin Pie has clearly demonstrated hat fact already.

  25. Chocolate Starfish 15 Oct 2011, 5:15pm

    I recently came out as as member of the scat community. I have suffered much insult and abuse. We scat lovers are the silent unprotected minority. We harm nobody yet are often subject to scatophobic comments and bigotry. Hopefully, scat will soon be recognized as an acceptable form of loving between consenting adults, starting in the schools. I know the homosexual community willl fully support the scat communties right to practice consensual loving expressions and to teach school children that all is acceptable, including scat, between consenting couples (triples or quads even!!) I thanks in advance to the gay community for your support in principle.

    1. Hilarious. A self confessed dirty gay.

      1. Chocolate Starfish 15 Oct 2011, 5:37pm

        I am not gay mate. I go for the scat of the opposite sex.

      2. Sounds like a dirty old queen to me

        1. Chocolate Starfish 15 Oct 2011, 10:14pm

          Do you have something against the scat community, a consensually loving group who harm nobody?
          True colours etc???

    2. Spanner1960 15 Oct 2011, 9:46pm

      Nice try Keith.
      The only thing is though, you’re actually much worse than that, you’re a Christian Troll.
      You don’t need to eat sh|t, you just type it.

      1. Chocolate Starfish 15 Oct 2011, 10:12pm

        This site is the last place I would have thought scatophobia is most unexpected from a gay website. I thought tolerance was your aim.
        Why the bigotry against the scat community. who are a loving group that harm nobody. I hope your children are not being taught your scatophobic values and that they are being educated in all aspects of sexual orientation and practice fromm a young age.

      2. Chocolate Starfish 15 Oct 2011, 10:43pm

        is typing with faeces wrong in you opinion, Pleaese qualify your statement

        1. It’s your keyboard Keith… you’re free to do as you please. Whatever floats your boat, knock yourself out (and I’d seriously suggest investing in some computer wipes).
          Though I’m more inclined to think you’re a concern troll as the ‘scat community’ tend not to advertise the fact.

          1. You enjoy prodding the the fecal passage with a penis.The scat community enjoy fecal taste. Your preference is similarly disgusting yet more deadly!

        2. Keith

          Jus f@ck off

          Your obsession and ignorance is clearly driven by mental health issues

          1. And drink issues?? Check out his earlier ‘starfish’ post above about children. That is seriously worrying – incoherent in the extreme (understatement!).

          2. Ironic you mention scat Keith (or whatever nonsense name you call yourself now), considering you are so full of it, I always assumed the taste of it in your mouth was something someone like you was used to, no?

          3. “You enjoy prodding the the fecal passage with a penis.The scat community enjoy fecal taste. Your preference is similarly disgusting yet more deadly!

            Keith, anal intercourse is not predominantly a gay sexual practice, and neither is it excluded from heterosexual sexual practices!!!

        3. “You enjoy prodding the the fecal passage with a penis”

          LOL! Sounds like you miss it a lot more than most!

    3. you are sick!

    4. Why are religious fundamentalists so obssessed with gay sex and extremely graphic depictions of obscure and highly disturbing fetishes? Go get laid before you start molesting animals or something. Guilt-ridden denial of one’s sexual desires is unnatural and highly unhealthy, just like bottling up one’s anger. Turns you into a depraved, sex-obssessed nutcase. Thanks for demonstrating that for us, by the way.

      1. Chocolate Starfish 16 Oct 2011, 8:11am

        Are you also scatophobic?Why would you insult the scat community who have never harmed anyone and merely share consensual loving expressions. How are our children to be educated that scat is good between consensual loving couples when the gay community display such outright hatred and abuse tooward the scat community..
        Some people love scat, get over it!
        Scat Pride etc!

      2. Surely the term highly disturbing applies to unnatural homosexual acts which cause actual death (even to innocents). bare backing is one ass to mouth (penis is covered with fecal matter) is another. Female oral sex which causes oral cancer and HPV not to mention. Bears sodomizing Twinks, a form of domination and paedophilic simulation .
        All very disgusting and condemned by decent moral folk.

        1. A patient lies on a psychiatrist’s couch.The psychiatrist shows him a series of inkblots.
          - What does this one remind you of?
          - three sluts molesting a porcupine
          - And this one?
          - Two doggers in the back of a Ford Fiesta covered in Marmite
          - and this one?
          - an S&M orgy in a nunnery
          - Mr Smith, from your responses you appear to be obsessed with sex
          - I’M OBSESSED? IIII’M OBSESSED? YOU’RE THE ONE WITH ALL THE DIRTY PICTURES!

        2. WOW. Talk about obsessed with gay sex…!!! I wonder why the ex-gay “cure” didn’t work on him? Oh, that’s right, it’s a load of crap, hence why Keith is in here obsessing about gay sex so much in the first place….

  26. I am not in favour of changing the law. Due to the fact that homophobic Muslims and Christians and others would be able to say horrible things to us, yet we wouldn’t allow to say horrible things about them because they will still be protected. We have this law to protect us against extreme hate speech.

  27. “The law has been used to arrest Christian street preachers who deliver anti-gay sermons, such as Cumbrian preacher Dale McAlpine” -

    Not correct, Dale was asked by a gay police officer what the bible said about homosexuality.Then he was arrested under section 5 of the public order act.

    Sorry,but no Stonewall award for the police officer here. The preacher was the one being presecuted.

    1. He must have been warned about his conduct for the arrest to be lawful and thus then continued …. So full marks to the cop in this instance!

      1. Yes,he was warned about his conduct, but the officer was not acting within the bounds of the law. Hence the charges being dropped. The arrest was secretly filmed and you can find it on Youtube.

        1. Section 5 public order act states that a person may be arrested if they caused harassment, alarm or distress to any person by using abusive or insulting words or behaviour towards another person in a public place and continue such conduct after being warned by a police officer.
          For a prosecution to succeed not only must the offence be complete but there must also be a public interest. I suspect it is more likely in this case the CPS judged prosecution not to be in the public interest as if it was an unlawful arrest or if the case were unproven then litigation against the police service would have commenced.

  28. Well iain,
    do you suppose Dale McApine answered honestly and said ” there are no descriptions of homosexuals nor homosexuality per se in scripture”?

    1. No, he did not indulge the police with exegetical gymnastics.He did answer honestly and was arrested on a trumped up charge. Thats why it was thrown out of court.

      1. Well iain, although I don’t know what it entails exactly, I don’t care because I know I just hate it when a male with another male lays lyings of a woman.
        I also hate it when the entire male populations of towns about to be destroyed attempt to violently rape angels, it must be stopped, it’s almost as bad as when straight people engage in ritual sex including same-sex acts with priests whilst worshipping Moloch in Pagan temples, why doesn’t David Cameron do something about it?

        1. Dr Robin Guthrie 17 Oct 2011, 12:16pm

          What are you on…

      2. Did he pursue a case for unlawful arrest?

        If not, I suggest that he was given an appropriate warning about his conduct and asked to stop and then continued using insulting words and thus reasonably was arrested …

        As some on here have said regarding other cases before … he may be innocent (as he has not been found guilty) and reasonably must be seen as such … but that does not mean the offence was not caused and did not happen …

  29. Another Hannah 16 Oct 2011, 8:54pm

    This should not be removed. A blanket ban which gives clear rules is simpler and better. removing this is going to result in vexation, cost and waste. If you want to say something in the street it is quite possible to say it sensitively so that you are not insulting. if you can’t manage to do this then you shouldn’t be shouting in the street. simple.

  30. Paul Lacey Sr 27 Oct 2011, 4:38pm

    More focus needed on the interpretation of the law, it is best kept.

  31. …Says the guy who claims he enjoys using his PC with crap all over his keyboard. Who’s condemned by their own words now?

  32. No matter the name you pick, you can’t disguise your sick and pathological obsession with faecal (I spelt it right for you) matter and anal sex, can you Keith? Bit of a give away…. and quite pathetic of you. More then normal, I mean.

    Then again, the lack of any real “studies”, or any intelligent comment at all, is the only give away I need….

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