Lords back free speech
The Government has been defeated in the House of Lords over its attempt to repeal a free speech protection from a sexual orientation ‘hatred’ law.
Peers voted on 9 July, by 186 to 133, to keep the protection in place. The matter will be passed back to the House of Commons where MPs voted for repeal. The protection makes clear that criticising homosexual conduct or encouraging people to refrain from homosexual conduct are not, in themselves, crimes.
The Government says the protection is unnecessary, insisting that the ‘homophobic hatred’ offence would not affect the expression of such beliefs. But several members of the House of Lords were concerned about incidents of Christians being challenged by the police because of their beliefs on sexual ethics.
Blackadder star Rowan Atkinson is in favour of keeping the free speech protection, as are several prominent homosexuals including journalist Matthew Parris, comedian Christopher Biggins and ‘gay rights’ activist Peter Tatchell.
During the debate, Lord Waddington, the architect of the free speech protection, said: ‘What is needed is what we have now got, a statutory provision that says that one mustn’t assume from mere discussion or criticism of a sexual practice that there is an attempt to stir up hatred. One must look at the circumstances and the manner in which the words are spoken to see whether they were in fact threatening and driven by hate’.
Mike Judge of the Christian Institute, said: ‘Genuine supporters of free speech will be pleased with this result. Democracy depends on the freedom of people to challenge ideas, to dispute with each other, to contend for what they believe. Surely the world is big enough to allow all sides to express their beliefs about sexual behaviour without fearing a knock on the door from the police’.