British Christians losing both freedom of speech and religion

Within the past five days, the laws of England have proven to be no friend to Christians in the island empire. On May 2, 2010, The Telegraph reported that a street preacher, 42-year old Dale McAlpine, was arrested and charged for saying homosexuality is a sin. Says the report:

Mr McAlpine was handing out leaflets explaining the Ten Commandments or offering a “ticket to heaven” with a church colleague on April 20, when a woman came up and engaged him in a debate about his faith.

During the exchange, he says he quietly listed homosexuality among a number of sins referred to in 1 Corinthians, including blasphemy, fornication, adultery and drunkenness.

Sam Webster, a solicitor [attorney] for the Christian Institute, believes the police had no grounds for the arrest.

The police have a duty to maintain public order but they also have a duty to defend the lawful free speech of citizens.

Case law has ruled that the orthodox Christian belief that homosexual conduct is sinful is a belief worthy of respect in a democratic society.

McAlpine was arrested and charge with violating the Public Order Act which outlaws the unreasonable use of abusive language likely to cause distress and has been used to arrest religious people in a number of similar cases.

Unfortunately, Mr. Webster, the attorney defending the preacher, will find no friend in the courts of England. On April 30, 2010 the Religious News Service reported, via The Huffington Post:

A top British judge has ruled that Christian beliefs have no standing under secular law because they lack evidence and cannot be proven.

Lord Justice John Grant McKenzie Laws made the declaration on Thursday (April 29) in throwing out a defamation suit by Christian relationship counselor who refused to offer sex therapy to gay couples.

The counselor, Gary McFarlane, objected to the fact that he was fired because offering sex therapy to same-gender couples violates his Christian principles. Leaving aside the question why a gay couple would seek counseling from a person who does not support their practice in the first place, this judge’s finding should be found disturbing to people of any faith, not merely Christians. The article goes on to quote Laws:

Religious faith is necessarily subjective, being incommunicable by any kind of proof or evidence. He added that to use the law to protect ‘a position held purely on religious grounds cannot therefore be justified.’

No religious belief can be protected under the law, said the judge, ‘however long its tradition, however rich its culture.’

As might be expected, religious people and secularists are at odds about the ruling. Former Anglican bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali wrote in The Daily Telegraph newspaper in London that Laws’ ruling had “driven a coach and horses” through the ages-old ties between Christianity and British law.

Conversely Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society in Britain, applauded the ruling as a defeat for “fundamentalism,” adding that “the law must be clear, that anti-discrimination laws exist to protect people, not beliefs.”

I wonder what happens when you cannot separate people from their beliefs, just as it is often stated that you cannot separate people from their sexuality. If the law exists to protect people, what happens when people with opposing inseparable issues of being (whether beliefs or sexual orientation) come against one another? What happens when the government or the population becomes so exceedingly thin skinned that merely saying, “The way you live is sinful” becomes hate speech or causes “distress”? Heck, my parents caused me a lot of distress growing up and I’ve caused no small amount on my children. It’s called discipline. Does England next plan to ban any type of public correction for children or merely imprison offending parents for causing distress?

One thing is for sure, our friends across the pond do not seem quite so fond of freedom of speech as we Yanks.

Any thoughts?

Marty Duren

Just a guy writing some things.

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  • Ah, if there was only a way we could deport all of Westboro Baptist to the mother country…..

  • I’m speechless. Well, I would be if I lived in Britain. The ruling by the court,in a nation that bends over backwards to every whim of those who do not share the ideals, heritage, or cultural norms of the British – is just another nail in the coffin of what once was a great nation. What is Britain now? Amazing. Just amazing.

  • So many thoughts come to mind all at once that it is very difficult to articulate them in any cohesive manner. I really cannot believe this is happening in England!!!! It’s not too much of a leap to consider this will be the case in the United States in the not too distant future. This is not to say that it doesn’t bother me tremendously that this is happening in England but, rather, to say that, while we still have freedom to speak TRUTH…let’s be about it.

    Is it possible to be a follower of Christ and not be offensive? Have we reached a place in history where many really don’t want there to be a God; a time where many do not want to be “saved”? If that which is designated as sin by a Holy God is not considered to be such by society – how much more difficult is it to help someone recognize their need for Christ? Ah, but God said that the ability to recognize the truth is built in!

    Religious faith is necessarily subjective, being incommunicable by any kind of proof or evidence. He added that to use the law to protect ‘a position held purely on religious grounds cannot therefore be justified.’

  • It actually is a rather big leap to assert that what is happening in England could happen in the United States. First, we have a constitutional system. England has a statutory system. England has nothing equivalent to the Bill of Rights, no First Amendment. A serious difference, I think.

    Also note the differences in the relationship between the the institutions of Church and State in the two respective nations. U.S. courts have endorsed the principle of neutrality (whether substantive or strict). Meanwhile, the Church of England enjoys a privileged position in England and religious schools and religious social service providers are heavily subsidized, directly, by the English government. And, as this post demonstrates, folks in England are burdened with restrictions on their religious liberty and freedom of speech.

    • Marty Duren

      Nice. You taught me two things and reminded me of another.

      Are you presently in Ph.d work?

      • Yep, finished my coursework, preparing for prelim exams and beginning dissertation research on Southern Baptists (and their relationship with culture) and environmentalism.

        • Marty Duren

          Awesome. Just spell my name right in the bibliography…

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