The gravest threat to free speech is contained in the republished Racial and Religious Hatred Bill. The Blair government is ignoring the wisdom of the House of Lords, who insisted that only speech containing threats of violence ( in effect, verbal assault) should be so covered. The British government have re-introduced the previous broad clauses with different language.
If Parliament passes this bill in the forthcoming vote, one hopes British people will engage in massive civil disobedience and that the Lords will once again rescue the populace from this corrupt legislation. Excellent rebuttals of this legislation are all over the Internet, for example Ecclesia’s site here. As usual, Blair won’t listen.
Indeed the only group openly campaigning for this bill are some fundamentalist Muslims, especially ones who wish to use future litigation against other communities to silence the ancient British rights to praise, ridicule, attack, support or take the absolute micky out of anyone, as they see fit. Indeed cynics are right that it is simply pandering to extreme Muslims to offset Labour’s woes over Iraq involvement.
The right to offend by free speech is also the right to confront power, to ridicule it and mock it. Why should religious power be exempted from this?
In seeking to sanitize all possibility of offense from religious commentary, the Government is abusing human rights in Britain, and will cause enmity between communities, rather than foster tolerance. British Christians, the secular and particularly writers and artists in Britain are against this bill.
Why indeed should we stop with religious or racial hatred acts? Why not make all forms of offense "hate crimes", including against the obese, the thin, people from Essex, French farmers, the rural or for that matter, politicians, who seem intent to undo the fundamental right of everyone in Britain to take the piss out of anyone they choose?
The spectre of British police being used a ideological or theological thought-crime investigators is so repellant and orwellian what we must seriously wonder if a free society is possible when the right to offend
the powerful or the established is taken away from the people. And this by those elected to guard our very freedoms.
UPDATE: Due to intense pressure, the worst parts of this bill were happily defeated on 1st February, only the second defeat in the House of Commons in the Blair government reign. Regrettably the ‘thoughtcrime’ of ‘hatred’ in various other forms was still included.