The government has given an initial response to a petition calling for the government to equalise the rights of citizens when it comes to freedom of speech by abandoning and repealing Britain’s ‘hate speech’ laws. For many of us, especially those of us who believe that the scales of justice should not be weighted one way or the other, these laws go against the idea of impartial justice by giving some groups more rights than others and indeed give them rights over others. ‘Hate speech’ laws are grossly unequal because they create different classes of people who by dint of birth or lifestyle, have more rights. Those in the ‘protected categories’ of citizens covered by ‘hate speech’ laws have greater rights than others to both speak words that would get others arrested under ‘hate speech’ laws. Those in these categories, under ‘hate speech’ laws, have considerable and superior rights when compared to the bulk of the population, to claim that they have been criminally harassed when they hear words that they disagree with.
The response that HM Government gave to the petition is to be quite frank, Orwellian and arrogant. The government state that they are quite within their rights to restrict free speech and quoted Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The government is correct, this right to amend free speech rights does exist, but it is to the extent that free speech has been restricted, often under pressure from minority groups with less than wholesome political agendas, that is giving more and more people greater concern.
Here’s the text of the response which can be found online here:
The Government is committed to upholding free speech, and legislation is already in place to protect these fundamental rights. However, this freedom cannot be an excuse to cause harm or spread hatred.
Current UK legislation values free speech and enables people who wish to engage in debate to do so – regardless of whether others agree with the views which are being expressed. Everyone has a right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). This is a qualified right however, which means that it can be restricted for certain purposes to the extent necessary in a democratic society. This means that free speech is not absolute.
Importantly, the law ensures that people are protected against criminal activity including threatening, menacing or obscene behaviour both on and offline. The Government is clear that hate crime and hate speech are not acceptable in our society, and anyone seeking to use freedom of speech as an excuse to break the law should still face the full force of the law.
A hate crime is any criminal offence, for example assault or malicious communications, which is perceived to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s actual or perceived race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity. The Government takes hate crime very seriously, which is why we published the hate crime action plan (Action Against Hate: The UK Government’s plan for tackling hate crime) in July 2016.
It is also worth noting that section 29J of the Public Order Act 1986, for example, states that the offence of inciting religious hatred, does not restrict or prohibit discussions, criticism or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse of particular religions.
In this way, the Government believes the law strikes the right balance between protecting citizens and protecting their right to free expression.
The Home Office is being disingenuous if they believe that free speech rights are protected in the UK, they are not. In addition what free speech rights there are are not being equally respected. For example, up and down the land we have Islamic clerics who are preaching hostile separatism, hatred for Britain as a nation and its people, along with hatred for Gays, Jews and Christians. They do this with impunity. Rarely do we see Muslim clerics brought before the courts for speaking words that would get non Muslims arrested.
Even when they are arrested all too often the cases end up being quietly dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service. We also have in Britain the proxies of the Iranian government marching around in London calling for among other things the destruction of the State of Israel and groups associated with the far left who call for violent revolution, who are allowed to march on the grounds of freedom of speech. But, when groups point out that not everything in the Islamic garden is particularly rosy or that the history of Islam’s encounter with other cultures has not worked out well for the other cultures, then the government’s response to such groups is very different. These groups face obstruction or worse from the authorities for having the temerity to speak out about the ideology of Islam and non Muslims have been arrested and occasionally imprisoned or uttering words that are a fraction as troubling as what vomits from the mouths of all too many Islamic clerics. There is very little free speech in Britain, which is why Britain needs to dump these all too easily corruptible ‘hate speech’ laws and put every citizen on an equal footing.
The Home Office also in their reply to the petition exposes the major fault with ‘hate speech’ laws and why they are so dangerous and that it is that they are based on ‘perception’. Because each and every individual person’s ‘perception’ of words may well be markedly different, there is no easily examinable solid evidence on which to base a prosecution on. In this elevation of perception, ‘hate speech’ laws have a great similarity to the old witchcraft laws. Under these laws someone could suffer a misfortune such as a sheep dying mysteriously or having milk go sour and blame this misfortune on some random neighbour who they could claim had ‘bewitched’ their sheep or their milk. There was of course no real evidence to show that occult means had curdled the milk or killed the sheep, it was all down to the complainants ‘perception’ that they had been ‘bewitched’. These old witchcraft laws sent hundreds of innocent people to the gallows because of complaints based around nothing more than superstition and false perception. These grossly unjust laws were used by unscrupulous people to remove local critics or people that they had fallen out with or as a means to acquire the property of the person whom they had accused of witchcraft.
Just like the old witchcraft laws, ‘hate speech’ laws require no real evidence, just the perception of the complainant and in a further similarity ‘hate speech’ laws are also extremely corruptible and can be quite easily misused. These laws can be used by members of certain groups both individually and collectively to silence critics of their religion or their ideology or their lifestyle. There is a lot in common between those who shouted ‘witch’ at those they disliked and those who shout out ‘Islamophobe’ or ‘transphobe’ or whatever is the politically correct newspeak word of the day.
The response from the Home Office then makes reference to the government’s ‘hate crime’ plan, a reference that other citizens have been palmed off with by other government departments when they’ve raised queries about the taxpayer funding of certain Islamic groups. This plan appears to be a product of those in the left/Islamic activist field and will cause further imbalance in the matter of rights.
It was interesting to see the Home Office bring up Section 29J of the 1986 Public Order Act which doesn’t prohibit discussion about religious matters, but as regards protecting freedom of speech, Section 29J really doesn’t go far enough. It is all too easy for someone taking part in a discussion or even hearing a discussion or receiving a communication that contains views that they don’t agree with to falsely claim that they felt ‘threatened’ or ‘menaced’. These sort of false claims negate the free speech provisions of 29J and show that freedom of speech can only be properly preserved by abandoning Britain’s modern equivalent of the witchcraft acts, the ‘hate speech’ laws.
Despite the government’s truly appalling response to the petition so far it’s still important to keep signing the petition. It’s also vitally important to keep pressing the government on the issue of freedom of speech and the unequal way that this freedom is being policed. It would be a great step forward to have this matter debated in Parliament because the right to equitable free speech is vital in a democracy. If Parliament can come together to mass virtue signal over a couple of Tweets by President Donald Trump, as they did last year, then surely they can shift their arses into the Commons chamber to debate the removal of Britain’s increasingly oppressive and unjust ‘hate speech’ laws. If those who represent us do not do that, then we need new politicians because the current lot, on both sides of the House, seem to be hell bent on throwing rights dearly bought by our ancestors into the bin.