Current UK law forces Christians to promote unchristian material contrary to their beliefs, but Virgin Trains has decided to stop selling the Daily Mail newspaper because it is not compatible with the Virgin Trains brand and its beliefs. However, BBC Newsnight described it as ‘a culture war’.
What about Christian beliefs, the Christian brand and Christian culture? Peter Tatchell, the homosexual activist, disagreed with the legal decision that forced Christian bakers to make and sell a cake promoting homosexual beliefs and practices. He said that “the law should not compel businesses to aid political messages” adding that “in a free society, people should be able to discriminate against ideas they disagree with”.
When is a belief a brand or a political message? When is an ideological position a brand, a belief or a culture? The current law is sowing confusion into public life.
The inconsistency in the current law arises from a failure to understand that Christian toleration is very different from secular toleration. Christians tolerate what they do not accept, but secularism wants to force acceptance of its views upon others, using the sanctions of the criminal law to do so.
Ever since the Macpherson Report into institutional racism in the Metropolitan Police re-defined racism in subjective terms – “A racist incident is any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person” Recommendation 12 – subjective ‘taking offence’ has become the stick with which to beat and harass other people, and Christians in particular. It undergirds political correctness. Diversity training is used to enforce this subjective definition in the employment environment.
A private individual’s complaint can instigate a police investigation simply because a person has taken offence, when possibly no offence was intended. Meanwhile Christians are offended every day with the use of Christian terms in swearing.
Subjective offence has worked its way through Equalities legislation and it will continue to stoke up charges and countercharges of being offended by each other’s speech and way of life. This will prove to be unworkable, and will itself contribute to louder and louder protests by disparate groups who are offended. Those who can shout loudest and make most use of the judicial system will prevail.
Rather we need to introduce legislation to restore an objective definition of offence in order to restore free speech.
12 Sep 2012: the Jewish chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks interprets antisemitism as offending Jews, while Richard Dawkins distinguished offence from antisemitism; watch here at 23’00-24’40. The law based on the Macpherson Report supports Sacks but Dawkins’ defence is correct. If one offends Christians, Jews and muslims, this cannot be classified as antisemitic. It is time to correct this legislative mistake.
7 Aug 2018: Freedom of speech in Britain.
22 Aug 2018: jailed for complaining.
10 Oct 2018: common sense from the Supreme Court has struck down the Northern Ireland court decision.
9 Nov 2018: I am told by a professor of European law that the Macpherson Report drew upon the European doctrine of harassment. More’s the pity. Christians are being harassed by the unequal Equality Act 2010. The sooner we exit European thinking the better. Shirley Williams said decades ago that the social policy of Europe was based upon Roman Catholic doctrine. Since then, Europe has encouraged redefining of marriage. Too little thought is given in this secular age to the doctrines that are driving public agendas. Occasionally a Reith Lecturer might touch on them, but there is no serious public debate and it is time for Christian preachers to come out of their ivory towers and to take to the field.