Naming the sin

Celebrities and public figures who fall foul of the law are discovering at great personal cost the effects of broad-brush accusations and the folly of criminalising sin.

Cliff Richard, many before him, and now Alex Salmond are discovering the cost of a dumbed-down secular society.  The public is told that Salmond faces allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace, a term which covers a multitude of sins and leaves the public’s imagination to run wild.  The allegations relate to 2013 when he was the First Minister of Scotland.  A leading Scottish lawyer has spoken of the wide range of sexual harassment in Holyrood generally.  Commentators have spoken in terms suggestive of the more serious end of the spectrum, but this illustrates the point.  Why not name the sin?  The effect of broad-spectrum accusations and allegations is itself defamatory.

Salmond is taking the Scottish Government to a Judicial Review for being forbidden access to the witness statements and that he cannot speak to any current civil servants who may be valuable witnesses to him. He told the BBC: “I have not sexually harassed anyone and I have certainly not been engaged in criminality.” The problem for Salmond is that criminality is creeping into UK legislation retrospectively, following EU methodology.  This Judicial Review is interesting for highlighting the law against natural justice.

Legal definitions are usually very exact, but some categories of criminal behaviour are deliberately broad in order to be a catch-all for sinful human behaviour.  Christianity does not criminalise sin, but a secular society which does not believe in sin is trying to do so.  The broad spectrum of sinful human behaviour is difficult to replicate in criminal law, particularly when the secular thought police are legislating for thought crime, which Christianity handles by preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ – not by prosecuting sinners, fining them and locking them up.  Secular criminal law is categorising sinful human behaviour and inevitability these categories are too broad and inexact and are, in effect, defamatory.

This is one of the consequences of secularism substituting its false doctrines for Christian doctrine.

The media emotionalise and blur details by using broad spectrum terms, which helps them to sensationalise their stories to catch the attention of the prurient public.  A spit is reported as an attack, leaving the public to imagine what the attack might be; sexual harrassment covers a wide spectrum of behaviour and leaves the public to imagine the worst, which is unchristian, defamatory and does not serve the truth.

It will take our secular society some time to realise this, and many people will suffer in the process.  As the average person cannot afford a successful challenge against such injustice, it is only those who have the capacity to fight and expose injustice, such as celebrity and public figures, and who have the will to do so, motivated by when it comes ‘to their back yard‘, that corrections will be brought to bear upon injustice.  This will be a slow process because it is a costly business to take on the rich and powerful, as the BBC discovered to their cost with Cliff Richard.  Rather than use the costly Appeal process at the tax-payers’ expense the BBC has opted for the cheaper course of parliamentary review of legislation and bending the ear of MPs. This recourse is not available to the average person.

We cannot rely upon politicians to frame the law accurately because too many laws are made too quickly for good law to be framed.  Compounding this problem is the redefining of our very language, with words such as marriage being retrospectively adjusted through centuries of legislation with unintended consequences, unintended by the original framers and unnoticed by current revisers with their wrecking ball.  It makes a mockery of the parliamentary process that produced former legislation based upon a particular definition of a word, and it is unsafe to assume that applying a different definition will not have serious unintended and unforeseen consequences.  It also throws supporting and derived legislation into disarray.  Thus we find apologies being made to those formerly convicted of homosexual offences, but the public is no wiser if this includes apologizing to those convicted, for example, of loitering in and around toilets to the alarm of the public.   If it does include such convictions, why?

This illustrates how the deficiencies of hasty, ill-considered legislation is exposed at great cost to those whom they disadvantage.

The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon encouraged and then the SNP Government introduced a new policy of ‘zero tolerance’ of sexual harassment in December 2017.

Zero tolerance sounds good but it can be unchristian.  Christian toleration is not the same as secular toleration.  So zero tolerance is not likely to be the same either.

In an era when words like marriage, race and sexual harassment are being redefined, the public has no certainty what some critical words mean.  So what does ‘zero’ mean in this context, and ‘tolerance’?  What does racism mean?  There is no such thing.  There is only one human race.

The nightmare that today’s behaviour will be punished by tomorrow’s legislation only illustrates the shifting goalposts of secular morality.  It is time to recover Christian common sense.

‘But if you bite and devour one another, take heed that you are not consumed one of another’ Gal 5:15.


29 Aug 2018: Alex Salmond joins the campaign for natural justice.

8 Jan 2019: Alex Salmond admits that without crowdfunding he would have been unable to defend himself before the Court of Session.

13 Aug 2019: Alex Salmond wins £512,250 in damages for the Scottish Government’s incompetence in investigating the legal case against him. He still faces charges which he denies.

22 Jan 2020: the defence lawyer in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in the US Senate has emphasized the importance of naming the sin. An American constitutional-law expert Professor Alan Dershowitz , former professor of law at Harvard Law School for 50 years, discussed the definition of impeachment in an interview with Afshin Rattansi on the RT network. He explained that the definition had been clarified over the past 22 years and went on to commend Rattansi’s question whether “war crimes against another county” were impeachable. He admitted: “I had never thought about that before” and commended Afshin Rattansi for raising it. “You deserve kudos for raising that issue”.

This shows that a top legal expert needed to clarify definitions over years and that even now he had not thought about an application to international affairs. This shows the need for imagination in exegesis, and as far as I am concerned basic exegesis would have asked long ago why “against the United States” was in the original definition, leading to other considerations.

Instead of the blunderbuss approach of the media and Trump’s detractors, in the hope that one piece of ‘shot’ will stick, commonly employed by those with a poor argument, we need to ‘name the sin’.

23 Mar 2020: Former First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond has been cleared of 13 charges of sexual assault against nine women. He demonstrated why he was a leader by paying more attention to the coronavirus pandemic crisis than his own evident relief. It has made me investigate the definition of attempted rape, on the Christian principle of ‘naming the sin’. The definition seems to depend upon ‘motive’, but how does one prove the motive in doubtful cases? Does it depend simply upon the victim’s beliefs? If so, it is another example of subjective definitions.

1 Apr 2020: a court attendee summarized “the core of the defence case: that Salmond was a flawed, demanding, irascible leader, whose behaviour could be inappropriate, though never quite so inappropriate as to be criminal. Never that.” This also goes to the core of public debate as well – the inability to name the sin but to use blunderbuss terms to smear a person’s reputation by leaving it to the hearer’s imagination. This is contrary to natural justice.

26 Feb 2021: it is a fundamental part of Alex Salmond’s testimony before the Scottish parliamentary inquiry that the new sexual harassment code was formulated too quickly, in secret, without consultation of trade unions and other failings.

3 thoughts on “Naming the sin

    1. Donald

      David, the point of this blogpost is not to list sins but to highlight that generalising misbehaviour without being specific allows observers’ imagination to run wild what the misbehaviour might be. Thus ‘an attack’ could be anything but was, in fact, a spit; ‘inappropriate behaviour’ can be a whole range of things, and so on.


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