Whose rights are they anyway?

Chris Stalford picks up on a theme that has so far not raised its head in the E-debate on a Charter of Rights e-debate: the issue of overly prescriptive legislation. He’s fearful that under a full and rigourous rights culture some political attitudes are likely to be considered more right than others.By Christopher Stalford

Question: when is a prisoner of conscience not a prisoner of conscience? Answer: when he or she makes a statement that offends the cosy liberal consensus. That is the conclusion I reached on hearing of the case of Swedish Pentecostal minister, Ake Green who was recently convicted and sentenced to four weeks in jail. His crime? Daring to preach a sermon against a homosexual lifestyle.

He was denounced to the public prosecutors by gay rights activists who had smuggled dictaphones into his church and taped his sermon and charged under a 2002 law that makes it a criminal offence to make comments against any of the usual groups. This apparently constitutes “hate crime”, the definition of which is based upon the Charter of Fundamental Rights contained in the European Constitution – a document we will be expected to endorse in a referendum.

Nevertheless, whatever ones opinion is of homosexuality or any other issue for that matter, that someone should be imprisoned on the basis of his or her religious and/or political views is a very vexing turn of events. If this were the Stockholm News Letter, I could be arrested, tried and imprisoned for airing my views because someone takes offence at them. Whatever happened to “I disagree with what you say, but will die to defend your right to say it”? Behind the talk of so-called European values of freedom, democracy and multi-cultural diversity, lurks the dark reality of what amounts to thought control at the behest of the European super-state.

Who really has the right to proscribe non-violent religious or political opinion? Do we really want to live in a country where the state has the right to tell us what we can and cannot think? The only other countries in the world where religious and political opinion is monitored and state-control is attempted are the communist dictatorships of China and North Korea. Yet a post-industrial, socially liberal EU member-state has just convicted a man of a crime because they didn’t like his opinions. Where is the outcry in the media? Where are the Amnesty International denunciations?

The hypocrisy of the liberal-left “enlightened” classes personified by people such as Polly Toynbee and Tony Blair never ceases to amaze me. They preach to us the virtues of moderation and diversity, but show a complete refusal to allow anyone to hold a divergent opinion to their own. This intolerance is especially strong if the contrary opinion is a conservative or a Christian one. Could it be that the only sin left in the world today is to offend the sensibilities of liberal opinion formers and legislators? It would certainly appear that way.

The most important point to be made in relation to the Swedish case is that while it may indeed be the first of its type; it most certainly will not be the last. If this country endorses the European Constitution, in the promised referendum, insane cases like this will become commonplace in the United Kingdom, until our fundamental freedom of speech is removed entirely. You have been warned.

First published in the Newsletter on Saturday 2nd October 2004