You have the right to be offended.

That would appear to be the upshot of the Belfast High Court ruling which overturned an Advertising Standards Authority ban on a controversial advert by Sandown Free Presbyterian Church.  From the BBC report

In his ruling on Tuesday, Mr Justice Treacy stressed the context of the advertisement was important.

The judge noted that the advertisement contained no exhortation to violence and that it also made clear how violent antagonism towards homosexuals was unacceptable and unjustifiable.

He said: “The applicant’s religious views and the biblical scripture which underpins those views no doubt cause offence, even serious offence, to those of a certain sexual orientation.

“Likewise, the practice of homosexuality may have a similar effect on those of a particular religious faith.

But Article 10 (of the European Convention on Human Rights) protects expressive rights which offend, shock or disturb. [added emphasis]”

“Moreover, Article 10 protects not only the content and substance of information but also the means of dissemination since any restriction on the means necessarily interferes with the right to receive and impart information.

Mr Justice Treacy emphasised that his assessment took into account the very particular context in which the advertisement was placed.

He noted: “The fact that the advertisement did not condone and was not likely to provoke violence, (it) contained no exhortation to other improper or illegal activity, (and) constituted a genuine attempt to stand up for their religious beliefs and to encourage others to similarly bear witness.”

He said this had been done by citing well-known portions of scripture which underpinned the church’s religious faith and its call to bear witness.

“Whilst such views and scriptural references may be strongly disdained and considered seriously offensive by some, this does not justify the full scope of the restrictions contained in the impugned determination,” the judge added.

And, on balance, I’d tend to agree.

Now, about that blasphemy law…

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  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    This will presumably be appealed.

    The bible should not be used as a either a defence or a shield to allow the propagation of intolerance – as the West Wing clip below nicely illustrates.

  • But which version of the bible is to be used?

  • joeCanuck

    Interesting snippet of info this morning on BBC World News.. Researchers have used census information over a past number of years and applied it to a mathematical model which they claim show that religion is fast heading to extinction in 9 secular countries. Unfortunately that’s all that the headine said so need more info to properly discuss.
    If only it is true; there would be some hope for all the other countries.

  • Pete Baker

    Guys

    Try to keep to the actual topic…

    For the short on comprehension, that would be free speech and the limits thereof.

  • Big Maggie

    I’m right behind Rev David on this. We simply can’t be too careful about what’s lurking out there.

    The Bible, the infallible word of God, tells us that sodomites are an abomination, as are cockatrices.

    What, you’ve never heard of a cockatrice? Shame on you! It’s mentioned no fewer than four times in the Bible: Jeremiah 8:17, Isaiah 11:8, Isaiah 59:5, Isaiah 14: 29.

    You’ll probably know it as the wyvern, a reptile hatched from a hen’s egg. And it’s even more dangerous than a gay sauna.

    God has warned you. And She should know about these things, being omniscient.

  • JAH

    OK it’s offensive to many. But so are a lot of stand-ups. So can we start shutting up everyone who doesn’t adhere to our beliefs? I’ll start with Jim Davidson…then Jimmy Carr…

    In reality other people’s views make someone else offended but we can’t run around on eggshells offending nobody. This will not be overturned as it would result in a deluge of cases by everyone who was offended.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    It is difficult to see how the bible which encourages violence against those who break the rules of the Christain god can be used a defence for intolerant views in an environment where intolerance often leads to violence against homosexuals and there are therefore surely grounds for appeal against the judges conclusion that “the advertisement did not condone and was not likely to provoke violence”.

  • otto

    It’s worth listening to this little lecture on “four ways to fix a broken legal system”.

    @ 13:30 Isaiah Berlin

    “law sets frontiers not artificially drawn within which men shall be inviolable”

    Not another loony libertarian but a humane argument for the restoration of the authority of judges (and by extension doctors and teachers) to act on our behalf in applying common sense to dismiss the vexatious cases of professional litigators – including hyperactive public agencies working for our betterment.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/philip_howard.html

    If we want to ban fundamentalist religion we have an obligation to do expressly in statute rather hiding behind the skirts of the ad police.

  • nferguso1

    It seems that the judgement expresses the view that a value system based on religious belief is comparable to an individual’s intrinsic sense of self. Religious belief and value ideology seem more closely related to a decision-making process that is based on value-base that stems from the person, the culture or whatever. Those with alternative sexual orientations would argue that such an orientation is not a decision or lifestyle choice, but rather an element of their personality and so nature.

    The judge’s remark regarding the ‘serious offence’ that those with similar religious beliefs as the defendant may experience as a result of an others sexual orientation is irrelevant in my option. The advert in question was placed squarely in the public domain, were the acts of individuals in private life is not. The impact of the advert is more than an expression of option; it appears to be a targeted criticism of individuals and their private life as distinct from a critic of the gay pride parade as a public expression. The use of biblical scripture in the headline raises the question as to what extent should we include scripture in the public domain, however in this context to lead with ‘the word of God against sodomy’ ahead of the gay pride march is in my option is incendiary negative exclusion and so the ASA acted in the best interests of the public.

    This challenges the argument for the use of article 10, as it conflicts with article 8 – the right to a private/family life. All rights are equal but some are more equal than others, for me such an ideology is fundamental in a fair, inclusive and democratic society.

    The judgement appears to demonstrate the distance we are still to travel before Northern Ireland can shake off the significant level of discrimination across the board, which appears so prevalent in our culture and society. Article 10 cannot be used as justification for victimisation and segregation. The argument here is not about the right/wrongs of individual’s sexual orientation or the right/wrongness of religious doctrine; rather it is to campaign for a more inclusive society that does not continued to systematically target alternatives to the status quo, particularly at the organisational level.

    Perhaps this ruling opens up the debate as to what responsibilities and opportunities church elders and organisations have in promoting an inclusive ideology and culture if the use of scripture is a justifiable medium in the media.

  • chinadog

    An answer to the prayers of God’s people everywhere. Unfortunately the rights of the Bible believing Christians today seems worthless and of no relevance in the eyes of many in what used to be a Christian country perhaps this landmark decision will be a forerunner for the rights of the Church and it people and in particular for Gods’ Word to be respected.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    otto,

    “If we want to ban fundamentalist religion we have an obligation to do expressly in statute rather hiding behind the skirts of the ad police.”

    Bit of a strawman arguement there – fundamentlists should not be outlawed just curtailed in what they publically say/display if it feeds into intolerance – just as a sect claiming that gingers or those without 4 limbs are agents behalf of beelzebub should not be be permitted to advertise thier elightened views.

    What they believe or say amongst themselves should of course be a matter for themselves.

  • Dec

    When the British Humanist Association (BHA) unveiled a billboard with the slogan “Please Don’t Label Me. Let Me Grow Up And Choose For Myself” on one Belfast’s busiest routes, Reverend David McIlveen was quoted as saying: “It is none of their business how people bring up their children. It is the height of arrogance that the BHA would even assume to tell people not to instruct their children in the religion.
    I would totally reject the advertisement. It is reprehensible and so typical of the hypocrisy of the British Humanist Association today.”

    Pot, kettle, black, Rev McIlveen.

  • `The bible should not be used as a either a defence or a shield to allow the propagation of intolerance` … `grounds for appeal against the judges conclusion that “the advertisement did not condone and was not likely to provoke violence”.` @ItwasSammyMcNally – have you actually seen or read the ad?

    THE WORD OF GOD AGAINST SODOMY

    Last year in the “gay pride parade” a banner stating “Jesus is a Fag” was carried by one of the participants. The supporter of homosexuality was able to walk through the streets of Belfast displaying this offensive placard in spite of the presence of the PSNI, representatives from the Commission and the march organisers. The act of sodomy is a grave offence to every Bible believer who, in accepting the pure message of God’s precious Word, express the mind of God by declaring it to be an abomination. (Leviticus, ch18 v22, ‘Thou Shalt hot lie down with mankind, as with womankind; it is an abomination.) This unequivocal statement clearly articulates God’s judgement upon a sin that has been only made controversial by those who are attempting to either neutralise or remove the guilt of their wrongdoing. As a result, we are now witnessing a hostile spirit being exerted against the testimony of God’s precious Word and those who adhere to its teachings. It is imperative that everyone whose faith is centred upon the authority of the divinely inspired scriptures maintain a strong and public stand for the ethical and moral standards that will ultimately exalt the nation. (Proverbs, ch14 v34, ‘Righteousness exalteth a nation; but sin is a reproach to any people.’)

    The issue of human rights is no longer a basis for this parade, as successive governments have legislated for the lowering of the age of consent, the authorisation of civil partnerships and the inheritance rights of a nominated partner. It is a cause for regret that a section of the community desire to be known for a perverted form of sexuality, which in certain incidences has provoked the unacceptable and totally unjustifiable response of violence. Such a response, however, must not intimidate the church into silence.

    We are obligated under God to publicly challenge the vices of this generation with the divine assurance that the gospel of redeeming grace can change a person’s life by making them a new creature in the beloved Lord Jesus Christ. (1st Corinthians, ch6 vs9-11, ‘know Ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but ye are washed. But ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the spirit of our God!)

    The message of the gospel is purifying, positive and precious all because the Lord Jesus Christ shed his sinless blood on the cross of Calvary to take away sin.

    We invite you to join with us this Saturday at 1.30pm as we assemble in the park adjacent to Saint Anne’s Cathedral for a gospel witness against the act of sodomy.

    This parade is not a welcome addition to our city, neither is it a positive celebration of a profitable lifestyle flaunting a form of sexuality that generations of men and women have righteously resisted and by God’s grace will continue to resist. Romans, ch1 v17.

    Published by the Kirk Session of Sandown Free Presbyterian Church

  • Oh and it`s pretty much the same position as the Vatican….
    “Tuesday, 22 March 2011
    “States can, and must, regulate behaviours”: Vatican tells UN what it thinks about “sexual orientation””
    http://blog.newhumanist.org.uk/2011/03/states-can-and-must-regulate-behaviours.html#

  • nferguso1

    Not to get into a debate regarding scripture or to reject your option on the matter that scripture appears to condemn homosexuality, however; ‘Who are you to judge another’s servant? . . . Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ’ (Romans 14:4,10).

    Surely it is not for us to judge or label others, that is clearly for god. Rather we’d do better just staying out of the whole thing all together and concentrating on extending the Christian hand and teachings of inclusion, mutual respect and understanding to everyone. Which includes understanding that elements of society in Belfast feel that homosexuality is not in accordance with the teachings of scripture.
    However, the issue with judgement is that the media with its lack of discourse, conversation or two-way exchange of ideas; is not an appropriate medium for the expression of one’s views and values. Particularly when such views have the potential to create animosity, segregation and perpetuate the exclusion of members of the Belfast population. This judgement appears to open the flood gates to a limiting of the opportunity for the continuation of a mature debate around this issue. Considering the strength of the emotions expressed in this forum, we as a society clearly require the extension of such a discussion least we develop another polarised element to our society.

  • Gerry Lvs castro

    chinadog: ”perhaps this landmark decision will be a forerunner for the rights of the Church and it people and in particular for Gods’ Word to be respected.”

    Rather less ‘God’s Word’ than the opinions of ancient tribesmen who also thought it fine and dandy to stone adulturers or those gathering wood on the sabbath.

    ‘God’s Word’ tends to be whatever suits prevailing prejuduce and the likes of Mr McIlveen should be asking himself why he has such an interest in other people’s sex lives. If he has a problem with homosexuality, he has a very simple solution — don’t do it. But he should not hide his homophobia behind a bible.

  • andnowwhat

    We invite you to join with us this Saturday at 1.30pm as we assemble in the park adjacent to Saint Anne’s Cathedral for a gospel witness against the act of sodomy.

    KIlsally

    Are you then going in?

    Take it you’l not be going via the back entrance

  • andnowwhat

    Are there not greater sins that these people should be protesting about…..greed (obviously not the presbys after the PMS debacle), unjust wars, unwarranted hunger.

  • Pete Baker

    And, another, timely reminder of the actual topic…

  • andnowwhat

    Peter, this is no other group that one would get away with attacking in the way that the Free P’s did/do the gay community.

    Remember that not only did the churches give “justification” for slavery but also invested in it. Africans were deemed inhuman, without god etc. Hell, Britain even had a go at persecuting jews on biblical pretexts back in the day.

    Much as it kills me to say it, Sarkozy has got onme thing right, keep religion out of public life.

    This case is a warrant to rant baseless nonsense which falls on not just the ears of the faithful but also on those of homophobic boot boys.

  • edgeoftheunion

    Kilsally

    Since you have posted the Sandown FP ad i am wondering if you are a spokesperson for them? In which case I was wondering if you could answer the rather obvious question:

    Why did Jesus spend so much time attacking religious hyprocricy and never condemned homosexuality?

  • Greenflag

    andnowwhat,

    ‘Remember that not only did the churches give “justification” for slavery but also invested in it. ‘

    And also benefited from the huge donations made to various churches by slave owners etc

    ‘Africans were deemed inhuman,’

    Correction -non human. Which is why the slavers had no compunction about dragging away children from parents , wives from husbands etc . Still the hypocrisy never bothered the slaveholders from ‘miscegenating ‘ with the eh non humans although their beloved bible is very clear on what happens to those who consort with the beasts of the fields .

    Although we like to think that ‘humanity ‘ has moved on from those dark days and it has- there are still those churches who offer ‘prosperity’ in this world as well as the ‘next’ if you just worship Mammon a bit more and hand over more of your proceeds to the First Church of Christ the Prosperous or whatever they call themselves.

    So have a good look round and ask yourself who are today’s ‘non humans’ in the neo conservative economic wasteland where the top 1% own 95% of all the wealth and ask yourself which Church they go to if any ?

  • Greenflag

    @ joe canuck ,

    ‘Interesting snippet of info this morning on BBC World News’. Researchers have used census information over a past number of years and applied it to a mathematical model which they claim show that religion is fast heading to extinction in 9 secular countries. ‘

    Saw that and read the article and followed up some of the research . Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland were the 9 mentioned in the article . The research showed the Czechs at 60% ‘atheist’ with Vermont (USA ) being at 30% the most ‘atheistic’ of US states .

    Speed the day we Irish catch up with the Czechs although I’ guessing that we are at least up to if not beyond Vermont standards of incredulity 😉

  • Greenflag

    omitted the link to JC’s snippet .

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12811197

  • Greenflag

    @driftwood,

    ‘Did Jesus ever have a girlfriend? NO! So he was probably etc’

    Long before the Da Vinci hype there was the story of Mary Magdalene and her reputed relations . Here’s Planxty setting off in music what is for many a less than respectful trek into that period of JC’s life -with some side references in other versions of the song by such as Christy Moore to recent controversies re the Magdalene Sisters etc etc .

    Anyway JC lived at home with his parents until he was 30 just like many Italians no doubt the role model to be followed in coming times by the millions of jobless graduates who will flood onto an economic wasteland in the coming decade in western countries 🙁

    Let’s ‘pray ‘ said yon atheist that they don’t decide to start any more new ‘religions ‘ The world is already crucified enough by the old ones 🙁

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2vRD2AiqIE

  • Mick Fealty

    Okay, slightly closer to the original topic) there’s a piece in this week’s Spectator from Rod Liddle, which suggests that David Dimbleby may have single-handedly killed the BNP when he brought Nick Griffin:

    “It should be a lesson to the left; it is not always the oxygen of publicty, it is often the cynanide of publicity. The BNP are finished as a force because, against the odds, a democratic reflex afforded them exposure and they were found out.”

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    ..and sometimes what was intended as the ‘cynanide of publicity’ becomes ‘the oxygen of publicty’ as happened with Alf Garnet who advanced the National Front’s arguements better and much more widely than they could hope to do themselves.

  • Mick Fealty

    Alf Garnett?

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

  • “KIlsally

    Are you then going in?

    Take it you’l not be going via the back entrance”

    That’d be Church Lane funnily enough

  • Nunoftheabove

    For the legal eagles in the house;

    re. “constituted a genuine attempt to stand up for their religious beliefs and to encourage others to similarly bear witness……He said this had been done by citing well-known portions of scripture which underpinned the church’s religious faith and its call to bear witness”

    Does this in effect mean that religious convictions enjoy special privelege over non-religious personal, genuinely held convictions e.g. if I – as I do not – have a deep, personal but entirely irreligious distaste for homosexuality would it similarly entitle me to do the same thing as these christians or not and enjoy similar legal protection if I were to ?

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    Nunoftheabove,

    Just guessing – that it does not perhaps offer ‘special privelege’ but that religion is a valid legal reason as is perhaps any strongly held belief not inspired by religion i.e. any belief that indicates that the advertisement did not gratutitously cause offence.

    But if the ruling does rely on ‘special privelege’ then that would presumably be cause for appeal.

    I also wondered about the religious sounding phrase to ‘bear witness’ – but perhaps that is just legaleese.

  • Nunoftheabove

    ItwasSammyMcNally

    Cheers, yeah could be – just like to know that one has as much entitlement to offend others as anyone else does. If christians are getting special priveleges at, so to say, both ends of the wedge i.e able to offend others and receive special protection enabling them to do so while at the same time also enjoying additional protection under blasphemy laws on the issue of them not having to be subect to irony, challenge etc on the basis of their beliefs on the other – then that’s definitely to be – and will be – opposed.

  • Pigeon Toes

    “But Article 10 (of the European Convention on Human Rights) protects expressive rights which offend, shock or disturb”

    And yet there is The Public Order (Northern Ireland) Order 1987

    “Meaning of “fear” and “hatred”
    8. In this Part—

    “fear” means fear of a group of persons defined by reference to religious belief,[F1 sexual orientation, disability] colour, race, nationality (including citizenship) or ethnic or national origins;
    “hatred” means hatred against a group of persons defined by reference to religious belief,[F1 sexual orientation, disability] colour, race, nationality (including citizenship) or ethnic or national origins.”

  • Pigeon Toes

    Just putting the cat amongst the ahem pigeons, but what if an employer extolled such views regarding an employee, would their Article 10 rights supersede the employees rights?

    Especially if they advertised “We are a ***** organisation. Only***** need apply”?