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Friday, 3 February 2012

Speaking freely ...

Freedom of speech is probably one of our most treasured "rights" but, increasingly, I have noticed a tendency, particularly on the left, to wish to restrict what anyone some may disagree with, may say. An example is the fuss over the Archbishop of York's statement on "marriage." The Minster is now besieged by aggrieved Gay and Lesbian protesters demanding he retract his statement "revise" his beliefs and a whole lot more. The Church is roundly condemned by this powerful and vociferous lobby for opposing "Gay Marriage" and for its doctrine on the practice of Gay sex. It is now cast as "homophobic" and demands are being made for it to be made illegal to express these and other opinions seen as something "-ist" by these protesters and others.

Freedom of speech, unfortunately, cuts both ways. If I espouse the right of an individual to express his or her views, I must also uphold their right to hold and express views with which I utterly disagree and may even find offensive. There are a lot of examples I could give, one being the current use of the word "holocaust" in relation to the Jewish struggle to achieve security in Israel.

Sadly, this debate is often highjacked by extremists on both ends of the spectrum. On the one hand the "Politically Correct" are constantly looking for offense in everything said by people they wish to marginalise or destroy and remove from any public forum. Look at how they behaved over the speech by Enoch Powell - albeit before the term "PC" meant what it does today. Taking a look at what the Archbishop said, one has to ask; why the fuss? He is merely stating what Christians are expected to believe. OK, we happen to live in a country and a society which accepts Gay lifestyles, but the vast majority of people in this world don't and many non-Christian societies have really draconian laws about "same sex" relationships. The real problem for the Archbishop is that, by calling these partnerships a "marriage" Mr Cameron is essentially forcing Church of England vicars to perform them in Church, a situation fraught with difficulty for the majority of church goers.

It also opens up a further conflict - what if two members of the Muslim community demand a ceremony in their Mosque? I know what difficulty the Imam will face!

But on the other extreme there is a new threat to "Freedom of Speech" brought about by the electronic communication many now enjoy. The Monk doesn't have "Twitter" but a lot of people do. And here we find some really offensive statements and material being circulated, sometimes with deliberate intent. On example which came my way recently is a post on Sharongooners Blog. She posts about a "twitter" message she received from some idiot who thought it was amusing to send out a "tweet" saying "if there were no police he'd rape all the pretty girls." No doubt he thought that funny. Well, for rape victims, it's not. What was not excusable, when he was pulled up on it, was his statement "it's just a joke" and his friends leaping in, some escalating the offensiveness, to defend his "right" to make such a joke.

I have long felt that there would be a backlash against Political Correctness, but there has to be a balance. It cannot swing all the way out to it becoming right for anyone to utter anything regardless of how hurtful or offensive it is.

Personally I believe we have the wrong word in use when we say someone has a "right." We should say, we are all "privileged to do ..." By inference, I may exercise a privilege as long as I respect your right to object and to exercise the same privileges I hold. That is something both the Left and the Politically Correct must learn to accept. What it does not, under any circumstances confer upon anyone is the right to make the sort of statement contained in Ms Gooner's post. That is abuse, the Archbishop of York's statement is not.   

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