Police Backtrack: It’s Not Illegal To Offend
A police force in England has issued a humiliating apology after launching a billboard that incorrectly stated: “Being offensive is an offence.”
Merseyside police created the billboard as part of a campaign to prevent anti-LGBT ‘hate crimes’. It featured the force crest on a rainbow flag.
After sharing the message on the force’s social media account, critics pointed out that it was incorrect as a matter of law. As Lord Justice Sedley said in a landmark case in 1999: “Free speech includes not only the inoffensive but the irritating, the contentious, the eccentric, the heretical, the unwelcome and the provocative provided it does not tend to provoke violence. Freedom only to speak inoffensively is not worth having.”
The post was deleted and Superintendent Martin Earl issued a statement apologising for any confusion it may have caused. He clarified that “‘being offensive’ is not in itself an offence”.
The threat of being accused of ‘hate crime’ has hung over supporters of traditional marriage for some years now, though so far the law has protected us.
When same-sex marriage was legalised, the legislation also amended hate speech law in England and Wales to make clear that “for the avoidance of doubt, any discussion or criticism of marriage which concerns the sex of the parties to marriage shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred.”
The danger this addressed was not imaginary. In 2006 Archbishop Mario Conti, then Roman Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow, was reported to the police by an MSP because he spoke up for traditional marriage in a sermon.
Since then people who disagree with same-sex marriage have been punished in their careers and occupations, despite recent legal victories.
Sarah Mbyui, a nursery worker, lost her job in 2014 because she gave the ‘wrong’ answer to a question from a colleague about whether she believed in same-sex marriage. Sarah won her case in an employment tribunal.
Felix Ngole was removed from his university social work course in 2016 after he made comments on his personal Facebook page in support of traditional marriage. He won in the Court of Appeal.
Housing manager Adrian Smith was demoted and had his pay cut by 40 per cent in 2011 because he said on his Facebook page that gay weddings in churches were “an equality too far”. He won in the High Court.
The McArthur family, who own and run Ashers bakery, were pursued through the courts by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland for alleged breach of anti-discrimination law in 2014 after they refused to bake a cake celebrating a same-sex marriage campaign. They won in the Supreme Court.
On free speech the law is generally on our side. But that doesn’t stop the pro-LGBT authoritarians from implying that those who “offend” them could end up in Court. Even a police force can make a dog’s breakfast of the law if they are overcome by an anxiety to be woke.
C4M will continue to stand up for real marriage and all those who stand with us.