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Free speech and a lesson for the Met


IF ANY recent event illustrates the crying need for the Free Speech Union, the encounter between a Christian street preacher and a Metropolitan Police officer at London’s Oxford Circus surely qualifies. 

Joshua Sutcliffe had been preaching the good news of God’s love for sinful mankind through the gift of his one and only son Jesus Christ to the large numbers of people passing by in what used to be normal life around central London. He had mentioned homosexuality amongst a number of wrong practices from which humanity by God’s grace needs to be redeemed.

The police officer approached him and told him that it is an offence to offend someone. Mr Sutcliffe mentioned freedom of speech and said that it is not an offence to say, for example, that ‘homosexuality is wrong’ even if someone were offended by that. The officer insisted that Mr Sutcliffe could be committing a crime by saying such a thing if it caused offence.

Far be it from me to insist that the Metropolitan Police should invite the Free Speech Union to give their officers a training session. Though listening to a speech by Toby Young or Douglas Murray would do an assembly of muddled Met officers a power of good, a mandatory training session in the workplace would smack too much of a Marxist-style re-education programme. Public-sector organisations have already been far too willing to get in LGBT lobby groups such as Stonewall and Mermaids to indoctrinate their staff.

But surely this police officer should be told to mug up on the law of the land under which it is categorically not an offence to say that homosexuality is wrong?

In 2008, thanks to the valiant efforts of the late David Waddington (1929-2017), who had served as Home Secretary in the government led by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, the House of Lords voted to insert a free-speech defence into New Labour’s proposed law against homophobic hatred.

The so-called Waddington amendment, which the politically correct, socialist-dominated House of Commons eventually conceded in 2009, allowed for the criticism of sexual conduct. It declared: ‘Nothing in this Part (i.e. the section of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill relating to homophobic hatred) shall be read or given effect in a way which prohibits or restricts discussion of, criticism of or expressions of antipathy towards, conduct relating to a particular sexual orientation, or urging persons of a particular sexual orientation to refrain from or modify conduct related to that orientation.’

With liberty crashing down around us, surely it is not too much to ask that Met officers know the laws protecting freedom of speech in our country and uphold them especially against the wishes of the intentionally offended?

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Julian Mann
Julian Mann
Julian Mann is a former Church of England vicar, now an evangelical journalist based in Heysham, Lancashire.

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