Monday, October 15, 2007

Protection of minorities or destruction of freedoms?

I've been meaning to blog for a few days about the proposed bill banning incitement of homophobic hatred in England and Patrick Harvie MSP's campaign to extend race hate laws to encompass discrimination against LGBT and Disabled people.

I'm torn on this. I truly believe that there is no place in any civilised society for the kind of abuse these laws are designed to stop. But will it just be abuse that is stopped or will it be used to stop genuine debate or expression of religious and moral beliefs? I have my suspicions that the laws will be interpreted in the narrowest possible manner which will crack down on genuine debate and not do anything to stop the spread of homophobia, racism etc.

There is a real conversation needed on whether or not gay couples should be allowed to adopt. My opinion is absolutely yes, but I respect the right of someone who says the opposite to say that in a measured way. Just because someone's religious or moral beliefs are totally opposite to my own or I find their views unpalatable doesn't mean they shouldn't be allowed to express those views. When we stop one side of an argument from speaking out we only encourage the extremists. The stifling of the debate on immigration is a perfect example. By accusing anyone who mentioned immigration in a negative manner of racism only the BNP was left speaking from one point of view. We've seen a Church of England vicar visited by the Police for expressing an opinion about Muslim women wearing the veil - I'm sure that this wasn't the kind of comment that the race hate laws were designed for, but that's what they are being used for.

I want to see an end to homophobic comments, I'd be quite happy to see certain rappers in jail for their song lyrics but I don't want someone visited by the police because they say in a reasonable manner that they don't approve of gay relationships. I think I'll reserve judgement on these laws until we see how they work in practice....

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