A new report on identity and immigration has found that nearly half of England's population support legal limits on free speech when religion is concerned, and that support for freedom of expression has fallen significantly since 2011.
A poll of 4,015 people conducted by Populus for the Fear and HOPE 2016 report found that only 54% agreed people should be allowed to say what they believe about religion. 46% said there some things that you should not be able to say
about religion .
In 2011 just 40% agreed that some statements about religion were off-limits, compared with 60% who agreed that people should be allowed to say what they believe about religion .
The report, on English attitudes towards identity, multiculturalism, religion and immigration was written by Professor Robert Ford of Manchester University and Nick Lowles of Hope Not Hate. The report notes that support for limiting free speech to
respect multicultural sensitivities had grown over the past five years . Limiting free speech is most popular among the young and among those most confident with multiculturalism. 58% of under 25s back similar limits on religion as exist for policing racial hate.
Stephen Evans, National Secular Society campaigns manager, said the report made for grim reading :
This report demonstrates how the concept of offense, and the violence that sometimes accompanies it, has created a chilling effect on freedom of expression in the UK. Whilst bigotry of all kinds should be robustly challenged, now is not the time to start
sacrificing fundamental freedoms in order to protect 'religious sentiments'. Restricting free speech will do nothing to improve social cohesion -- and one satisfied demand to 'respect' religion will only lead to yet further demands.
Stringent penalties are in place for religiously-aggravated crimes but the law is not there to prevent us from feeling offended. Free speech is the cornerstone of democratic life any new legal restrictions would be counterproductive, only serving to
stifle debate and erode hard-won civil liberties.
A Devon cinema has censored the word 'ass' from posters advertising newly released superhero film Deadpool . The Reel cinema in Plymouth used black tape to censor the lines: Bad Ass, Smart Ass, Great Ass, Deadpool.
One cinema goer commented to the newspaper:
I kind of think they were right to censor it, but also think it's probably overkill. Surely it's pretty tame in this day and age, but if your kids are outside queuing for Chipmunks it's a different matter.
The article writer adds a good riposte:
But Alvin and the Chipmunks, Road Chip itself features one use of the word crap and extensively uses the song Baby Got Back by Sir Mix a lot - a track about women with large backsides.
Human rights abusers on Salford Council have introduced a Public Space Protection Order to cover the Quays area where it will be deemed a criminal offence if anyone is caught using foul and abusive language .
But the order fails to give any guidance on which words will be considered foul and abusive enough to constitute a criminal offence. Anyone breaching the conditions faces an on-the-spot fine.
Comedian Mark Thomas is performing at The Lowry arts centre and has prepared a list of words he intends to use which he is sending to the council - to see if they breach the order.
And now leading human rights group Liberty has written to Salford council saying the move risks breaching right to freedom of expression . Liberty says the order could have a chilling effect on freedom of expression. Liberty's Rosie
Brighouse has requested clarification on four points:
Does the language have to be both foul and abusive to breach the PSPO, or is its purpose to ban both language that is foul but not abusive, and language that is abusive but not foul?
What is the difference between language that is foul and language that is abusive? What legal test will be applied to determine whether language is foul and/or abusive?
If someone uses foul and/or abusive language in the area covered by the PSPO, but there is no one present to hear it, will that amount to a criminal offence?
This is a staggering example of the misuse of a Public Space Protection Order - so vaguely worded it's impossible for anybody to know whether they're in danger of breaking the law.
The right to say what we want should not be restricted at the whim of council officials, able to issue fixed penalty notices on the basis of a poorly defined legal order. Without the freedom to offend, real freedom of expression cannot exist.
Liberty is concerned that, in its current vaguely worded form, the Order will have a 'chilling effect on artistic performers and political activists in the Salford Quays area - which encompasses the renowned Lowry theatre.
On 17 March 2016 from 5-6pm, we will be holding a protest at the office of the NUS, Macadam House, 275 Gray's Inn Road, London, WC1X 8QB. Join Us. Also Tweet "I call on @nusuk to revise safe space and no platform policies to
facilitate not restrict free expression and thought; or email the NUS stating the same at email@example.com.
We are deeply concerned by the increasing attempts by the National Union of Students (NUS) and its affiliated Student Unions to silence dissenters -- including feminists, apostates, LGBTI rights campaigners, anti-racists,
anti-fascists and anti-Islamists -- through its use of No-Platform and Safe Space policies.
We stand against all prejudice and discrimination. We agree that free speech does not mean giving bigots a free pass. A defence of free speech includes the right and moral imperative to challenge, oppose and protest bigoted views.
Educational institutions must be a place for the exchange and criticism of all ideas -- even those deemed unpalatable by some -- providing they don't incite violence against peoples or communities. Bigoted ideas are most effectively
defeated by open debate, backed up by ethics, reason and evidence.
The student body is not homogeneous; there will be differences of opinion among students. The NUS's restrictive policies infringe upon the right of students to hear and challenge dissenting and opposing views.
We, therefore, call on the NUS to revise its No-Platform and Safe Space policies to facilitate freedom of expression and thought, rather than restrict it.
Alicia McElhill, President City of Leicester NUT
Asher Fainman, President of Goldsmiths ASH society
Author, Jesus & Mo
Becky Lavelle, President, Hull University Secularist, Atheist, and Humanist Society
Benjamin David, President of Warwick Atheists, Secularists and Humanists
Bread and Roses TV
Brendan O'Neill, editor of Spiked
Chris Moos, secularist activist
Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
David Browne, LLM Student in International Human Rights Law
Durham Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
Elham Manea, Academic and human Rights advocate
Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize
Fariborz Pooya, Host of Bread and Roses TV
Feminism in London
Frederick Money, Undergraduate, Merton College Oxford
Gita Sahgal, Centre for Secular Space
Gush Bhumbra, President, Leicester Secular Society
Halima Begum, ExMuslim Researcher & Blogger
Helen Chamberlain, President, Durham Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
Houzan Mahmoud, Women's Rights Activist, Kurdistan
Hull University Secularist, Atheist, and Humanist Society
Ian Leaver, Secretary City of Leicester NUT
Imad Iddine Habib, Spokesperson of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
James Burchett, Activist
Julie Bindel, Justice for Women and the Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize
Justice for Women
Kate Smurthwaite, Comedian and Activist
Kenan Malik, Author
Keziah Conroy, UCLU Atheist, Secularity and Humanist society President
Kojin Mirizayi, Law student, President of the Kurdish Society at the University of Kent
Lee Jones, Queen Mary, University of London
Lisa-Marie Taylor, Chair of Feminism in London
Maajid Nawaz, Author and Counter-extremism Activist
Maggie Hall, Chair, Brighton Secular Humanists
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, One Law for All and Host of Bread and Roses TV
Matt Corden, undergraduate at Newcastle University
Nahla Mahmoud, Spokesperson of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Nick Cohen, Author
Nira Yuval-Davis, Director of the Research Centre on Migration, Refugees and Belonging (CMRB) at the University of East London
Ollie Burton, President, Newcastle University Atheists' & Secular Humanists' Society
One Law for All
Peter Flack, Leicester Social Forum
Peter Tatchell, Human Rights Campaigner
Rayhana Sultan, Spokesperson of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Richard Dawkins, Scientist and Author
Roy Brown, International Representative and former president of IHEU
Rumana Hashem, Founder of Community Women's Blog and Adviser at Nari Diganta
Rumy Hasan, Senior Lecturer (SPRU -- Science Policy Research Unit), University of Sussex
Salil Tripathi, Writer
Sarah Peace, Fireproof Library
Stephen Evans, Campaigns Manager, National Secular Society
Tehmina Kazi, Director of Media, Outreach and Lobbying, British Muslims for Secular Democracy
Tom Holland, Author and Historian
University of Leicester Atheist, Humanist and Secular Society
Police in England and Wales are producing new guidelines designed to avoid criminalising children caught sending their own naked images
to each other.
Under current shameful Home Office rules, any such sexting incident reported to the police must be recorded as a crime.
The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) will advise teachers on when they should report such incidents. It confirmed to the BBC that new guidelines were being developed but were in very early stages.
Offsite Comment: Why Sexting is an Attack on the Younger Generation
The Telegraph has suspended readers' comment on stories and features until further notice as part of a review of the way the newspaper
engages with its audience. A spokesman for the Telegraph said:
In the process of migrating its site to a new online platform, the Telegraph has suspended the comment function in some areas under transition until further notice.
It's also undertaking research to understand the best way to support reader engagement, but in the meantime they can continue to comment on and share articles through Telegraph Facebook pages, or via Twitter, in the usual way.
The Guardian/Observer. has very recently announced that it will be heavily restricting comment on articles dealing
with three sensitive subjects -- race, immigration and Islam, on the grounds that there has been a change in mainstream public opinion and language that we do not wish to see reflected or supported on the site and those subjects in
particular attract too much toxic comment.
Most pieces on those themes will not now not be open for comment. Occasional selected pieces will be open, but for a shorter period than the usual three days, and only when it is judged that enough moderation resources can be deployed there and
that it is possible to have a constructive discussion on them, whatever that means.
Evangelical Protestant preacher Pastor James McConnell has been found not guilty of making grossly offensive remarks during a sermon in which he described
Islam as heathen , satanic .
The high profile evangelical pastor had been charged with two alleged offences after the sermon delivered from the pulpit of his Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle on May 18, 2014 was streamed online.
But following a hearing he was cleared of improper use of a public electronic communications network and causing a grossly offensive message to be sent by means of a public electronic communications network.
Delivering his reserved judgment, District Judge Liam McNally said:
The courts need to be very careful not to criminalise speech which, however contemptible, is no more than offensive. It is not the task of the criminal law to censor offensive utterances. Accordingly I find Pastor McConnell not guilty of both charges.
In my view Pastor McConnell's mindset was that he was preaching to the converted in the form of his own congregation and like-minded people who were listening to his service rather than preaching to the worldwide internet. He is a man with strong,
passionate and sincerely held beliefs... his passion and enthusiasm for his subject caused him to, so to speak, 'lose the run of himself
The judge said the comments about Islam being heathen and satanic were protected under human rights legislation. When considering the remarks about mistrusting Muslims, Judge McNally said he was satisfied the pastor had not set out to
intentionally cause offence. If the preacher had qualified his remarks, as he did in subsequent media interviews, he could have been spared the legal battle.