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.
Birmingham's education commissioner says he has banned the use of the term Trojan Horse to describe alleged attempts by groups to take over schools and covertly impose a Muslim ethos.
Mike Tomlinson, appointed in the wake of the controversy, says the phrase was not helpful to attempts to improve Birmingham's schools. He claimed that it could have an adverse impact on teacher recruitment. Tomlinson said no-one in his department
was now allowed to use the phrase.
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.
A few people have whinged on twitter about a scarf design sold by H&M. The scarf is apparently similar to a tallit scarf, a Jewish shawl worn during prayer. Both feature a cream colour, with the same black stripes and tassels.
A couple of trivial tweets were:
Dear Fashion: Please step off other ppl's ritual items (or symbols of liberation, really.)
Yo @hm this is exceedingly uncool.
An H&M spokesperson said:
We are truly sorry if we have offended anyone with this piece. Everyone is welcome at H&M and we never take a religious or political stand. Stripes is one of the trends for this season and something we were inspired by. Our intention was never to
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.