Mr. Bean star calls for repeal of British hate speech law
LONDON, October 26, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Rowan Atkinson, one of Britain’s most popular film and television comedy stars, has told the government that the hate speech provisions of the Public Order Act must be repealed to uphold the country’s ancient traditions of freedom of speech.
He said he wanted to counter “the Outrage Industry: self-appointed arbiters of the public good, encouraging media-stoked outrage, to which the police feel under terrible pressure to react.”
A “new intolerance” is being fed by Section 5, the “insult” wording of the Act, he said. “A new and intense desire to gag uncomfortable voices of dissent.”
“‘I’m not intolerant,’ say many softly-spoken, highly educated liberal-minded people,” Atkinson said. “‘I’m only intolerant of intolerance.’ And people tend to nod sagely and say, ‘Oh yes, wise words, wise words.’ And yet if you think about this supposedly inarguable statement for longer than five seconds you realize that all it is advocating is the replacement of one kind of intolerance with another.”
The law, he said, is “indicative of a culture that has taken hold of the program of successive governments that with the reasonable and well-intentioned ambition to contain obnoxious elements in society, has created a society of an extraordinarily authoritarian and controlling nature.”
Known mainly to North American for his television and film roles as Blackadder and Mr. Bean, Atkinson is also popular in Britain as a sketch and stand up comedian on stage. In the course of his long career he has parodied the Germans, the French, Spaniards, actors, opera singers, ballet dancers, mimes, rock musicians and pop divas. He has not spared British institutions like Shakespeare, Oxford University, the Royal Family, the military and the police, liberal Christians, conservative Christians, Catholicism, Anglicanism, and the New Atheists.
Speaking at a meeting at Westminster of the campaign group Reform Section 5, Atkinson placed the freedom to offend people as second only to the right to the means of “sustaining life itself.”
He had, he said, enjoyed freedom of speech throughout his professional life, and had no concerns that he would be arrested for insulting someone. His concern, he said is “more for those more vulnerable because of their lower profile.”
Under the law’s current wording, anything could be interpreted subjectively as “insult,” he said. Criticism, ridicule, and sarcasm, any unfavorable comparison, or “merely stating an alternative point of view to the orthodoxy can be interpreted as insult.”
He cited “ludicrous” cases of abuse as a student in Oxford arrested for calling a police horse “gay”; a Christian café owner threatened with arrest for displaying Bible passages on a television screen in his business; and a teenager arrested for holding a placard calling the Church of Scientology a “dangerous cult.”
British humor is self-deprecating and outrageous, often rude, and frequently revolves around mocking the stupidity, shortsightedness and banality that plagues humanity in every walk of life. Without the freedom to insult both individuals and groups, including homosexuals, Atkinson has warned, those great traditions of freedom of mockery will die out and give way to a “culture of censoriousness.”
In Britain, “harassment,” or causing someone “alarm or distress,” is a statutory offense, but the many critics of Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 have warned that it is a law designed to be abused, with the determination of the offense resting on the subjective feelings of the putative victim.
The key, they say, is in the wording: “A person is guilty of an offense if he: (a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior, or disorderly behavior, or (b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.”
Atkinson could also have mentioned that Section 5 charges are increasingly being levied by police against conservative Christians who object either to the homosexual lifestyle or to the government’s plans to institute “gay marriage.” Christian groups have complained that it is being used specifically to suppress any public opposition to the sexual zeitgeist, particularly the homosexualist movement. Several Christian street preachers have been arrested for citing Biblical passages condemning homosexual activity.
One of them is Adrian Smith, a Christian who recently tweeted, “If the State wants to offer civil marriages to the same sex, that is up to the State: but the State mustn’t impose its rules on places of faith and conscience.” Although his position is held, according to polls, by about 80 percent of the British population, Mr. Smith was arrested and charged under Section 5 after his co-workers at the Trafford Housing Trust testified the message was “blatantly homophobic.” Mr. Smith’s salary was docked by 40 percent for “gross misconduct in publishing views which might be taken as Trafford Trust policy.”
Maureen Messent, a columnist for the Birmingham Mail, said that she laid the blame for this rash of “mean-hearted sniping” at the feet of the homosexual lobby, who have “become suppressors of others’ free speech.”
“They believe they alone must be heard,” she commented.
The campaign to reform Section 5 is drawing a surprisingly broad array of supporters, including the conservative Christian Institute, their usually diametrically opposed National Secular Society; the civil liberties group Big Brother Watch and The Freedom Association. The campaign also claims 60 supporters in the Commons and the House of Lords including UKIP leader Nigel Farage.
Speaking at the meeting with Rowan Atkinson, senior Conservative Party MP David Davis, said, “The simple truth is that in a free society, there is no right not to be offended. For centuries, freedom of speech has been a vital part of British life, and repealing this law will reinstate that right.”
Spectator columnist Rod Liddle wrote last weekend that the push to remove “insult” from the Public Order Act has nearly universal support.
He said the main purpose of the law at present is “to criminalize people who express inconvenient political views.”
“Christians have been arrested merely for reading extracts from the Bible, for example. Gays have been arrested for suggesting that Islam is a bit silly on the subject of homosexuality. One old bloke was warned he would be prosecuted because he put a sign up in his window stating that religion was ‘fairy tales for grown-ups,’” he wrote. “If it is even remotely possible that someone might be offended, the Old Bill steps in.”
Even some leading figures in the homosexualist movement say the law goes too far. Peter Tatchell, the head of the radical homosexual group OutRage!, said in May this year that there should be no law against insulting people in a democratic country.
Tatchell told the BBC, “What constitutes insults is a very subjective judgment. It’s been used in very different ways.”
“We may disagree on some those views but I don’t think they should be criminalized in a free and democratic society,” he said. “We should have the right to speak our minds and I think putting up with insults is one of the prices we pay for that freedom.”
Texas AG to Target: Show me how you’ll protect women and kids from criminals
AUSTIN, Texas, May 5, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – The latest backlash Target received as a result of its transgender bathroom policy was a letter from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asking the company to provide its safety policies to protect women and children from “those who would use the cover of Target’s restroom policy for nefarious purposes.”
“Target, of course, is free to choose such a policy for its Texas stores,” Paxton wrote in a letter to Target CEO Brian Cornell. He noted the possibility of the Texas Legislature addressing the issue in the future, but said, “regardless of whether Texas legislates on this topic, it is possible that allowing men in women’s restrooms could lead to criminal and otherwise unwanted activity.”
“As chief lawyer and law enforcement officer for the State of Texas, I ask that you provide the full text of Target’s safety policies regarding the protection of women and children from those who would use the cover of Target’s restroom policy for nefarious purposes,” Paxton continued.
More than 1.1 million people have pledged to boycott Target over its new policy allowing men to access women’s bathrooms. Opponents of the policy worry that it puts women and children at risk by emboldening predators, who may now freely enter women’s restrooms.
Target’s new policy is “inclusive,” the company claims, and they say “everyone…deserves to be protected from discrimination, and treated equally.”
“Texans statewide can no longer be silent on the issue of protecting the safety of women and children,” Texas Values President and Attorney Jonathan Saenz said in a statement Wednesday urging Texans to boycott Target. This is the first time in its history the pro-family group has called for a boycott.
“We need all Texans to understand that Target is using this radical change in their store policy to try convince people that our laws should be changed in this dangerous direction as well,” said Saena. “Our goal with this boycott is for Target to change its dangerous new policy, to raise awareness of the real threats to safety that these policies bring and to help businesses and lawmakers understand the significant opposition to such measures that is growing daily… Texans all across our state must join this Boycott Target effort before someone gets hurt.”
On Tuesday a male allegedly filmed an underage girl at a Frisco, Texas, Target fitting room. Police are searching for the man.
There have been numerous incidents of male predators across North America accessing women’s facilities and citing transgender policies as allowing them to do so.
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Christians, America has reached a crisis point. Are you ready to take up this challenge?
May 5, 2016 (Albert Mohler) -- For nearly two and a half centuries, Americans have enjoyed the enormous privilege and responsibility of forming our own government—a privilege rarely experienced throughout most of human history. For most of history, humanity has struggled with the question of how to respond to a government that was essentially forced upon them. But Americans have often struggled with a very different reality; how do we rightly respond to the government that we choose?
To put all of this in historical perspective, the Framers of the American experiment understood that a representative democracy built on the principle of limited government would require certain virtues of its citizens. These would include a restraint of passions and an upholding of traditional moral virtues, without which democracy would not be possible. As the idea of limited government implies, the citizenry would be required to carry out the social responsibilities of the community without the intrusion of government and, thus, citizens would be expected to have the moral integrity necessary for such an arrangement. The Framers of the American Republic also agreed that it would be impossible to have a representative democracy and a limited government if the people did not elect leaders who embodied the virtues of the citizenry while also respecting and protecting society’s pre-political institutions: marriage and family, the church, and the local community.
Thus, the idea of a limited government requires that society uphold and pursue the health of its most basic institutions. When a civil society is weak, government becomes strong. When the family breaks down, government grows stronger. When the essential institutions of society are no longer respected, government demands that respect for itself. That is a recipe for tyranny.
Much of this was essentially affirmed until the early decades of the 20th century when progressivists began promoting an agenda that fundamentally redefined the role of the federal government in public life. By the middle of the 20th century, the Democratic Party had essentially embraced this progressivist agenda, becoming committed to an increasingly powerful government—a government whose powers exceeded those enumerated in the Constitution. At the same time, the Democratic Party also began advocating for a basic redefinition of the morality that shaped the common culture. By and large, however, the Republican Party continued to maintain a commitment to the vision of America’s founders, advocating for a traditional understanding of morality while also upholding the principle of limited government.
By the 1980s, the two parties represented two very different worldviews and two very different visions of American government. For decades, each party has acted rather predictably and in ways that accord with their fundamental principles. All of that, however, has now changed.
The 2016 presidential campaign has developed in an entirely unpredictable manner and, in many respects, represents a crisis in American democracy. This crisis is not limited to either party. Bernie Sanders, the Independent senator from Vermont, has won several stunning victories in the primary season over presumed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. While it is still extremely likely that Clinton will become the Democratic nominee, Sanders support among voters represents a populist flirtation with Democratic Socialism. This pattern is something few Democrats could have imagined just one year ago. What this foray into Democratic Socialism represents, then, is a radical adjustment of the Democratic Party’s basic economic principles. Thus, even if Hillary Clinton becomes the nominee, the process will likely drag her even further to the left, eventually redefining the Democratic Party before our very eyes.
But if it is remarkable to see what is happening in the Democratic Party, it is absolutely shocking to see what is happening among Republicans. Traditionally, the Republican Party has established its reputation by standing for the principles advocated by the American Founders—limited government upheld by the health of society’s primary institutions such as marriage, family, and community. Yet Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party, represents virtually everything the Republican Party has typically defined itself over against. Clearly, both political parties are now redefining themselves. What is not clear is where each party will ultimately end up. What is also not clear is whether the American experiment can survive such radical political change.
As already noted, the American experiment in limited government requires that the citizenry and those who hold public office honor certain moral virtues and respect the institutions that are crucial for a society to rightly function. Yet, we now find ourselves in a situation where the three leading candidates for president show little to no respect for such institutions in their articulations of public policy.
This fundamental redefinition of the American political landscape requires Christians to think carefully about their political responsibility. Make no mistake; we cannot avoid that responsibility. Even refusing to vote is itself a vote because it privileges those who do vote and increases the value of each ballot. In truth, we bear a political responsibility that cannot be dismissed or delegated to others. Every Christian must be ready to responsibly steward his or her vote at the polls.
To put the matter bluntly, we are now confronted with the reality that, in November, Hillary Clinton will likely be the Democratic nominee and Donald Trump the Republican nominee. This poses a significant problem for many Christians who believe they cannot, in good conscience, vote for either candidate. As a result, Christians are going to need a lot of careful political reflection in order to steward their vote and their political responsibility in this election cycle.
Headlines from around the world tell us that other representative democracies are at a similar moment of redefinition. Political turmoil now marks the United Kingdom and also nations like France and other key American allies. Perhaps democracy itself is now facing a crucial hour of decision and a crucial season of testing. It is no exaggeration to say that democracy is being tested around the world; it is certainly being tested here at home. Yet if this is a moment of testing for democracy, it is also a crucial moment for Christian witness. This election cycle is going to be a particular test for American Christians—and we are about to find out if Christians are up to this challenge.
Reprinted with permission from Albert Mohler.
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‘Sick and twisted’: Scientists keep embryos alive outside womb up to 13 days for experimentation
May 5, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Two teams of scientists have announced that they have been able to keep human embryos alive outside the womb for 13 days for the purpose of conducting scientific experiments. Some call the announcement the onset of a “Brave New World,” while others are petitioning lawmakers to lift sanctions that would keep scientists from experimenting on newly conceived babies even longer.
Researchers from Cambridge University, King's College, and Rockefeller University said in two separate reports that they stopped at 13 days only to avoid violating an internationally accepted law. At least 12 nations restrict the amount of time a newly conceived child may be kept alive in a laboratory to 14 days, the point at which scientists believe “individuality” begins.
The newest development allows scientists to observe newly conceived human beings after the point at which implantation in the womb would have occurred.
Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz, one of the studies' lead researchers, said her team's breakthrough could advance embryonic stem cell research and “can improve IVF success.”
Some scientists have called on the international community to extend the amount of time such experimentation can take place.
“If restrictions such as the 14-day rule are viewed as moral truths, such cynicism would be warranted,” three experts – Insoo Hyun, Amy Wilkerson, and Josephine Johnston – wrote in a commentary published yesterday in Nature magazine. “But when they are understood to be tools designed to strike a balance between enabling research and maintaining public trust, it becomes clear that, as circumstances and attitudes evolve, limits can be legitimately recalibrated.”
Pro-life experts said the experimentation destroys human life and could lead to grave ethical dilemmas by extending the research.
“No human being should be used for lethal experimentation, no matter their age or stage of development,” said Dr. David Prentice, a professor of molecular genetics and an Advisory Board Member for the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center. “The 14-day rule is itself arbitrary, and does not assuage those who believe life begins at the moment of sperm-egg fusion. Moreover, allowing experiments on human embryos beyond 14 days post-fertilization risks the lives of untold more human beings, because it further encourages creation and destruction for research purposes.”
Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, called the experimentation “sick and twisted.”
“Science has undeniably proven that a new human life, with unrepeatable DNA, begins at conception,” she said. “There is no reason for experimentation on that human life and science itself should not be heralding thae fact that a tiny human being can survive now for two weeks outside of the womb, all for the sole purpose of experimentation.”
Dr. Prentice noted that embryonic stem cell research “has yielded no benefit thus far,” leading even its most vocal advocates, such as Michael J. Fox, to admit it has not lived up to its promise.
“If this research does not stop at 14 days, where does it stop?” asked Prentice. “This is a risky step which could encourage further eugenic attitudes and actions.”
Dr. Prentice encouraged Congress “to have a full and open debate on the issue of human embryo research before the research community moves further without oversight.”