Hilary White

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Mr. Bean star calls for repeal of British hate speech law

Hilary White
Hilary White
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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and television comedy stars, has told the government that the hate speech provisions of the Public Order Act must be repealed to uphold the country’s ancient traditions of freedom of speech.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.”

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
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Indiana faces backlash as it becomes 20th state to protect religious liberty

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By Ben Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, March 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Thursday, Indiana became the 20th state to prevent the government from forcing people of faith to violate their religious beliefs in business or the public square.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 101) into law, saying the freedom of religion is a preeminent American value.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence said.

Gov. Pence, a possible dark horse candidate for president in 2016, cited court cases brought by religious organizations and employers, including Catholic universities, against the HHS mandate. “One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.”

The new law could also prevent Christian business owners from being compelled to bake a cake or take photographs of a same-sex "marriage" ceremony, if doing so violates their faith. In recent years, business owners have seen an increased level of prosecution for denying such services, despite their religious and moral beliefs.

The state's pro-life organization applauded Pence for his stance. "Indiana's pro-life community is grateful to Gov. Mike Pence for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law,” said Indiana Right to Life's president and CEO Mike Fichter. “This bill will give pro-lifers a necessary legal recourse if they are pressured to support abortion against their deeply-held religious beliefs.”

“RFRA is an important bill to protect the religious freedom of Hoosiers who believe the right to life comes from God, not government,” he said.

The state RFRA is based on the federal bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The Supreme Court cited the federal law when it ruled that Hobby Lobby had the right to refuse to fund abortion-inducing drugs, if doing so violated its owners' sincerely held religious beliefs.

In signing the measure – similar to the one Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed – Pence and the state of Indiana have faced a torrent of venom from opponents of the bill, who claim it grants a “right to discriminate” and raises the spectre of segregation.

"They've basically said, as long as your religion tells you to, it's OK to discriminate against people," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national homosexual pressure group.

The Disciples of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination based in the state capital, has said it will move its 2017 annual convention if the RFRA became state law. The NCAA warned the bill's adoption “might affect future events” in the Hoosier state.

Pence denied such concerns, saying, "This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would've vetoed it."

The bill's supporters say that, under the Obama administration, it is Christians who are most likely to suffer discrimination.

"Originally RFRA laws were intended to protect small religious groups from undue burdens on practicing their faith in public life,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “It was not imagined there would come a day when laws might seek to jail or financially destroy nuns, rabbis or Christian camp counselors who prefer to abstain from the next wave of sexual and gender experimentation. And there's always a next wave.”

The bill's supporters note that it does not end the government's right to coerce people of faith into violating their conscience in every situation. However, it requires that doing so has to serve a compelling government interest and the government must use the least restrictive means possible. “There will be times when a state or federal government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression – to ensure public safety, for instance,” said Sarah Torre, an expert at the Heritage Foundation. “But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom.”

Restricting the ability of government to interfere in people's private decisions, especially their religious decisions, is the very purpose of the Constitution, its supporters say.

"Religious freedom is the cornerstone of all liberty for all people,” Tooley said. “Deny or reduce it, and there are no ultimate limits on the state's power to coerce."

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Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting.
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Porn is transforming our men from protectors into predators. Fight back.

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By Jonathon van Maren

Since I’ve gotten involved in anti-pornography work, I’ve met countless men who struggle, fight, or have beaten pornography. Each person seems to deal with the guilt and shame that accompanies porn use in a different way—some deny that it’s “all that bad,” others pretend that they could “stop whenever they want,” many insist that “everyone is doing it,” and most, when pressed, admit to a deep sense of self-loathing.

One worry surfaces often in conversation: What do my past or current struggles with pornography say about me as a man? Can I ever move past this and have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship?

I want to address this question just briefly, since I’ve encountered it so many times.

First, however, I’ve written before how I at times dislike the language of “struggling” with pornography or pornography “addiction,” not because they aren’t accurate but because too often they are used as an excuse rather than an explanation. It is true, many do in fact “struggle” with what can legitimately be considered an addiction, but when this language is used to describe an interminable battle with no end (and I’ve met dozens of men for whom this is the case), then I prefer we use terminology like “fighting my porn habit.” A semantic debate, certainly, but one I think is important. We need to stop struggling with porn and start fighting it.

Secondly, pornography does do devastating things to one’s sense of masculinity. We know this. Pornography enslaves men by the millions, perverting their role as protector and defender of the more vulnerable and turning them into sexual cannibals, consuming those they see on-screen to satisfy their sexual appetites.

What often starts as mere curiosity or an accidental encounter can turn into something that invades the mind and twists even the most basic attractions. I’ve met porn users who can’t believe the types of things they want to watch. They haven’t simply been using porn. Porn has actively reshaped them into something they don’t recognize and don’t like. 

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Porn is this generation’s great assault on masculinity and the role of men in society. It is essential that we win this battle for the sake of society’s survival. Contrary to what the gender-bending and family-morphing progressive elites claim, good husbands and good fathers and good church leaders are necessary for a healthy society. But pornography is destroying marriages, creating distant and disconnected fathers, and, metaphoricaclly castrating men, hindering their ability and desire to make a positive difference in the society around us.

So, with this sobering set of facts in mind let’s return to the question: what do pornography struggles, past and present, say about a man?

The proper way to respond is with everything that is good about masculinity. We have to fight pornography as men have fought countless evils throughout the ages. We need to fight pornography to protect women, and wives, and children, and our society at large. This is how pornography threatens society, by castrating men, and turning them from protectors into predators. Rooting out the evil in our own lives allows us to better fulfill the role we are called to perform in the lives of others. Battling our own demons enables us to battle the wider cultural demons. Every day without porn is another bit of virtue built. Virtue is not something you’re born with. Virtues are habits that you build. And one day without porn is the first step towards the virtue of being porn-free.

Many men ask me if men who have had past porn addictions are cut out for being in a relationship or working in the pro-life movement or in other areas where we are called to protect and defend the weak and vulnerable. And the answer to that is an unequivocal yes. Our society needs men who know what it means to fight battles and win. Our society needs men who can say that they fought porn and they beat porn, because their families and their friends were too important to risk. Our society needs men who rose to the challenge that the evils of their generation threw at them, and became better men as the result. And our society needs men who can help their friends and their sons and those around them fight the plague of pornography and free themselves from it, too—and who can understand better and offer encouragement more relevant than someone who has fought and been freed themselves?

So the answer to men is yes. Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting. Lend them support and encouragement. We cannot change the fact that porn has left an enormous path of destruction in its wake. But we can change the fact that too many people aren’t fighting it. We can change our own involvement. And we can rise to the challenge and face this threat to masculinity with all that is good about masculinity.

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Red Alert!

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By John-Henry Westen

I don’t like having to do this, but we have always found it best to be totally upfront with our readers: our Spring fundraising campaign is now worrying us! 

You see, with just 6 days remaining, we have only raised 30% of our goal, with $125,000 still left to raise. That is a long ways to go yet.

We have no choice but to reach our minimum goal of $175,000 if we are going to be able to continue serving the 5+ million readers who rely on us every month for investigative and groundbreaking news reports on life, faith and family issues.

Every year, LifeSite readership continues to grow by leaps and bounds. This year, we are again experiencing record-breaking interest, with over 6 million people visiting our website last month alone!

This unprecedented growth in turn creates its own demand for increased staff and resources, as we struggle to serve these millions of new readers.

And especially keep this in mind. As many more people read LifeSite, our mission of bringing about cultural change gets boosted. Our ultimate goal has always been to educate and activate the public to take well-informed, needed actions.

Another upside to our huge growth in readers is that it should be that much easier to reach our goal. To put it simply: if each person who read this one email donated whatever they could (even just $10) we would easily surpass our goal! 

Today, I hope you will join the many heroes who keep this ship afloat, and enable us to proclaim the truth through our reporting to tens of millions of people every year!

Your donations to LifeSite cause major things to happen! We see that every day and it is very exciting. Please join with us in making a cultural impact with a donation of ANY AMOUNT right now. 

You can also donate by phone or mail. We would love to hear from you!

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