The new issue of Private Eye features an interesting article about Christian Voice, the organisation that co-ordinated the protests about Jerry Springer: The Opera and whose publication of BBC executives’ home phone numbers led to those executives and their children receiving death threats.
As the Eye report, the protests were:
…something of an improvement on the “fewer than 30” people who turned up for the group’s last national event, Harry Hammond Day last October, which was aimed at stopping Bournemouth Council turning the resort into a “homosexual Mecca”.
Hammond was an anti-gay protester described… as a paranoid schizophrenic by his family, who requested (unsuccessfully) that his name should not be associated with any events organised by Christian Voice.
Prior to being “called by God” to set up Christian Voice in 1994, [Stephen] Green chaired the Conservative Family campaign, managing to cause the resignation of several MPs as sponsors of the group by his description of politicians who voted for the lowering of the gay age of consent in 1994 as “Satan’s forces” and his public accusation that Princess Diana was “promoting a homosexual agenda” by her support for AIDS charities.
The Eye also notes that Green’s plan to prosecute the BBC for blasphemy isn’t his first attempt to take legal action against the media; in 1987, he attempted to persuade the Director of Public Prosecutions to “bring charges under the common law offence of conspiracy to corrupt public morals over an advert for Brut aftershave.”
It’s all the more ironic when you read the Christian Voice web site and see Green campaigning passionately against censorship: Green notes that “Almost ten years ago, I was about the only pro-life activist to criticise publicly the arrest of the American pro-lifer Don Treshman. I said it was odd to allow a man into the country and then to lock him up for doing no more than give interviews.”
Ah yes, Don Treshman. Treshman was the leader of the Rescue America movement, and was deported by the Home Office in the early 1990s for inciting violence against abortion doctors. As The Economist reports:
You don’t need to be all that clever to realise that shooting people in the name of life is a losing strategy, even if you justify it on the grounds that â€œquite a number of babies’ lives will be savedâ€, as Don Treshman, the leader of Rescue America, once did.
Treshman’s comments were in response to the murder of Dr David Gunn, who was shot three times in the back at point blank range by a “pro-life” activist, Michael Griffin. The full quote is:
While Gunn’s death is unfortunate, it’s also true that quite a number of babies’ lives will be saved.
Treshman was one of the organisers of the protest at which Gunn was murdered, and in the run-up to the protest Gunn had been the victim of harassment and death threats. Wanted posters featuring Gunn’s photograph and home phone number were distributed at at least one pro-life rally.
The day after the murder, a spokesperson for yet another group, Project Rescue, went even further. Speaking to the Washington Post, Project Rescue’s Michael Bray said:
â€œFrom the standpoint of preventing further murders at the hands of Dr Gunn, the actions of Mr Griffin could be looked at as a good thing. He should be acquitted of any charges, because his actions were done in defence of people who were scheduled to die: the unborn.”
It makes Jerry Springer look rather tame, doesn’t it?
This, then, is the speech our self-appointed moral guardians want to protect, while urging prosecution of anyone who dares criticise or poke fun at their own beliefs. But it’s fine for the guardians to criticise others, whether that’s the gay or lesbian community or entire religions – an attitude best summarised as “nobody can criticise my god, my beliefs or my religion. Buddha’s a fat bastard.” That’s not a direct quote, of course, but I suspect that’s the sort of free speech Green believes in. After all, while he repeatedly argues that it’s utterly wrong and should be criminal for anyone to say anything nasty about Christians, it’s fine for Green to publish a “briefing paper” on Diwali that states flatly: “The Hindu religion is not of God but is a manifestation of Satan.”
It’s hardly surprising, then, that Christian Voice is dead against any new laws on incitement to religious hatred. The site explains:
Christian Voice is strongly in favour of keeping and indeed strengthening our current religious offences. They protect the name of God, the person of Jesus Christ, the holiness of the Bible and the freedom to worship in peace. Secondarily they protect the doctrines of the established church, the Church of England.
At the same time we should like to see the Theatres and Broadcasting Acts amended so that the names of God and Christ could not be used as expletives in film, on stage or on the air.
We strongly oppose the introduction of a specific offence of inciting or stirring up religious hatred. We consider it would be impossible to frame without limiting our freedom to preach the Gospel, and would be prejudicial to inter-faith relations.
… We are concerned that the extension of the 1986 law against stirring up racial hatred to include religious hatred would impede the freedom of speech of Christians.
Religious hatred would probably be defined as “hatred against a group of persons defined by reference to religious belief or lack of religious belief”. We believe a Bible preacher would be brought before the Court for preaching against Islam, or against sin, on the grounds that he hated Muslims or agnostics… even holding up banners or handing out printed tracts could become unlawful.
So if I were to say “Christ on a bike, that Christian Voice bunch are a bunch of bloody lunatics”, I should be silenced; if Christian Voice wants to say that Muslims are all satanists, that’s OK. Poking fun at Jesus isn’t on, but spreading hate against gay people, other religions or non-believers should be protected by law.