Friday, 15 May 2009

We still have freedom of speech in Britain . . .

Recently, the Rev. Ian Watson, a minister in the Church of Scotland, posted a sermon on his blog. Mr. Watson, who believes that the Bible teaches that sexual relations between people of the same sex are wrong, compared the struggle in the church against those who believe that homosexual lifestyles are acceptable for Christians to the struggle against Hitler in World War II.

Not surprisingly, this didn’t go down well with everyone. The Times headline screamed “Anti-gay minister the Rev Ian Watson in ‘Nazi battle’ outrage.” (What has become of The Times? That sounds more like The Sun to me.) The sermon is not short, and I wonder how many of Mr. Watson’s critics read it all. I certainly didn’t, though I skimmed it, and discovered that it didn’t say much about homosexuality, and never mentioned the word ‘Nazi’.

Most of those who share Mr. Watson’s views on the interpretation and authority of the Bible would probably not think it very controversial, while most of those who don’t, undoubtedly think that it is completely over the top. However, it is not these issues that I wish to comment on.

What I wish to comment on is one line in The Times’ report.
“The sermon was greeted with outrage and disbelief by people inside and outside the Church of Scotland. Some observers questioned whether Mr Watson had infringed legislation on sexual equality.”
In other words, some people - people that The Times consults - actually believe that it is probably illegal in modern Britain for a clergyman to say that he thinks homosexual behaviour is not right for Christians. And one gets the distinct impression that these people think that if it isn't illegal, it probably should be.

Of course, Mr Watson has not infringed the laws of this country. But in the last decade we have had so much new legislation in Britain - much of it designed to curb our historic freedoms - that people now assume that we have fewer freedoms that we actually have. That is worrying. And even more worrying, there are clearly people who think that this process has not gone far enough, and are keen for our freedoms to be eroded still further.


patently said...

Yes, that is nasty.

Whatever the laws say, it is clear that the perception amongst those that are their main beneficiaries is that the laws proscribe certain types of thought, not certain types of deed.

Did he call for people to rise up and wipe out homosexuals? To send the RAF to bomb Brighton? I doubt it, somehow. All he did was to hold an opinion with which they disagree, and they seem seriously to believe that this is illegal.

Greg said...

Hmm, the US is not too far behind.