Posted by: the watchmen | March 24, 2009

Denial of Free Speech for Christian campaigners.

Coroners Bill causes worry for some Christian campaigners

A new set of laws being debated in Parliament today could see clergy in court if they speak out against homosexuality.

The Coroners and Justice Bill could reverse a free speech clause which currently protects people who discuss or criticise sexual conduct, or urge others to refrain from it.

The Ministry of Justice has added a clause to proposed legislation which, if passed, will repeal this exception. Justice Secretary Jack Straw said there were no circumstances in which the right to freedom of speech could justify homophobic behaviour.

The government argues in reality, preachers wouldn’t fall foul of the law. But Mike Judge from the Christian Institute tells Premier, despite those reassurances ministers must keep the right to preach on the subject:

“Whether you agree that homosexuality is acceptable is almost not the issue here. The issue is should people be free to express their opposition to a certain type of conduct without fear of coming into contact with police officers and the powers of the state.”

The Bishop of Chester Peter Forster tells Premier he expects attempts to re-establish the clause, if the House of Commons removes it:

“When it eventually gets to the House of Lords we will have a re-run of the argument and probably a desire to leave in free speech. “It brings together a coalition of the more conservative Christian members of the House of Lords and such prominent personages such as Rowan Atkinson.”

Rowan Atkinson, a long-standing campaigner for freedom of expression, gave a powerful speech at the House of Lords last week backing the retention of the “free speech”.

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