If the information in this article is correct, England’s got a real free speech problem. It may be false or distorted, of course; it comes from a fundamentalist group and they’ve got a long history of exaggerating and distorting reality in order to make themselves look like martyrs. But if this is true, it’s very bad:
Police in Lancashire have told the owner of a Christian café to stop displaying Bible texts on a video screen, because it breaches public order laws.
Officers attended the Salt & Light Coffee House on Layton Road, Blackpool, on Monday 19 September, following a complaint about “insulting” and “homophobic” material.
They apparently play DVDs in this cafe that cycle through all of the verses of the New Testament on the screen and that prompted a complaint.
He says the officers told him that displaying offensive or insulting words is a breach of Section 5 of the Public Order Act, and told him to stop displaying the Bible.
The Bible texts are displayed on a TV screen at the back of the café. Mr Murray uses a set of DVDs called the Watchword Bible.
The DVDs cycle through the whole of the New Testament verse by verse, with the words appearing on the screen. Mr Murray mutes the audio.
Section 5 of the Public Order Act prohibits the display of “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.” That’s incredibly, ridiculously broad. Almost anything can be considered insulting and cause “distress” to someone. Almost anything an atheist might say is considered insulting by many Christians, which means this is the last kind of law anyone should ever support.
And please don’t leave a comment accusing me of being provincial or believing in that idiotic idea of “American exceptionalism” because I support free speech and think every human being should be free to speak their mind no matter what their government says. You’ll only embarrass yourself. I am every bit as critical — more so, actually — when my own government violates that principle, as it does far too often.
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