Once again, Britain embarasses itself by persecuting free speakers:
Tony Miano, 49, a former senior police officer from the US, was held for around six hours, had his fingerprints and DNA taken and was questioned about his faith, after delivering a sermon about “sexual immorality” on a London street.
Mr Miano, who served as a Deputy Sherriff in Los Angeles County, said his experience suggested that the term “thought police” had become a reality in the UK.
Mr. Miano is absolutely correct in this characterization. But he is slightly off the mark with his second charge: “All I’m asking,” Mr. Miano said “is that we are allowed to be part of the conversation and that society stops treating itself as tolerant when the authorities are intolerant to the Christian point of view.” As it happens, this isn’t quite accurate, for the British are equal opportunity censors. Mr Miano touchingly argued that “Homosexuals should have the right to free speech, as should atheists, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus.” Instead, none of them do — at least if, in the course their free speech, they elect to criticize one another. Thus we have the hilarious spectacle of the religious going to prison for condemning atheists, and atheists going to prison for condemning the religious.
Grotesquely, in almost every case, the arrests are brought about because a bystander shopped a speaker to the police. You will notice the familiar pattern. In the case of Harry Taylor, who was convicted for leaving “rude” anti-religious material at Liverpool airport:
The chaplain at the airport, who was “severely distressed” by the discoveries in November and December 2008, immediately reported the images to the police, prosecutors said.
In the case of Tony Miano, who was preaching on the street:
The father of three, who took early retirement from the police to become a full-time preacher two years ago, was detained after was preaching outside a shopping centre in Wimbledon, south west London, on Monday.
He was speaking from a passage from Thessalonians which mentions “sexual immorality” and listed homosexuality alongside “fornication” as examples what he believed went against “God’s law”.
A woman out shopping called the police to complain that she was offended, prompting two officers to be dispatched to arrest him.
In the case of Liam Stacey, who used racist language on Twitter:
When Premier League footballer Fabrice Muamba had a heart attack during a soccer game and was rushed to hospital, a drunk Stacey took to the microblogging site and spewed a series of racially abhorrent tweets into the ether. Other Twitter users — including sports pundit and former top-flight footballer Stan Collymore — quickly noticed his words and reported Stacey to the police, who arrested him and charged him with incitement to racial hatred a few days later.
And on and on it goes.
Back to Mr. Miano’s initial charge:
“As the questioning started, it became apparent that the interrogation was about more than the incident that took place in the street but what I believed and how I think,” he said.“I was being interrogated about my thoughts … that is the basic definition of thought police.”
For a moment, put to one side speech that either incites action or could be construed as inciting action. It is safe to say that there is absolutely no argument in favor of violating free speech of the sort in which Mr. Miano was engaged that doesn’t touch upon thought crime. Mr. Miano was ostensibly arrested for holding views that might upset others, but in truth he was arrested for dissenting from the mainstream in public. John Stuart Mill’s famous aphorism that “if all mankind minus one were of one opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person” was once the touchstone of the English speaking peoples; now, it is often contingent upon the questions “of what group were the offended?” and “to which group does the speaker belong?”
Perhaps the most worrying part of this story is that Section 5 of the Public Order Act, which has been used for years to silence people with unpopular opinions, is about to be changed. Opponents of the law waged a long campaign against the provision, arguing correctly that it leads inevitably to unacceptable violations of free speech and presents anyone who wishes to silence anybody else with a failsafe and subjective means of doing so. As yet, as the Telegraph reports:
In a video placed on YouTube he can be seen explaining the changes to Section Five to the officers who said they were not aware of it.
During the subsequent questioning at Wimbledon police station he was asked about his beliefs on what constitutes “sin” and about how he would treat gay people in hypothetical situations.
You can change a bad law overnight, but you can’t change the culture that a bad law creates overnight. Even when the changes in the law come into effect, we will likely still see these arrests. This is a desperate shame. At one point, the refrain of the British was “it’s a free country.” Now it is “I’m offended.” “It surprised me,” Miano said ”that here in the country that produced the Magna Carta that an otherwise law abiding person could loose his freedom because one person was offended by the content of my speech.”
Welcome to modern Britain.