David Frum’s concerns about the potential loss of religious freedom, and even freedom of speech, on the matter of homosexuality are well taken. Kathryn is right. Frum is essential reading today. Meanwhile, here’s an example to back up Frum’s point. I’ve received some very interesting, yet disturbing, communications from Henrik L. Barva, a political editor at Nya Wermlands-Tidningen, in Karlstad, Sweden. Barva opposes gay marriage, which Sweden does not yet have. Yet Sweden recently widened the scope of its law forbidding incitement to hate. The law now forbids incitement to hate against gays. The problem is that the law includes a prohibition on “expressing disdain.” Now what exactly does it mean to “express disdain?” Is it expressing disdain against gays to quote biblical passages on homosexuality, or to put the term “marriage” in quotation marks when referring to gay marriage? Above all, is it expressing disdain against gays even to argue against gay marriage?
Barva says that the changes in the law have severely constrained in his ability to argue against gay marriage. After an earlier article opposing gay marriage, Barva says he was cited by the government’s “Gay Ombudsman,” whose job it is to enforce the expanded laws against expressing disdain for gays. Barva says he was afraid even to argue with the Ombudsman, for fear of being declared in violation of the law. So at this point, although Sweeden does not yet have gay marriage, it has become all but impossible to publicly argue against it. Frum makes it clear that Canada is heading in Sweeden’s direction. And in a larger sense, Canada is already there. There was no real public debate on gay marriage in Canada. The courts saw to that. One way or another, honest debate on the gay marriage issue is being stifled. That’s a big part of the reason why the opinion polls are shifting. Even here in the United States, the mainstream press refuses to carry the kind of honest disagreement we had here at NRO during the gay-marriage debate.
Henrik Barva’s report on the sad state of free speech in Sweden also makes another point. When those who argue for gay marriage hold up Europe and Canada as models, let’s remember that America does not always–and should not always–follow Canada and the Europeans. We did not do that on Iraq, nor should we do so on gay marriage. Free speech is slipping away in Sweeden, and may someday do so in Canada. That tells us that the Europeans can be counter-models, as well as models.