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"These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own." G.K.Chesterton

"You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion." G.K.Chesterton

"As you perhaps know, I haven't always been a Christian. I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that."C. S. Lewis

"I blog, therefore I am." Anon

Monday, July 14, 2003

the first commandment of PC:

Thou shalt not condemn any action, for to do so is to insult anyone who does that action

"Mr [Harry] Hammond, a passionate evangelical Christian in his late sixties, liked to preach the Gospel in the open air of Bournemouth [England], whether anyone was listening to him or not. In April 2002 he was prosecuted under the Public Order Act of 1986, which makes it an offence to display any writing, sign or other visible representation that is threatening, abusive or insulting, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm and distress thereby. Mr Hammond's crime was to display a placard - now destroyed by order of the bench - on which was written: 'Stop immorality. Stop homosexuality. Stop lesbianism.'

As Mr Hammond hoisted his six-word manifesto in the centre of town on a busy Saturday in October 2001, a small crowd gathered round him, partly hecklers but mostly curious onlookers. The hecklers were rough with him. A young woman tried to tug the placard from his hands. During this tussle, Mr Hammond fell flat on his back and had to be helped to his feet by security guards from a nearby shop. Soon afterwards, Mr Hammond's enlightened liberal critics flung clods of earth at him, one striking him on the chest and one on the head. Another of these campaigners for tolerance crept up behind Mr Hammond and emptied a bottle of water over his bald cranium.

Yet when the police were called, it was Mr Hammond who was arrested. Mr Hammond's case may well be the most bizarre arrest in the history of English policing, since the two officers involved disagreed over what to do and did not resolve their disagreement. A more experienced male constable, Wayne Elliott, thought that Mr Hammond should be protected. His younger female colleague. Nicola Gandy, thought that he should be taken in. They argued for 20 minutes before her view prevailed. At the trial the two officers gave evidence on opposite sides, PC Elliott appearing for the defence, while PC Gandy spoke for the prosecution. The Crown Prosecutor laid into Mr Hammond as if he were a serious malefactor. He said the offending placard was 'insulting to people and to people's intelligence. It was insulting to gay people and gay people's friends and he knew that'. A magistrate ruled that the sign 'clearly insulted members of the crowd who had gathered round him'. She pronounced him guilty and fined him £300 plus £300 in costs. She also ordered that his placard be destroyed. Afterwards, PC Elliott said: `I did not want to arrest him. He was entitled to his viewpoint… My attitude was to protect him from members of the crowd rather than protect other people from what he had to say.'

But PC Gandy stood by her decision to arrest Mr Hammond. She said: `He was provoking and inciting violence with highly inappropriate behaviour.' Asked about her motives for taking a strong stance, she explained: `My agenda was to try to maintain the peace. I was not very impressed with Mr Hammond's conduct, I don't think he is a very good representative of the Christian faith.' It is interesting that police officers now feel able to comment in public on the religious opinions of citizens.

Mr Hammond planned to appeal, but died in the summer of 2002, before the case could be heard."
[Peter Hitchens, A Brief History of Crime: the Decline of Oder, Justice and Liberty in England London: Atlantic Books, 2003 pp297-299]

Peter Hitchens' comment on this case is very apt:
Such prosecutions are based on an assumption which is dangerous to proper free speech. They suggest that condemnation of an action is deemed to be insulting to anyone who does that action. If this is so, then the public declaration of almost all absolute morality is outlawed, since in law it is both disturbing and offensive to those whose actions are condemned by it...

I believe...[this direct threat to liberty] originates from the same source as the wider attack on liberty, namely the elite state's certainty that its benevolence and goodness are beyond dispute. This means, by implication, that opposition to its ideas and beliefs are actively offensive, dangerous and subject to legal sanction. We may be witnessing the early stages of the gradual transformation of a free country into a closed society in which some ideas can no longer be publicly expressed. [A Brief Hitory of Crime pp 300, 298]

Guess which ideas are increasingly being censored and repressed?...

9:06:00 pm