Christians in Ireland feel unable to express their opinions on same-sex marriage, the CEO of free speech group Index on Censorship has said.
Jodie Ginsberg, speaking in a debate on religious freedom, emphasised the need for tolerance of those with non-mainstream views, and their freedom to express those views.
‘The Conscience Question: Are we free people?’ was part of the ‘Enemies of the State: Religious Freedom and the New Repression’ conference hosted by current-affairs magazine Spiked.
Ginsberg said that Christians in Ireland who are critical of same-sex marriage – because they believed it to be wrong – felt that their views were “shut down and not entertained in the discussion.
“They weren’t allowed even to express their own personal beliefs and conscience.”
The former Reuters Bureau Chief for the UK and Ireland emphasised the importance of debate, saying freedom of conscience and expression were “vital”, especially when “our conscience and our ideas appear to challenge the status quo”.
‘Willing to listen’
Ginsberg said: “Failure to be willing to listen to those with whom we disagree has led to, what I would call, the development of ‘an intolerance of intolerance’.”
Adding: “If we start to shut those people down from expressing their opinions and their conscience, we can’t have a debate about the rights and wrongs about the underlying issues”.
Freedom of conscience has to extend to the public square, and not be confined to people’s homes, she concluded.
“We need to defend freedom of conscience not just as our right to think privately in the privacy of our own homes, but the vital need for us to be able to voice that inner voice externally so that we can debate, discuss and come to some kind of consensus about the kind of world we want to live in together”.