Labour vows to rip up free speech safeguard
Tue, 6 Apr 2010
The Labour Party has made a manifesto commitment to abolish a free speech safeguard introduced by Lord Waddington to a sexual orientation ‘hate’ crime law.
The safeguard makes clear that criticising homosexual conduct, or encouraging someone to refrain from such conduct, is not in itself a crime.
The free speech protection is backed by comedy actor, Rowan Atkinson, and homosexuals Peter Tatchell, Matthew Parris and Christopher Biggins.
But the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, says a new Labour Government would use the Parliament Acts to forcibly remove it, ignoring the House of Lords if need be.
The safeguard is known by some as the “Waddington amendment” because it was successfully introduced by Lord Waddington amid a backdrop of Christians being investigated by police for expressing their opinions on homosexual conduct.
Labour’s determined stance is a “slap in the face to Christians and others who hold traditional values on sexual conduct”, according to The Christian Institute’s Mike Judge.
He said: “The Government’s repeated attempts to squash Lord Waddington’s free speech safeguard should concern anyone who cares about civil liberty.
“Disagreement is not hatred, and Christians are tired of being treated like criminals for holding traditional belief about marriage.
“Surely people in a democracy should be free to express their views about sexual conduct without fearing a knock at the door from the police”, Mr Judge commented.
Last week the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, confirmed Labour’s determination to repeal the free speech shield as he helped launch a ‘hate crime’ guide published by homosexual campaign group, Stonewall.
According to a Stonewall press release: “Alan Johnson also announced a Labour Party manifesto commitment to fight the ‘Waddington amendment’.”
The Government has tried to remove the amendment on four occasions – losing in the Lords each time.
Labour blames Tory Peers but the record shows that the amendment was voted for by large numbers of crossbench Peers and some Liberal Democrats as well as Conservative members of the House of Lords. Many Labour Peers did not vote with the Government.
Speaking in November, Gordon Brown told the homosexual magazine Attitude: “I’m proud that thanks to Labour, incitement to homophobic hate will now be a crime.
“But the law we recently passed was watered down through the so-called Waddington amendment, which provides a ‘freedom of speech’ opt-out from laws designed to stop incitement.
“The amendment was defeated by Labour MPs in the Commons four times – but Tory Lords conspired to force it through Parliament.
“That’s simply not acceptable, so the next Labour manifesto will contain a commitment to reversing Waddington, and we will invoke the Parliament Act to overturn the Tory Lords if we have to.”
When the clause was being debated last year comedian Rowan Atkinson spoke out defending the free speech protection.
Mr Atkinson told Peers in the House of Lords at the time: “Do I think that I would risk prosecution because of jokes or drama about sexual orientation with which I might be involved if we don’t have the free speech clause?
“Not really – but I dread something almost as bad – a culture of censoriousness, a questioning, negative and leaden attitude that is encouraged by legislation of this nature”.
He added: “It would provide succour and reassurance to those of us in the creative world and I would plead for its retention.”
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