Channel 4 News last night called a Christian grandmother who objected to a gay pride parade a criminal on the same spectrum as the killers of a gay man in Trafalgar Square.
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The case of Pauline Howe, 67, hit the headlines on Sunday because her letter of complaint was investigated by police as a ‘hate incident’.
In September Ian Baynham, 62, died two weeks after an attack in Trafalgar Square, London. His assailants reportedly shouted homophobic abuse.
Last night’s Channel 4 News attempted to link the two stories as part of a spectrum of rising “hate crimes” against homosexuals.
The report talked of hate crimes “ranging from the homophobic murder of 62-year-old Ian Baynham in Trafalgar Square in September to elderly women complaining about gay marches through towns”.
The Christian Institute’s Mike Judge said: “I hope those who killed Mr Baynham in that vicious attack are brought to justice for their horrific crime.
“But to associate Mrs Howe’s objection to a gay pride parade with this violent attack is an outrageous slur.
“On national TV, Channel 4 stated that she had committed a crime. She has not.
“Disagreement with someone’s behaviour is not hatred, it is not a crime, and it is certainly not the same thing as murder.
“I think Channel 4 News should apologise for their error and make clear to viewers that Mrs Howe has not committed a criminal offence.”
The decision by Norfolk Police to investigate Mrs Howe has sparked a hot debate about free speech.
Ben Summerskill, the leader of gay campaign group Stonewall, said the police action was “disproportionate”.
Homosexual writer Andrew Pierce called it a “ludicrous overreaction”.
He added: “It suggests yet again that the most fundamental of all freedoms – the right of free speech – is being endangered.”
The Guardian’s legal affairs correspondent, Afua Hirsch, said those “who usually champion rights” have been “furious at the expression of views that they found deeply offensive”.
And the Mirror’s Sue Carroll said that “however obnoxious or objectionable her views might be, Mrs Howe is perfectly entitled to hold them.”