The satirical magazine “Private Eye” once ran a joke about the new intolerance in Britain:
Placard: Islam Destroys Freedom of Speech!
Policeman: You can’t say that
This rings truer than ever. The self-appointed guardians of our present illiberal culture will tolerate anything anyone says — as long as it chimes in with their own opinions.
Tomorrow the High Court will decide whether a Christian group that helps gays “overcome” their sexual inclination has the right to advertise its services. Gay rights group Stonewall was allowed to run the slogan: “Some people are gay. Get over it.” on London buses. But when Core Issues Trust (CIT), the Christian group, decided to counter with a poster that read “Not gay! Post-gay, ex-gay and proud. Get over it!” Mayor Boris Johnson vetoed their campaign. Given the way that the view of homosexuality as a sin is one (of the many) religious principles that run counter to the present culture, I think we can safely assume that the High Court will rule against the Christians.
This is troubling for supporters of free speech, as well as religious freedom, Philip Johnston writes in today’s Daily Telegraph: “Just as gays are entitled to extol their own sexual identity, so people who take another view, on whatever grounds, should be allowed to say so, shouldn’t they?”
The problem, as Johnston notes, is that “you might think it is right to muzzle such people because, in reality, they just don’t like gays and are hiding their disapproval behind a spurious religiosity… In some cases that may be true, but it is not the issue here: this is about free speech.”
If this intolerance continues, people of faith will have to make for the catachombs — or practise their worship behind closed doors in their churches. (We haven’t reached the point where our liberal thought police order our churches to be shut down. Yet.) The minute the religious step into public space with their “antiquated” ideas about what is good and what is not, they run the risk of being muzzle (and sometimes arrested). Religious freedom extended to nuns in thier convent or rabbis in their synagogue or (certain) imams in their mosques is one thing; but religious freedom extended to the lay Christian Jew or Muslim who interacts with ordinary people in ordinary places, that is simply not on.
Unfortunately, religion is about what happens in the everyday life of everyday people and cannot be cordoned off — not even at the behest of the illiberals at the top.