Arthur, where are you?

Free speech, that old-fashioned notion enshrined in British Common Law and further enlarged in the American colonies, seems to be dying in the mother country. From The Guardian

Don’t be absurd, you say. But would it be any more absurd than a student being arrested under section 5 for saying to a mounted policeman: “Excuse me, do you realise your horse is gay?“, or the 19-year-old Kyle Little, charged and convicted – though then cleared on appeal – for delivering what was described as a “daft little growl” and a woof at two labradors? Or a 15-year-old summonsed for holding up a sign outside the Church of Scientology’s central London headquarters saying: “Scientology is not a religion. It is a dangerous cult“? (I repeat those exact words here, as my own. Officer, you know where to find me.)

Then there was the gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, arrested and charged for shouting slogans and displaying placards condemning the persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people by Islamic governments, during a protest at a Hizb ut-Tahrir rally. And an evangelical Christian preacher who was convicted and fined for holding up a home-made sign that, beside the motto “Jesus is Lord”, proclaimed: “Stop immorality, stop homosexuality, stop lesbianism.”

It gets worse…

Section 5 of the 1986 Public Order Act says a person “is guilty of an offence if he (a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or (b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby”.

Plus, helping enforce that Act is a ratio of 1 CCTV camera for every 32 people.

Wow, lots of folks on Twitter and blogs would be headed straight to the hoosegow if we had that here. Oops, wait, we might be getting there-

Praised by colleagues as smart, friendly and passionate about the law, Teresa Wagner was a leading candidate when two jobs came open to teach writing at the University of Iowa law school. An alumnus, she was already working part-time at its writing center and received positive reviews from students and a key committee.

But after she interviewed with the faculty in 2007, one job went to someone without teaching experience and the other wasn’t filled. She was passed over for other jobs in the coming years. She now says she was blackballed because of her legal work against abortion rights and will take her complaint to a jury this week in a case that is being closely watched in higher education because of longstanding allegations of political bias at left-leaning law schools.

Conservatives have maintained for years that they are passed over for jobs and promotions at law schools because of their views, but formal challenges have been rare, in part because of the difficulty of proving discrimination. Wagner’s case is considered the first of its kind.

“This will put a spotlight on a terrible injustice that is being perpetrated throughout American higher education,” said Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, who says he routinely hears from rejected conservative professors. “What makes Teresa Wagner’s case so extraordinary is she came up with the documentary evidence of what was really going on.”

Seems like we’re starting down the same road- see almost any major university’s speech code.

I just finished watching a really hokey old movie, “Excalibur”, which is basically a straight retelling of the Morte D’Arthur. Really shows its age. Cringe-inducing- almost. But implicit in it is that one day, in her hour of greatest need, King Arthur will return to save Merrie England, presumably from herself. I’m thinking now might be a good time, Art.

And could you stop by the Colonies and remind our people of the one thing that is most important about our freedom- that silly old thing called Free Speech?

 

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