If you think all western democracies view and think of free speech in tightly similar manners, you would be mistaken. A few years back, we chronicled the travails of Canadian publisher Ezra Levant who reproduced, in one of his publications, the depictions of Mohammed that originally stirred a violent row over in Denmark. He was hauled before something called the Alberta Human Rights Commission for questioning whereby he leveled some of the most inspiring free speech smack at the hapless bureaucrat assigned to question him before he was exonerated of any wrong-doing. Past blog posts on the subject can be found here.
This past July, an American was arrested by the London police for what was charged as "homophobic" speech.
An American evangelist preaching on the streets of London was arrested July 1 on a charge of using "homophobic" speech. Tony Miano, a pastor and retired 20-year Los Angeles County deputy sheriff, was arrested by London police in front of the stadium holding the Wimbledon tennis championships, after a woman told police she was offended by Miano's words concerning homosexual behavior.
The London Telegraph reported that Miano was speaking to passersby from the New Testament book of I Thessalonians (chapter 4), warning of the eternal dangers of sexual immorality, including homosexuality. A woman, who can be seen on a video of the incident on the Telegraph website, complained to police, who took the man into custody, arresting him for using "homophobic" speech. "During the subsequent questioning at Wimbledon police station," the Telegraph reported, Miano "was asked about his beliefs on what constitutes 'sin' and about how he would treat gay people in hypothetical situations."
Miano recalled that "as the questioning started it became apparent that the interrogation was about more than the incident that took place in the street, but what I believed and how I think." He added that "I was being interrogated about my thoughts."
Yeah, we'd be pretty freaked out as well coming to the realization that our British cousins were taking this notion of "thought police" in quite a literal sense. The police let Miano cool his heels in jail for 7 hours before releasing him without charge.
That no charges were filed, we do not find particularly comforting. The real crime is that he was brought in at all.
What's lost on many people including those on this side of the pond is the 1st amendment provides protection for speech that is unpopular or that we may find offensive, otherwise why have it. If we are all singing from the same sheet of music, so to speak, free speech protection becomes unneeded.
And as far as this sort of thing not happening over here, please recall the tweets/statements from people that should absolutely know better calling for the head of the man who made that crappy Youtube video (pictured) upon which the Obama administration tried to blame the Benghazi consulate attack. It was disgusting. Of course, Team O knew the video did not instigate the attacks but the man is still in jail for parole "violations". He is, indeed, a political prisoner.
The take-away here is that when this country's arbiters of what is correct thinking and proper speech espouse such a casual disregard for free speech, popular opinion shifts after a time and which makes passing speech-restricting laws that much easier.
We're hell-bent on copying Britain's wretched healthcare system, what makes you so sure we won't start adopting some of their horrible speech laws as well?
Update #1: Thanks for the Instalanche, Glenn! If you like, I can be followed on Twitter @deanriehm
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