Free speech in the U.K.: two data points

by Walter Olson on May 31, 2013

Life without a First Amendment: “Eleven people across UK arrested for making ‘racist or anti-religious’ comments on Facebook and Twitter about British soldier’s death” [Daily Mail (with notice: "Sorry, we are unable to accept comments for legal reasons"), more, The Lincolnite; Eugene Volokh (quoting British police: "People should stop and think about what they say on social media before making statements as the consequences could be serious")]

On a happier note, with regard to countering objectionable speech, the BBC reports that when members of the nativist English Defence League organized a gathering outside a mosque in the city of York, worshipers brought out tea and cookies and invited them inside for a chat.

Data point 2 about free speech in Britain: 11 lawyers have signed a letter in the Guardian “threatening supermarkets with immediate legal action” unless they remove from sale “lad’s mags,” men’s magazines that are anathema to feminist campaigners. “Displaying these publications in workplaces, and/or requiring staff to handle them in the course of their jobs, may amount to sex discrimination and sexual harassment contrary to the Equality Act 2010,” it says. “Similarly, exposing customers to these publications in the process of displaying them is capable of giving rise to breaches of the Equality Act.” [Guardian; Toby Young, Telegraph; ITV] Young points out that reported incidents of domestic violence have fallen quite sharply since lad’s mags became popular in the 1990s, making nonsense of claims that the publications somehow promote male aggression. For the campaigners, writes Toby Young, “this is simply about preventing men – predominantly working-class men – from buying magazines that they consider vulgar and in poor taste.”

More in comments from Bill Poser: “Here’s another: police in Wales ordered a shop-keeper to remove T-shirts saying ‘Obey our laws, respect our beliefs, or go back to your own country.’”

And from the “It Can’t Happen Here” department: “Justice Department to Hold Seminar Warning Against the Legal ‘Consequences’ of Anti-Muslim Speech.” Let’s hope there’s some reporting error here.

{ 4 comments }

1 ras 05.31.13 at 3:56 pm

Tea and cookies, good.

Crumpet, bad.

2 Bill Poser 06.01.13 at 1:22 am

Here’s another: police in Wales ordered a shop-keeper to remove T-shirts saying “Obey our laws, respect our beliefs, or go back to your own country.”

3 rxc 06.01.13 at 10:19 am

I think that once the UK has become independent of the EU they should write a real constitution, with a bunch of “thou shalt not” provisions, as opposed to the EU, and its “thou shall” constitution that guarantees every EU citizen heaven-on-earth plus a pony. And the first article (not amendment) of the UK constitution should guarantee freedom of speech. They might find a suitable template is some other English-speaking country.

And, while I am thinking about it, if they decide to separate from the EU they should probably publish some sort of explanation, with something along the lines of

“when in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them to another…”

I am sure they can find an appropriate template somewhere…

4 Jeff Richardson 06.03.13 at 3:52 am

Does the USA first amendment allow someone to (1) call “fire” in a crowded theatre or (2) call a black person the “n word”?

Has the USA first amendment permitted wealthy Americans to buy control of the American political process?

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