The day before the UK release of Bruno, Sasha Baron Cohen’s swish along the catwalks of homophobia, the UK’s House of Lords voted to allow Brits to criticize homosexuality. Gay groups are painting this as a victory for homophobia. Christian groups say it is a victory for free speech. I say, on balance, that it is a victory for common sense.
The debate focused mostly on the difference between criticism and incitement to hatred. Is it wrong to teach schoolkids that it’s OK to thump anyone who they think is a sissy? Yes, just as it is wrong to encourage violence against anyone with the “wrong” skin colour. But should people face prosecution for open debate about the pros and cons of gay marriage, nuclear families with same-sex parents and the like? Surely not. We may not like people who are crtical of the things we hold most dear, but our society is built on their right to criticise our views, and ours to criticise theirs.
For my part, I would be more than happy to criticise (possibly even thump!) the self-righteous prig who told The Moral Maze that she didn’t think that gay people ought to be allowed to work as gardeners in Christian schools. (Replay of programme available until 18/07/09) I kept willing one of the panelists to ask her what she thinks Christ would have done (or indeed did do) if any of that tight little band of apostles was gay. I find her views pretty offensive, but I don’t think she should be locked up for expressing them.