Friday, June 13, 2008

Where is freedom of speech?

The Christian Institute says,"An MP from Northern Ireland has been reported to the police for expressing her religious beliefs on homosexual practice.

Iris Robinson, DUP MP for Strangford, was speaking on BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show on Friday.

She said the Bible describes homosexuality as an “abomination”. She also said that homosexuals should seek counselling.

John O’Doherty, Co-Chair of the Northern Ireland Policing Board LGBT Reference Group, has made a formal complaint to the police about the remarks.

“People like Mrs Robinson need to learn that their comments have consequences,” he said.

Last night the Police Service of Northern Ireland confirmed that they were investigating a complaint.

Jeffrey Donaldson, DUP MP for Lagan Valley, said: “This is a country where people have freedom of speech.”

“If someone has made a complaint then the matter will be investigated, I don’t believe that Iris has broken any law so I don’t believe the police investigation will lead to anything.”

It is not the first time that complaints to the police have been used to target those who express opposition to homosexual conduct.

In 2003 the Anglican Bishop of Chester who was investigated by police because he gave an interview to his local paper pointing to research showing that some homosexuals had changed to heterosexuality.

In 2005 Police questioned the family-values campaigner, Lynette Burrows, after she expressed the view on BBC Radio 5 Live that homosexual men may not be suitable for raising children.

In 2006 Sir Iqbal Sacranie, then head of the Muslim Council of Britain, was investigated by police after he said on BBC Radio 4’s PM Programme that the practice of homosexuality is not acceptable.

None of these investigations resulted in any charges.?


Stephen Glenn said...

Do you think that saying there is psychiatric 'cure' for homosexuals is an appropraite response to the question of a homophobic attack on a young man? Besides which freedom of speech and expression need to work both ways.

Beacuse that is the way the whole issue started. Now I do not deny Mrs Robinson's religions beliefs. However, it was the escalation and over reaction to the initial situatoin that is not use of freedom of speech but is misuse of that right and for someone in her position, ie the chair of Health Committee, is seen as an authoritative statement on something which the relevant profession, under her remit, have had to deny.

Graham Weeks said...

Thank you Stephen. Before your response prompted me I had not read this in the Belfast telegraph. "The comments were made in the wake of a homophobic attack in which Stephen Scott (27), from Newtownabbey, suffered a head injury, a leg injury and broken ribs.

Three youths, thought to be in their late teens, knocked him to the ground and continued kicking and punching him as they shouted insults.

Sinn Fein has demanded Mrs Robinson resign as chair of the Assembly's health committee, and the party's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness also said she should consider the impact of her remarks.

Mrs Robinson has refused to apologise, claiming she is standing up for God and has every right to express her view.

Meanwhile, the police last night confirmed they have taken legal advice to establish if Mrs Robinson's comments amount to an incitement of hatred under anti-discrimination legislation in Northern Ireland.

Among those who have complained to police is John O'Doherty, a member of the South Belfast District Policing Partnership, who gave police a transcript of the comments the senior DUP party member made on the BBC's Stephen Nolan radio show.

Mr O'Doherty said: "People like Mrs Robinson need to learn that their comments have consequences. I believe her comments amount to an incitement to hatred and I have made a formal complaint to police.""

I still have no access to the original interview but I deplore all violence and doubt the effectiveness of much psychiatry. I would not direct a person to a doctor to talk about sexual orientation but to a person who will give Christian pastoral counsel.

Kris Acheson said...

Hi Graham,

I find your blog both insightful and interesting. However, I have something of a problem regarding your views on Iris Robinson. Although everyone has a right to free speech (politicians included), there are some things which should be expressed in private. Iris Robinson fails to understand the complexity of homosexuality, and the possible implications of her remarks, and how they might be interpreted whilst launching them into the public domain for varied consumption. She also fails to acknowledge she is part of a government overseeing a complex and increasingly varied society. Times have changed and the Old Testament has no relevance from her and the D.U.P.s cherry picking.

By suggesting, and in effect promoting a ‘cure,’ is effectively to denounce and deny the identity of homosexuals. I wonder what Iris Robinson would say of the various animals and insects who frequently practice homosexuality within the realm of nature.

For my part, I believe homosexuality to be genetic. Many know instinctively (as far as human have them) that they are somehow different at a very young age. Their arousal and attraction are not a conscious decision, it forms part of who they are, whether they accept it or not. Just as black people are not white, gay people are not straight. They world is not a spectrum of black or white. The shades of gray are complexities often beyond our own comprehension and prejudice.

Graham Weeks said...

I do not believe there is a genetic basis to sexual orientation and I do know people can change. There are several Christian groups offering change led by people who have changed.See for example