I was talking about the effect of religious sensitivities on free speech the other day. In the interests of fairness: a brief word about Christian religious sensitivies, following a BBC poll released today (see here and here).
This poll found that many Christians feel victimised in an increasingly secular world. Of particular relevance is the finding that a third of the respondants felt that the way the media portrays Christian people amounts to discrimination.
The complaint is not so much the complaint of religions that have always been marginalised in the West, that they continue to be misunderstood and marginalised. The complaint is more the complaint of a religion long used to being given priority and protesting as it is edged out of the limelight. “It’s not fair!” “You let these foreign religions have their special privileges, yet you keep taking ours away!” “We are the established religion, you know!”
So, for example, a change from “Happy Christmas” to “Season’s Greetings” on county council Christmas cards is seen as discrimination against Christians when in reality it is an effort to stop excluding non-Christians. So a ruling that a Christian cannot wear a big dangly cross outside her work uniform when a Muslim is allowed to wear a visible headscarf is seen as discriminatory even though the former is an example of unnecessary religious ostentation while the visibility of the latter is necessary according to the wearer’s religious duty. So a televised production that mocks Christian symbols is condemned as blasphemy, and a ban is sought, while other work that mocks other religions cannot similarly be condemned as blasphemy because only Christianity has the protection of blasphemy laws. So a law prohibiting Christians from discriminating against gay people is seen as discrimination against Christians, forcing them to provide services to gay people “against their religious convictions” – even though, as far as I know, the bible only calls upon Christians not to have homosex, and says nothing about turning away people who do or might have homosex from services that you would freely provide to others.
It strikes me that we have largely been able to resist the silly brigade when it comes to Christian sensibilities in the arena of free speech. Long may we continue to do so, and far may the resistance spread.