A Christian street preacher was arrested and locked in a cell for telling a passer-by that homosexuality is a sin in the eyes of God.Now the problem here is a clash of the rights culture. McAlpine has a right to practice his religion and hold his beliefs - it says so in Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which the UK made law in 1998.
Dale McAlpine was charged with causing “harassment, alarm or distress” after a homosexual police community support officer (PCSO) overheard him reciting a number of “sins” referred to in the Bible, including blasphemy, drunkenness and same sex relationships.
Mr McAlpine was handing out leaflets explaining the Ten Commandments or offering a “ticket to heaven” with a church colleague on April 20, when a woman came up and engaged him in a debate about his faith.
During the exchange, he says he quietly listed homosexuality among a number of sins referred to in 1 Corinthians, including blasphemy, fornication, adultery and drunkenness.
After the woman walked away, she was approached by a PCSO who spoke with her briefly and then walked over to Mr McAlpine and told him a complaint had been made, and that he could be arrested for using racist or homophobic language.
The street preacher said he told the PCSO: “I am not homophobic but sometimes I do say that the Bible says homosexuality is a crime against the Creator”.
He claims that the PCSO then said he was homosexual and identified himself as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender liaison officer for Cumbria police. Mr McAlpine replied: “It’s still a sin.”
The preacher then began a 20 minute sermon, in which he says he mentioned drunkenness and adultery, but not homosexuality. Three regular uniformed police officers arrived during the address, arrested Mr McAlpine and put him in the back of a police van. [taking the opportunity to record his fingerprints and a DNA sample for the database, natch - AE]
15 - love to Mr McAlpine.
And he's also got the right to say so in public (Article 10). 30 - love .
The unnamed PCSO has a right to his sexual orientation and can point to legislation "outlawing inciting hatred on the grounds of sexuality" brought in by Jack Straw. 30 all. He can also point out that Article 9 of the ECHR says that religious freedom is subject to:
...such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.30 - 40.
But then McAlpine can say that the legislation that extends the hate crime law to include incidents where sexual orientation is involved has a clause that says:
... for the avoidance of doubt, the discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred.Deuce, and as long as politicians and ministers continue to grant rights to both groups in the interests of freedom and fairness - admittedly perfectly noble goals - we're probably going to be stuck there more or less indefinitely.
What we have is a system of rights that are not only granted by the government, and are therefore subject to the whim of whatever party happens to be running it at the time, but are also liable to be mutually contradictory and conflict with each other. What we need is not more of the same but a something far simpler. In such a system Mr McAlpine simply would be free from being persecuted for his beliefs and the PCSO would be free from being persecuted for his sexuality. Both can find the other's opinions or lifestyle offensive, immoral or even thoroughly repugnant. McAlpine would be free even to stand on his ladder screaming that the PCSO was going to hell for eternity, and the PCSO would be free to yell through a bullhorn that McAlpine's problem is that he lives according to what he thinks a non-existent god told Charlton Heston four thousand years ago, but as long as that's about as far as it goes then both must let the other get on with it. They might not like it, and they certainly might not like each other, but since there'd be no call on them to that doesn't matter, and each would have the same amount of freedom: to live, speak and do exactly as they wish up to the point they prevent the other from doing likewise, and no further.
The term for this is not 'rights' but 'liberty', and it's important not to get confused about which one of the two you actually have.