On one of his more recent posts, Lionheart quotes from an email sent to him by the Bedfordshire Police:
For the public record, here is a full copy of the e-mail sent by Ian Holden of Bedfordshire Police to ‘Llionheart’ yesterday, Thursday 3 January 2008:
QUOTE FROM IAN HOLDEN, BEDFORDSHIRE POLICE
The offence that I need to arrest you for is “Stir up Racial Hatred by displaying written material” contrary to sections 18(1) and 27(3) of the Public Order Act 1986.
You will be arrested on SUSPICION of the offence. You would only be charged following a full investigation based on all the relevant facts and CPS consent.
I have no additional information yet on Lionheart’s situation. As Brian Micklethwait has pointed out at Samizdata, Lionheart is so far the sole source for this story. As a result, I don’t yet recommend a mass letter-writing campaign aimed at British embassies. Let’s wait for more data to come in.
In the meantime, go over to Transatlantic Conservative and watch an inspiring music video which TC has posted in solidarity with Lionheart. It’s Morrissey’s “Irish Blood, English Heart”, and my favorite line is: “I will die with both of my hands untied.”
Several commenters took issue with me for saying that the United States might not be so far behind Britain and other countries of the EU in the suppression of free speech. Our situation is not so bad, they say; after all, we have the First Amendment to protect us.
This is true. The First Amendment would indeed protect us, but only if the elites who govern us are willing to honor and enforce it.
Unfortunately, there is ample evidence indicating that those who enjoy the perks and privileges of power have no particular interest in the First Amendment when free speech threatens their own positions.
Here’s what I said in response to the commenters:
You are quite right that things are not as bad here. But 10 years ago in the UK free speech was not that different from it was in the USA. Things can change very quickly.
What is dangerous here is the utter disregard for the Constitution, which now means whatever the nine old men in DC say it means. For example, I refer you to Kelo, or campaign finance laws, or affirmative action laws (now renewed with a 25-year sunset, thanks to our friend Sandra Day O’Connor), or the abortion decisions. The justices have twisted the Constitution into a pretzel to ram these things through.
If Scalia were to die next January and Hillary were to appoint his successor, “hate speech” restrictions might well pass constitutional muster. Conyers and CAIR have been working on them for several years.
This is not an absolutely insane fancy; it’s quite possible.
– – – – – – – – –
Which is what I meant in my post.
And the Republicans are only a hair’s breadth better. Consider McCain on the First Amendment or Giuliani on the Second.
We are no longer a nation under the rule of law. This has been true at least since Lyndon’s time, and probably all the way back to FDR.
We are ruled by a presbyter of judges, and their feelings determine the outline of our liberties.
A reader wrote and asked me for background on Rep. John Conyers’ (D-MI) hate speech resolution, so I ransacked my memory and resorted to Google to bring myself up to date on the “hate speech” legislation making its way through the United States Congress
The original Conyers resolution was H. Res. 288, which was proposed in 2005 during the 109th Congress. The full text — which is very similar to the resolution recently passed by the UN General Assembly, and may as well have been dictated by CAIR — can be found on Conyers’ blog:
Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives condemning bigotry and religious intolerance, and recognizing that holy books of every religion should be treated with dignity and respect.
Whereas believers of all religions, including the Abrahamic faiths of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, should be treated with respect and dignity;
Whereas the word Islam comes from the Arabic root word meaning “peace” and “submission”;
Whereas there are an estimated 7,000,000 Muslims in America, from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds, forming an integral part of the social fabric of America;
Whereas the Quran is the holy book for Muslims who recite passages from it in prayer and learn valuable lessons about peace, humanity and spirituality;
Whereas it should never be official policy of the United States Government to disparage the Quran, Islam, or any religion in any way, shape, or form;
Whereas mistreatment of prisoners and disrespect toward the holy book of any religion is unacceptable and against civilized humanity;
Whereas the infringement of an individual’s right to freedom of religion violates the Constitution and laws of the United States: Now, therefore, be it
1 Resolved, That the House of Representatives —
(1) condemns bigotry, acts of violence, and intolerance against any religious group, including our friends, neighbors, and citizens of the Islamic faith; (2) declares that the civil rights and civil liberties of all individuals, including those of the Islamic faith, should be protected; (3) recognizes that the Quran, the holy book of Islam, as any other holy book of any religion, should be treated with dignity and respect; and (4) calls upon local, State, and Federal authorities to work to prevent bias-motivated crimes and acts against all individuals, including those of the Islamic faith.
Notice that the resolution offered recognition and protection specifically to the Koran. All this coming from the party that has the vapors whenever the Bible is even mentioned near federal government property!
As it turned out, H. Res. 288 was never enacted. Various other proposals have been aired since. The latest is H.R. 1592, which is a “hate crimes” bill similar to other laws that have previously been enacted.
What distinguishes them from Conyers’ bill (and the UN resolution, as well as the EU’s Framework Decision) is that “hate” doesn’t rise to the level of a crime unless it accompanies an actual crime (rape, murder, spitting on the sidewalk, etc.).
This obstructionist distinction is due to that pesky ol’ First Amendment, which assures the citizens of the United States that they are free to say what they like, even if it is hateful.
However, the Supreme Court has demonstrated over the last thirty or forty years that it considers the First Amendment to be quite fungible on the issue of free speech. George W. Bush cynically signed the McCain-Feingold bill and thereby abrogated his oath to uphold the Constitution . His reasoning was that the Supreme Court would surely strike down such a blatantly unconstitutional law, apparently not realizing how far into its dotage the institution really is.
The court, the president, and Congress consider the United States Constitution to be a mere advisory document, not something that rises to the status of a binding legal instrument.
The Constitution means whatever those nine black-robed people sitting in that imposing and drafty building on Capitol Hill say it means.
That’s why I say that it could happen here.