Montreal, August 15, 2004  /  No 145  
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Sean Gabb is a British libertarian writer. This article was first published as a Free Life Commentary.
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by Sean Gabb
          Question: When is a prisoner of conscience not a prisoner of conscience? Answer: When he has been jailed for saying something politically incorrect. 
          Ake Green discovered this in 2003. The pastor of a Pentecostal congregation in Sweden, he preached a sermon during which he referred to homosexuality as "abnormal, a horrible cancerous tumour in the body of society." He also quoted some of the standard biblical injunctions against homosexuality. He was denounced to the authorities and charged under a 2002 law which makes it a criminal offence to say rude things about any of the usual privileged groups that is, women, non-whites, non-Christians, homosexuals and so forth. He stood trial in January this year, and was at last at the end of July, I think sentenced to imprisonment for one month.
          So far as I can tell, his case went unreported in the British media. Certainly, neither Amnesty International nor any other of the human rights groups took up the case. Ironically, it reached the foreign media when it was taken up by the government of a former Soviet satellite. 
          Vladimir Palko is the Slovak Minister of the Interior and Deputy Leader of the Slovak Christian Democrat Party (KDH). On the 2nd August this year, he spoke up in favour of the right to freedom of speech. In the course of his speech, he referred to the Green case as "a political trial, a violation of the right to freedom of expression." He added: "When I read the report I understood that a crawling tyranny is looming."(1) 
          He later called in the Swedish Ambassador and gave her a lecture on the meaning of human rights. She replied that "Swedish law states that public addresses cannot be used to instigate hatred towards certain group." She was supported by Kjell Yngvesson, the lawyer who handled the prosecution of Pastor Green: "One may have whatever religion one wishes, but this is an attack on all fronts against homosexuals. Collecting Bible citations on this topic as he does makes this hate speech." 
          "Hate speech," of course, means any statement that gives offence to the Establishment that is, to the network of politicians, bureaucrats, educators, together with their friends and clients in the media and big business, who gain wealth, power and status from an enlarged, activist state. Officially, Europe is an area within which the traditional freedoms of thought and belief and speech and association are solidly protected. The various human rights groups generally feel obliged to look to other parts of the world for gross abuses of right. Otherwise, they tend to complain about petty discrimination against non-whites. Here is as gross an abuse of the right to free expression as can be imagined.  
          A man is sent to prison for stating what is the orthodox position of all Christian churches, and for quoting from The Bible. And this happens in what amounts to a media blackout. But it was not really censorship or persecution, the answer will come back. This was really just "hate speech." Freedom of speech is only violated when someone is attacked for saying things with which the Establishment agrees. Anything else is fair game for the police.  
     "Freedom of speech is only violated when someone is attacked for saying things with which the Establishment agrees. Anything else is fair game for the police."
          The libertarian position on this is predictable but worth restating. It is my opinion, but I state it in the first person plural because it may also stand as an official pronouncement of the Libertarian Alliance: 
              We believe in the right to freedom of speech. This includes, though is not limited to, the right to say anything about public policy or alleged matters of fact. If someone wants to say that homosexuals are the spawn of Satan, or that black people are morally or genetically inferior to whites, or that the holocaust did not happen (but should have), or that the Prophet Mohammed was a demon-possessed, epileptic paedophile, that is his right. If he causes offence, hard luck on those offended. They have no right to legal protection against such views.
          The libertarian position of homosexuality is equally predicable. We believe that consenting adults have the right to do as they please without intervention by the law. Speaking personally, I was an advocate at school in the 1970s of abolishing all the laws against homosexual activity. In 1991, I wrote the first account of the "Spanner" case in which 15 men were prosecuted for consensual sado-masochism: one of them was convicted of "aiding and abetting an assault on himself!" This has also been called the best account of the case. But freedom for homosexuals does not mean legal privilege against the hatred and contempt that others however unjustly may feel for them. 
          Mr. Palko is a traditionalist Christian. As libertarians, we do not necessarily agree with all that be believes. We certainly do not agree with the opinions of Pastor Green. But we do believe passionately in Mr. Green's right to expression of his opinions, and we denounce the Swedish Government for its authoritarian bigotry. 
          We also denounce the slimy hypocrisy of the "human rights" groups. They have stood by silent when they should have been upholding Pastor Green's right to freedom of speech. By their silence, they have once again revealed their true nature. They do not believe in freedom for all, but in privilege for groups that are members or clients of the Establishment. 
          And we praise Dr Palko for his courage in standing up for freedom of speech. As a Slovak, he can remember when people were sent to prison or even to lunatic asylums for saying things the authorities in his country did not want to hear. We should pay attention to his claim that "a crawling tyranny is looming." 
1. "Slovenské KDH bojuje proti zvrhlosti," Lidové Noviny, Prague, 2nd August 2004. The words not in Slovak, but put into Czech, read: "Jde o politický proces, o porusení práva na svobodu projevu. Kdyñ jsem si pÍe? etl tu zprávu, pochopil jsem, ñe za?ííná plíñivá tyranie." This can be found on line here>>