Main | Tuesday, March 30, 2010

UK Activist Peter Tatchell: Don't Charge Preachers With Anti-Gay Hate Speech

Arguably the world's most famed gay activist, the UK's Peter Tatchell has come out against the recent hate speech fine imposed on an American preacher in Scotland, saying that only speech that incites to violence should be illegal. New York resident Shawn Holes was arrested in Glascow two weeks ago after telling customers at a shopping mall that gay people were going to hell. Rev. Holes (!) said he accepted a £1,000 fine because he just wanted to go home.
Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said today that had he known about the case, he would have gone to court to defend Holes' right to freedom of expression. Mr Tatchell described the £1,000 fine as "totally disproportionate" and added: "Even though I strongly disagree with his views on homosexuality, if he had decided to appeal against either the conviction or the sentence, I would have supported him." "Shawn Holes is obviously homophobic and should not be insulting people with his anti-gay tirades. He should be challenged and people should protest against his intolerance," he added. "I urge the police and prosecuting authorities to concentrate on tackling serious homophobic hate crimes, instead of wasting public money on petty, distasteful homophobic ranters." Mr Tatchell continued: "The price of freedom of speech is that we sometimes have to put up with opinions that are objectionable and offensive. "Just as people should have the right to criticise religion, people of faith should have the right to criticise homosexuality. Only incitements to violence should be illegal."
Critics of Tatchell note that Holes was charged with "breach of the peace" for refusing to stop shouting in a public place. That aspect of the incident will doubtlessly be overlooked when the American Taliban adds Holes' case to their litany of examples of how religious speech will eventually be crushed in the United States.

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