46% in England support legal limits on free speech where religion is concerned, poll finds

46% in England support legal limits on free speech where religion is concerned, poll finds

A new report on identity and immigration has found that nearly half of England's population support legal limits on free speech when religion is concerned, and that support for freedom of expression has fallen significantly since 2011.

A poll of 4,015 people conducted by Populus for the Fear and HOPE 2016 report found that only 54% agreed people should be "allowed" to say what they believe about religion. 46% said there "some things" that you should "not be able to say about religion". Participants were asked to signal which of two statements on free speech and religion they agreed with "the most".

In 2011 just 40% agreed that some statements about religion were off-limits, compared with 60% who agreed that "people should be allowed to say what they believe about religion".

The report, on English attitudes towards identity, multiculturalism, religion and immigration, and written by Professor Robert Ford of Manchester University and Nick Lowles of Hope Not Hate, found that the marked increase since 2011 in those who agree that there should be "some things that people should not be able to say about religion" was being driven by the young and those most supportive of multiculturalism.

The research broke society down into different groups depending on their attitude to multiculturalism and diversity. Those who were considered to be "mainstream liberals" were the most likely of all groups to support restrictions on free speech. 58% of this group agreed that "if necessary" people "should be prosecuted" for saying certain things about religion.

The authors of the report found that "support for limiting free speech to respect multicultural sensitivities had grown over the past five years".

Limiting free speech is most popular among "the young" and among those most "confident" with multiculturalism. 58% of under 25s "back similar limits on religion" as exist for policing racial hate.

Stephen Evans, National Secular Society campaigns manager, said the report made for "grim reading".

"This report demonstrates how the concept of offense, and the violence that sometimes accompanies it, has created a chilling effect on freedom of expression in the UK. Whilst bigotry of all kinds should be robustly challenged, now is not the time to start sacrificing fundamental freedoms in order to protect 'religious sentiments'. Restricting free speech will do nothing to improve social cohesion – and once satisfied, demands to 'respect' religion will only lead to yet further demands.

"Stringent penalties are in place for religiously-aggravated crimes but the law is not there to prevent us from feeling offended. Free speech is the cornerstone of democratic life any new legal restrictions would be counterproductive, only serving to stifle debate and erode hard-won civil liberties."

The report explored attitudes to a wide range of issues related to immigration, identity and social cohesion, and found clear majorities in support of the "close monitoring of faith schools". 71% of England's population support the "close monitoring of faith schools, including Muslim faith schools", and 50% of Muslims polled agreed with the proposition.

Islam was regarded as a uniquely problematic minority faith by many, with 59% believing "Islam poses a serious threat to Western civilisation". 17% of Muslims polled by Populus for the report agreed with this statement.

43% of English respondents said that Muslims were "completely different" to them – and 59% "believe they cause problems in the world". Despite this, the authors note, "concern about problems caused by Muslims and other religious groups is much lower to now than it was in 2011." 78% of English people agreed that "it would be wrong to blame an entire religion for the actions of a few extremists".

http://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2016/03/46-percent-in-england-sup...

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Comment by Davis Goodman on March 20, 2016 at 7:57pm

This is so saddening. Ugh.

The end of the Anglo-Saxon world's hold on free speech. For centuries (and until 30 years ago) the UK and the US were at the very front line of free speach and an atmosphere where subversive and alternative ideas could be expressed without excessive hostility (both politically and socially).

Now it's not so much. Ireland and Canada have blasphemy libel laws (perhaps on their way out). The UK and NZ have policies where the vaguely defined "gross offense" can land you with an extremely expensive bill to pay. The US is totally fine in terms of full out freedoms though more and more one pays an enormous social price for making rational statements in some parts of the country (atheists, socialists, anti-gun activists, scientists on climate change and evolution). It's on University Campuses in the US (and UK) where academic freedom (sort of like free speech) is being utterly assaulted by intellectually bankrupt hissy fit throwing toddlers.

What changed? I've been thinking about this for some time and still have no clue. If someone can shed light on this I'll be very greatful.

Comment by Davis Goodman on March 20, 2016 at 8:05pm

Next thing you know 45% of the UK will agree with the statement "there are some things people should not be allowed to say about alternative medicine". Last thing we want is to hurt the feelings of people who are "utterly convinced" of their dangerous fake extremely expensive poisonous woo with zero evidence and parlour trick pushers who make a fortune praying on the fact that people will believe anything you tell them". I simply cannot see the difference between coddling the fragile minds of religious morons and the delicate feelings of people who believe in sham-woo-healing.

Comment by Stephen on March 20, 2016 at 8:52pm

I think one of the things that's changed is the influence of Islam on the Psyche of the British people they've convinced people that criticising religion and especially Islam is racist and there's nothing more scary to the average person then to be called racist or Islamophobic.  

Comment by Adam on March 20, 2016 at 11:14pm

You have two sides battling each other. One side is believes the other big religion is wrong and accuses them of the very things their religions has been doing for years and then claims persecution when they are called out on it, and the other side tries to ignore the hateful things going on their religion, by trying to claim dissociation and painting a lighter image of the hate, and screams persecution when they are called out on it, by claiming the minority (numerical) status.

Both has used a false perception of "persecution" to silence criticism against their religion, which in itself is quite humorous, because both groups have been doing the same to other groups for years.

Comment by Unseen on March 21, 2016 at 11:48am

In the US we have leftist protesters going to Trump rallies under the philosophy "We all have free speech so you exercise yours by talking and we'll exercise our free speech right by trying to make sure no one can hear you." 

Everyone should be heard, including those we don't want to hear.

Comment by Davis Goodman on March 21, 2016 at 5:42pm

Indeed Unseen. It's one thing to stand outside the venue of a rally and protest the platform (and scummy behaviour) of a candidate...it's another thing to go inside and sabotage it. This would never be tollerated at a theatre, at a hockey game, at a graduation ceremony, at the President's inaguration, in a legislature etc. Funny enough...all  sorts of students who believe deeply in human rights and equal treatment...justify these protests...which they would never condone if it happened at a Sanders rally. Why? Because it goes too far against their own narratives.

I wonder if more is achieved (and less is lost) by standing outside the venue only and protesting the platform as spectators pass...rather than going inside and being subversive dicks.

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on March 21, 2016 at 5:53pm

Here is a good talk about Islam and “Islamophobia” from Atheist Ireland (of which I am a member).

Comment by Davis Goodman on March 21, 2016 at 5:56pm

Adam...yes. The persecution complex explains a lot of it. Funny how it only applies to God based deeply held beliefs. Few would care if atheists were called rotten scum destroying the Earth. to be fair...there are no deeply held beliefs per atheism but an insult is an insult. No one would prosecute someone who grossly insulted  humanists (per their feminism and gay rights advocacy) regardless of the fact that such principles are deeply held beliefs that even define who they are. Humanist principles certainly defines much of who I am. If someone got in my face and flung verbal garbage into my face over humanism it would be a nasty experience to say the least. Should I sue him to shut him up? Only if they become violent or notably disruptive.

You're right about race as well (ethnic group or percieved ethnic group). The shame is...it is borne out of a sincere attempt to avoid racism, prejudice and discrimination...even though attacking religious ideas has nothing to do with racism, prejudice or discrimination. Sincere kindness can lead to sealed lips.

Comment by Davis Goodman on March 21, 2016 at 5:59pm

An important question often overlooked is (and it's not easy to answer): is there any kind of ideology/faith/belief/morality/statement that deserves to be free of agressive verbal attack backed up by law and punishment?

  • Hollocaust denialism?
  • A systematically persecuted religious people?
  • Gross racial verbal assault?
Comment by Unseen on March 21, 2016 at 6:39pm

Indeed Unseen. It's one thing to stand outside the venue of a rally and protest the platform (and scummy behaviour) of a candidate...it's another thing to go inside and sabotage it. This would never be tollerated at a theatre, at a hockey game, at a graduation ceremony, at the President's inaguration, in a legislature etc. Funny enough...all  sorts of students who believe deeply in human rights and equal treatment...justify these protests...which they would never condone if it happened at a Sanders rally. Why? Because it goes too far against their own narratives.

I wonder if more is achieved (and less is lost) by standing outside the venue only and protesting the platform as spectators pass...rather than going inside and being subversive dicks.

The irony is that many of these protesters will chant "Bernie, Bernie, Bernie" while doing something that actually benefits Trump by earning him more supporters and firing up the ones he already has. 

Stupid. Instead, protest outside and be sure to show up to vote for Trump's Democrat opponent. Yes, even if that turns out to be the hated Hillary Clinton. In politics, one seldom gets the choices one would like to have. 

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