Sunday, December 02, 2007

Finding a soul mate?

Robin Phillips and I have a little--very slight--history together. He has written a book, The Way of a Man with a Maid, available online, that critiques the "courtship" movement--a form of male-female relationship that was--and, in certain circles, still is--popular in homeschool circles. He mentions me and my book, Dating With Integrity, within his work. At one point, almost exactly five years ago, we engaged in correspondence on this subject of mutual interest.

And now, today, while surfing the web for some information about biblical and historical arguments concerning usury (the practice of charging interest on loans), I bumped into Robin once more. (The happy reunion, as it were, was the result of an extremely circuitous path which I will recount in a separate post, momentarily.)


So there I was on Robin's blog when, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but an article of deep--and ever deeper--personal interest . . . An article wholly unrelated to the subject of male-female relationships but, rather, free speech and, even, epistemology: Robin's Readings & Reflections: Thought Police article in HTML.

"And so we meet again!" I thought. [Apologies to Snoopy--or was it the Red Baron? ("Snoopy vs. The Red Baron" by The Royal Guardsmen, 1966)]

I was first intrigued by Robin's introductory remarks about the increasing restrictions on free speech being enforced by so-called "liberal" protectors against so-called "hate speech":
[T]he reign of Big Brother is being introduced to Britain from the liberalism of the far left, a tradition that has historically championed Orwell’s defence of civil liberties and free expression.

This observation is particularly germane when considering the new corpus of offences restricting speech, religion, public debate and, in some cases, even thought itself, to that cluster of ideas which the liberals have designated ‘politically correct.’[2] The State’s eagerness to function as Guardian, not simply of law and order, but also of the ideologies of its citizenry[3], was made patently obvious last year when New Labour tried to push through legislation as part of the Religious Hatred Bill which would have made it an offence to criticise different religious truth-claims.

Even without the impetus of such a law, UK police currently operate under ‘guidance’ that defines a ‘hate incident’ so broadly that it can include debating another person about their lifestyle.[4] Although this guidance has no statutory force, and has been called ‘pseudo-law’ by one distinguished constitutional lawyer, it can influence the policy of police constabularies provided it does not lead to an actual charge being issued.[5] The effect is that simply to express certain viewpoints is at least treated as criminal.[6]

It was this tendency to police beliefs that Dr. N. T. Wright, the Bishop of Durham, lambasted in an address to the House of Lords on 9 February, 2006. Dr. Wright referred to a new class of crimes which “have to do, not with actions but with ideas and beliefs.” He said:

"People in my diocese have told me that they are now afraid to speak their minds in the pub on some major contemporary issues for fear of being reported, investigated, and perhaps charged. My Lords, I did not think I would see such a thing in this country in my lifetime…. The word for such a state of affairs is ‘tyranny’: sudden moral climate change, enforced by thought police."[7]

From religious organisations that must now navigate the increasingly complex labyrinth of gay rights laws[8] to Christian Unions that are being forced to admit atheists into their ranks[9], it is clear that today’s liberals are making sure Big Brother does more than merely watch us: he’s checking out our credo.[10] Chesterton was surely prophetic when he conjectured that, “We may eventually be bound not to disturb a man’s mind even by argument; not to disturb the sleep of birds even by coughing.”[11]
But my eyes grew wider when I saw the second subhead within his article: "The Self-Destruction of Epistemology."

Wow! I think I may have found a fellow-traveler in the world of thought!


I didn't really have any further purpose for this post than what I have written here. Just a desire to record my bemused astonishment.


But, y'know, while we're on the subject of Big Brother and the problems of eroding freedom of speech, let me quote from Robin's footnote #11 concerning Chesterton's quote about disturbing men's minds and the sleep of birds. After attributing the quote to G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy: The Romance of Faith (New York: Doubleday, 1908), p. 113, Robin continues:
Chesterton’s words are a pretty good description of the Protection From Harassment Act 1997. Worded so vaguely that almost any form of repeated conduct can become a crime, it gives the crown authority to prosecute anyone causing a person ‘alarm or distress’ if this involves ‘conduct on at least two occasions.’ Because such conduct ‘includes speech’, and because it is not necessary to demonstrate that the person causing distress has used abusive or insulting words, merely disturbing a man’s mind by argument could become a criminal offence if another person finds it distressing. The penalty is six months imprisonment or an order preventing the person from repeating the offence on pain of 5 years behind bars. It is now used routinely against peaceful protestors.

The anti-intellectual implications of the Serious Organized Crime and Police Act 2005 is equally disturbing. Although this Act is most known for removing freedom to demonstrate outside Parliament, it also includes a section on ‘harassment intended to deter lawful activities’. Under this act, it is an offence to cause alarm or distress to ‘two or more persons’ by ‘harassing’ them. ‘Harassment’ is defined as seeking ‘to persuade any person ... to do something that he is not under any obligation to do’. This means that if I try to persuade two or more people to change their philosophical views, then because they are under no legal obligation to do so, in theory I could be taken to court for harassment if the other person finds my axioms sufficiently distressing.

See George Monbiot's article 'I'm pleased the case against this ranting homophobe was dropped', The Guardian, October 3, 2006, available online at,,1886185,00.html. See also my article ‘The Orwellian Legacy of Tony Blair’, available online at See also Peter Kitchens, The Abolition of Liberty (Atlantic Books, 2004).
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