It is the state that is illiberal and the state is the sole source of privilege and, thereby, of under-privilege too.
Statist Political Correctness [PC; the ideologues who push it are PCers] is maybe the chief ideology against liberty today as it is for totalitarian government and for general intolerance. However, if the said current totalitarian ideologues, the PCers, ever gave up their use of the state for protection of their pet groups, if they never sought to privilege them in law and so thereby under-privilege everyone else, then PC would be reduced to mere free speech. Mere mores may set up quasi-privilege but it is the law and actual privilege that is illiberal. So without the use of the state and the law, PC would be not one whit illiberal.
Similarly with the various religions, they are free only, if they are not protected by the state, or if they do not go into politics to dominate others then they will not be against the social liberty of all others, but if ever they do resort to the state then they will be against social liberty.
This is because active politics never can quite be neutral. It always abuses others by using gratuitous coercion against them. As it is today, free speech is the about main thing the PC ideologues want to outlaw. Oddly, they often say they stand for free speech but then they clearly contradict themselves by explicitly listing a long list of exceptions.
The Economist, 28 March 2015, (p35) carried an article on “The right to be rude” on religion and free speech.
This magazine that calls itself a newspaper is mainly concerned nowadays with crass politics, but it began as a liberal journal backing up the Anti-Corn Law League, the great nineteenth century propaganda and pressure group for free trade, that was soon led by Richard Cobden and John Bright. This pressure group aided the Corn Laws to get repealed in 1846 and then it disbanded but the journal continued, largely on economics in those days but since 1945 it seems, at least to this reader of it, to be way keener on politics and it might be clearer if it changed its name to The Politician.
It reports that an “offensive preacher” has acquired some unlikely allies. A Christian street propagandist, Michael Overd, 47, had repeatedly told two male homosexuals displaying their affection in public that they were sinners who would burn in hell. He also said that Islam was sinful in the main High Street of Taunton, Somerset.
Michael Overd had repeatedly told Craig Manning and Craig Nichol that they would burn in hell on seeing them boldly walk around hand in hand on the main High Street where Overd regularly went to peach to all and sundry. They took offence at this, but they nevertheless seemed to repeatedly return to the High Street to get more readings from the Bible on how very sinful they were from Overd.
The BBC news reported from what looks like an earlier court appearance by Overd, and his two “victims”. The case seems to have been in court a number of times, two times or even more, before the session that The Economist reported in March. The BBC on-line news site reports that in his earlier evidence for the court against Overd, Craig Nichols said:
“He said 'I have already told these two sinners over here that they are going to burn in hell'.
He looked at us and pointed at us when he said it. His voice was quite loud and very clear.
I felt angry, embarrassed and ashamed. It was a really busy day and I felt that everyone was looking at us when he was saying these things to us.
I asked him who he was to judge me and he said 'It's God's words, it is in the Bible'. He said I should repent and ask God for forgiveness.”
A Muslim judge, Shamim Qureshi, ordered Overd to pay damages for using threatening and abusive language from the Bible of £250 but the more serious charge of a religiously aggravated offence was rejected. When Overd protested at paying a sodomite such a sum the judge threated him with 45 days in prison otherwise.
Afterwards Overd said: “ If I heard someone preaching the things I am accused of preaching I would talk to them about it.” But, as George Bernard Shaw rightly said, the golden rule of doing onto others exactly as we would have them do onto us can, often, fail to show other people proper personal consideration, as a boxer might have a different idea of that from hairdresser thus either might have starkly inept rules. What is fine for an enthusiastic propagandist, like Overd, need not be apt for Nichols, or vice versa, but, given that the High Street in Taunton normally allows public speaking by tradition then Nichols seems to have had plenty of space to dodge ever being offended by Overd. On the face of it, it seems to have been silly of Nichols to take offence, let alone to repeatedly go back for more. Those who do take offence all too often, thereby, seem to earn it.
Peter Tatchell, a well-known gay-rights propagandist has offered to speak in favour of free speech in court for Overd. He does not agree with the Bible on gay-rights but he feels it should be tolerated as part of traditional civil liberty and free speech. Being spared offence is not a human right. To criminalise traditional religion is a step too far, he says.
What seems yet even more unacceptable to many organisations concerned with civil liberties and free speech is the Politically Correct courts and current totalitarian PC law in the UK. The National Secular Society [NSS] seems to hold that free speech is in danger, and they too have aided Overd in support of the general cause of free speech as a result. They say the PC legislation is too sloppy. Overd was prosecuted under the Public Order Act and it can lead to up to seven years in gaol if the threatening, insulting or abusive language that the law outlaws is deemed to be racially or religiously motivated.
The NSS, and other civil liberty groups, have recently got the law amended such that it is not only up to the police to judge if what is said potentially offensive. It needs, now, to be shown that the language was aimed at a particular person or group and that offence was taken by the targeted person or group. But many want further reform of the law to remove the privilege that religion still has in law, despite the abolition of the common law against blasphemy since 8 March 2008. They hold that the idea of religious aggravation revives this abolished blasphemy law to protect religion from criticism, according to the executive director of the NSS: Keith Porteous Wood.
Prior to this abolition, the law had long been allowed to fall into abeyance, or neglect, until Mrs Mary Whitehouse attempted to revive it in the 1970s, actually being successful in 1977; in the case of Whitehouse versus Lemon.
During the Rushdie affair, many Muslims sought also to revive the blasphemy laws, so that they could be used to imprison Salmon Rushdie, and any others who might write similar books to his Satanic Verses (1988), that seemed to them to set out to deliberately mock Islam.
But they overlooked, in this entire rumpus that the Rushdie affair gave rise to, that the British common law blasphemy laws were quite indifferent to Rushdie’s books but not at all to the Koran, that did indeed flout them in the way it basically rejects the Christian creed. So the Muslims, ironically, sought to revive a law that would effectively outlaw their own religion rather than protect it. When some of them realised that, they sought to change the old common law so it would protect Islam as well as Christianity.
On 5 March 2008, an amendment was passed to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 which abolished the common law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel in England and Wales. The Act received royal assent on 8 May 2008, and the relevant section came into force on 8 July 2008. It was haply thought by the establishment that it would be better to abolish this law altogether rather than to too openly privilege Islam in the UK. The resulting need of the natives to kow-tow to Islam might have been too clearly an under-privilege to impose on the population, even for the increasingly eager UK totalitarian establishment of today.