Saturday 21 January 2012

Help Protect Freedom of Speech

The National Secular Society has recently submitted a response to the Police Powers Consultation, calling on the Government to remove 'insulting' from Section 5 of the Public Order Act. A change in the law would protect freedom of expression for both the religious and non-religious. It would also lay down clearer guidelines for the police and direct them to focus on more serious cases.
The submission calls on the Government to recognise that the word 'insulting' sets the bar for criminal offence far too low. The risk of being arrested can in itself have a chilling effect, preventing people from expressing legitimate views. Section 5 would retain threatening and abusive conduct to cover serious offences and there are other existing laws to protect the individual. . . Read complete article here.

Independently of this an epetition has been filed on HM Government website:-

Protect Freedom of Speech by removing the word "insulting" from Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986

Responsible department: Home Office

Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 forbids the use of "insulting words or behaviour" in a public place, if this is "likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress". This provision has been responsible for a number of arrests in recent years. For instance, Leicestershire trader Tony Wright found himself arrested in 2005 for selling T-shirts emblazoned with the words "Bollocks to Blair". In 2008, a 16 year old boy was arrested for calling Scientology a "dangerous cult". In addition, members of a Worcester based animal rights group found themselves arrested in 2006 for using toy seals painted with red food dye as part of a protest against seal culling. Moreover, Oxford University student Sam Brown was arrested in 2005 for saying to a police officer “Mate, your horse is gay, I hope you don’t have a problem with that.” Feeling “insulted” should never constitute a crime by itself. Therefore, we the undersigned petition the government to remove the word "insulting" from Section 5.

A good response to this petition will provide added pressure on the government to revise this ill -conceived section of the Public Order Act. 

Please go to:- to sign the petition. 

Thursday 19 January 2012

Why there is something rather than nothing 2

The finite, infinite and eternal  
by Peter Lynds


Many believe that the deep question of “why is there something rather than nothing?” is
unanswerable. The universe just is and no further explanation for its existence is
possible. In this paper I explain why this question must have an answer, and why that
answer must establish that physical existence is inescapable and necessary. Based on the
conclusion that if the universe is eternal rather than having a beginning some finite time
in the past, the universe has to exist rather than not because its possible non-existence is
never an option, such an explanation is put forward. As a logical extension of only an
eternal universe being capable of providing an answer to the question of why there is
something rather than nothing, the argument necessitates that the universe must be
eternal. The consequences of this conclusion for cosmology are then briefly discussed.

A link to the full 9 page paper and discussion can be found here.

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Solicitors say Catholic Church is incapable of stopping abuse and must be called to account

Letter to the Times, 17th January 2012:-

"As lawyers working on behalf of children and vulnerable adults who have suffered sexual and physical abuse in institutional care, we write to call for a public inquiry into abuse within church organisations in England and Wales.
Officials of church organisations hold influential and highly respected roles within the community; historically they have enjoyed both the trust of the public and unquestioned access to children. This has undoubtedly created extensive opportunities for abuse. From cases we are handling currently, we are aware of some 41 Catholic priests who have been convicted of serious sexual offences in the recent past. Yet these very same organisations, particularly in the Catholic Church, have persistently ignored and in many cases covered up complaints of abuse.
We have seen clear evidence of cover-ups on some of our cases and we believe these are the tip of the iceberg. The culture of cover-up has been embedded in the Catholic Church for decades if not centuries. It will never be effectively challenged without full public scrutiny, something which only a public inquiry, with powers of access to documents, including each Catholic diocese's secret archive, can achieve.
The Church of England has similarly been criticised for a lack of transparency. The available evidence shows that the practical implementation of new safeguarding policies in both the Catholic Church and the Church of England (and indeed in other denominations) has been tentative, patchy and has met significant institutional resistance at senior levels in the church hierarchy.
There is now overwhelming evidence that religious organisations are too compromised by their own failings to police themselves effectively. The only way to address the scandal of sexual and physical abuse in these organisations is through a comprehensive public inquiry, and we urge ministers to order this without delay."
Richard Scorer, Pannone Solicitors; David Greenwood, Jordans Solicitors; Tracey Storey, Irwin Mitchell Solicitors; Jonathan Wheeler, Bolt Burdon Kemp Solicitors; Malcolm Johnson, Malcolm Johnson & Co Solicitors; Alan Collins, Verisona Solicitors; Tracey Emmott, Emmott Snell Solicitors; Peter Garsden, Abney Garsden McDonald Solicitors

Saturday 14 January 2012

Banned ice cream adverts

"Immaculately conceived"

"We believe in Salivation"
These mildly-amusing adverts have been banned in the UK by the Advertising Standards Authority on the grounds they might offend catholics. Yet very few complaints were received. 

In a letter to Communications Minister, Ed Vaizey, the National Secular Society says:-
“Although these advertisements were only meant to be mildly humorous or satirical, their banning represents something much more sinister. We have now reached the stage where any reference to religion that is not completely reverential is immediately branded as “offensive” and therefore unacceptable. This is an intolerable threat to freedom of expression that must be challenged.
“We ask that you instigate an enquiry into the ASA’s oversensitive approach to advertising with a religious theme. It is getting completely out of hand when something as mild and humorous as these ice cream advertisements is banned from public view on such spurious grounds.”

Tuesday 10 January 2012


Poster on display in the Museum of London

With its espousal by the Nazi Party eugenics became almost  a  dirty word after WW2, but this was not always the case as this 1915 poster from the UK Board of Education shows. However no substantial government funding has ever gone into it, and the subject has now become subsumed into the bioethical debate. Some regard the modern techniques of genetic screening by prospective parents as a form of voluntary eugenics.


Tuesday 3 January 2012

Religious Belief in America

"Why do the majority of Americans believe in the ability to predict specific details in the distant future, the existence of winged messengers living in the sky, the worldwide flood as told in genesis, and the resurrection of a man who had been dead for over a day? How can these people believe they are enlightened enough to insist upon the veracity of these outlandish beliefs when studies show they know so little about them? They believe simply because they want to believe, they believe because they always have believed, and they believe because others around them believe. The vast majority of those who believe such things will stick to those beliefs throughout life despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary." ~ Jason Long PhD, from "The Christian Delusion".