A top aide to British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has been arrested for shouting at the “telly” at his gym. The 47-year-old diplomat is accused of shouting “F***ing Israelis, f***ing Jews” while watching news reports of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza last month at the gym.
England has long maintained a tradition of free speech and civil liberties while preserving laws capable of denying those rights at the discretion of the government. It is one of the great distinctions between our countries. We rejected reliance on the good nature and purposes of the government in the use of such laws.
The unnamed diplomat should certainly be disciplined for public expressions that embarrass the ministry and could legitimately be tossed out of the club for obnoxious behavior. There is also no question that statements like Israeli soldiers should be “wiped off the face of the Earth” are intolerable. However, while he does not have a right to work at the ministry or work out at this club while making such statements, he does have a right to free speech. Instead, he has been arrested for inciting religious hatred.
Western countries have been yielding to demands to criminalize criticism of religion, a trend that threatens the foundations of free speech (here). This includes efforts to define criticism of religion as a form of discrimination, here.
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