By Simon Rocker
September 24, 2009
A wise reflection by Henry Porter on striking the balance between protecting religious groups and upholding freedom of expression. He writes, on Guardian CiF:
“One of the most disturbing cases I have heard of is the decision by the Crown Prosecution Service to bring a prosecution against a Christian couple that own hotel in Aintree, Liverpool.
“Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang were arrested after a Muslim woman staying at their hotel complained to police about comments they made during a religious argument over breakfast. They have been charged under public order laws with using "threatening, abusive or insulting words… that were religiously aggravated". Reports suggest that the couple said that prophet Muhammad , the founder of Islam, was a warlord and that the traditional Muslim dress for women was form of bondage.
“You may, or may not agree, with these sentiments but surely they don't merit a prosecution in a society where a good deal of latitude shown to the racism and homophobia preached by some imams. I can't comment on the exact details of what the couple may have said, or their manner, or the offence taken by the customer but I can say that free speech – even about religion – is the freedom to be offended, and that the decision to prosecute is about as daft as it gets.”