A story about a councillor who is in trouble for being (justifiably) rude about Scientology is in today's Daily Telegraph, and can be found by clicking here.
It seems that someone is not able to express an honest opinion about a patently false belief system, just because he happens to be a councillor. This is crazy. Our elected representatives need to be both willing and able to speak out, on any issue. Otherwise they will not be able to do their jobs. Indeed we all need to be able to speak out, otherwise we will not be able to fulfil our role as citizens.
Just as worrying is the reference to faith hate laws, further down the article. It is likely that our limited faith hate laws, that still permit reasonable discussion, have given encouragement to the mad political correctness brigade who are now pursuing the councillor, not with legal sanctions (because they have none, yet) but with job-specific disciplinary measures. That is, the faith hate laws are the thin end of a very ugly wedge. They should be repealed, now. Excluding Scientology and other recent belief systems from their scope would not be enough. The big danger is that our ability to criticize the serious political forces of Christianity and Islam will come to be ever more restricted.
(The relevant law is sections 29A to 29N of the Public Order Act 1986. A person who uses threatening words or behaviour, or displays any written material which is threatening, or who publishes or distributes written material which is threatening, is guilty of an offence if he intends thereby to stir up religious hatred. "Religious hatred" means hatred against a group of persons defined by reference to religious belief or lack of religious belief. There is protection for freedom of expression: "Nothing in this Part shall be read or given effect in a way which prohibits or restricts discussion, criticism or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse of particular religions or the beliefs or practices of their adherents, or of any other belief system or the beliefs or practices of its adherents, or proselytizing or urging adherents of a different religion or belief system to cease practising their religion or belief system." But even so, the principle that we have to put up with the offensive remarks of other people - that we can take offence and object loudly, but that we have no right not to be offended - has been breached. This is what makes the law the thin end of the wedge. The danger is not just future extensions to the law, but the fact that the existing law gives encouragement to political correctness nutcases who would go further and use any other tools at their disposal, such as disciplinary procedures, to silence those who would speak the truth about the nonsense that is peddled as religion.)