Human rights in the English speaking world owe their origin to a document enforced on King John of England in 1215 by the English barons, the Magna Carta Libertatum. Subsequent to the Magna Carta we have understood
human rights to be the restriction of the king’s power thus enabling the people to
expand their freedoms such as freedom of speech.
Human rights were grounded in restrictions which the people placed upon the king. Today progressive human rights in the West are grounded in restrictions the government places upon the people.
We see this when we come to the new right not to be offended. This Orwellian concept replaces human rights with group rights. We have the realisation of the Orwellian prophecy of the day when “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” If you belong to a group which is privileged the state will accord you rights it refuses to others.
A few months ago Simon Ledger was singing oldies in a bar. Amongst the numbers he sang was “Kung Fu Fighing.” Those old enough to remember disco may now blush. Bad enough one would suppose and an occasion for cotton wool in the ears, but unfortunately two passers by, not even patrons of the bar, heard him singing, they were Chinese. One was offended enough to report Ledger to the police, he was arrested for racism.
If you were to sing Kung Fu Fighting to me I would have to thole it, perhaps with an ill grace but I would just have to take your assault on taste and culture, I couldn’t report you to the police and have you arrested no matter how much I thought you deserved it. I don’t belong to a favoured minority or identity group. A joke or a song has become a possible criminal action according to whom you perform it before and whether or not they choose to find it offensive.
When individual justice is replaced by social justice we lose the concept of universal human rights and find them replaced by group rights.
The Scottish Parliament has before it the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill, which could make certain jokes, songs or actions illegal in certain circumstances. If Roseanna Cunningham, minister for Community Safety has her way if a Roman Catholic were to make the sign of the cross in front of a bunch of rampaging Rangers supporters he would possibly be committing an offence. If a Rangers supporter were to sing Rule Britania in front of a group of Celtic supporters that could be considered an illegal act. It all depends on how the ‘victims’ choose to react.
Frank Mulholland the Lord Advocate tried to clear up Roseanna’s bumbling explanation of the proposed legislation by saying that making the sign of the cross or singing the national anthem would not be criminal offences. Obviously, but listen to the rider, “Unless there are aggravating circumstances.”
Any song adopted by the opposing supporters could be deemed provocative if the criteria of judgement is offence perceived by the purported ‘victim,’ or even the possibility of offence as judged by a police officer. From my experience of Scottish football the fans are creative if nothing else in the songs they sing. What if Rangers fans sing new words to the tune of The Sash would that be offensive? If a Celtic fan offers up a silent prayer before a penalty at Ibrox would that be offensive?
The bill refers to “behaviour that a reasonable person would be likely to consider offensive”. But the very person who chooses to find the sign of the cross or the singing of a song offensive and requiring a violent response is not a reasonable person. He, and it is almost invariably a he, is an emotionally charged irreligious bigot ready to take offence at the mere existence of the opposition.
The Scottish Parliament is being asked to abrogate the human right of freedom of speech in the name of groups rights not to be offended. This would destroy a foundational principle of justice, equality before the law.
Our ideas of justice derive from Scripture. There we learn that we are created individually and as responsible individuals we stand before God. The rights we have as His children are individual rights.