06 January 2016

James McConnell victory for free speech brings happy ending to pantomime

There could not have been a better ending to this pantomime of a prosecution. A 78-year-old Christian preacher, who doesn't mince his words, isn't the most popular person in our politically-correct times.

There were those in high places lining up to wield the knife had a guilty verdict ensued. They were wrong. Pastor McConnell didn't incite hatred or encourage violence against anybody. He simply expressed his views about another religion.

As a system of beliefs claiming power over others, a religion doesn't have immunity. We are as entitled to throw brickbats at it as we were at any political ideology. In any democracy worth its salt, freedom of speech isn't a luxury for your friends, it's a necessity for your enemies. Defending Pastor McConnell's right to say what he said doesn't mean approving or embracing his sentiments.

Yes, his words were offensive: but so what? Unless we go through life in an anaemic and false fashion, we will all offend the beliefs of others at some point. We need to get over this increasingly dangerous tendency to run to the police if our feelings are hurt. Those who disagree with Pastor McConnell should have challenged him in public and attempted to win the debate, rather than to close it down. [Belfast Telegraph] Read more