Andrea Williams was invited to speak to the Italian Senate in June 2021 on how equality law affects freedom of speech and religious belief. She comments on how UK equality laws harm free speech by protecting some characteristics more than others.
The United Kingdom is facing a free speech crisis, largely due to misguided equality laws. These laws lead to sex or gender identity being elevated above people’s beliefs or freedom of speech. These laws make trans and gay people no safer from physical attacks, they only protect them from good people saying they disagree with them.
Consider the story of Harry Miller.
He ran a business with 70 employees. One day, police officers turned up at his workplace asking to speak with him.
The police officer told Harry that because he had sent tweets that were critical of transgender ideology, someone had reported his business as unsafe for trans people.
Harry was told that the police officer needed to “check his thinking.” No offence had truly been committed, and no charge was made. Nevertheless, for harmless tweets, Harry was left with a ‘non-crime hate incident’ on his police record which could be shared with future employers if he applied for a job.
This is where a society goes if people’s feelings and ideology are protected, rather than other people’s exercise of non-violent free speech.
Yet, as absurd as Harry’s story is, the consequences for him were trivial compared to many others.
I lead the Christian Legal Centre, which gives legal support to many people who find themselves losing their jobs, denied opportunities, or even arrested because they hold and share views on gender and/or sexuality that are now deemed offensive.
I want to share with you real stories, of people we’ve supported, who have faced serious repercussions for holding traditional, Christian views of what it is to be male or female.
David Mackereth is a doctor. He started a job where he assessed what benefits people with disabilities should receive. Yet David lost this job after saying that, in a hypothetical situation, he wouldn’t use ‘transgender pronouns’. Because he is a Christian and understands the physical differences between men and women, David was not willing to say that a man was a woman, or vice versa, just because they said so. When we challenged the decision, the judge ruled that his belief was “not worthy of respect in a democratic society.” This ruling is being appealed.
James Caspian is a psychologist and researcher. He worked for ten years with patients who were medically transitioning, or considering medically transitioning, their gender. He began to see younger and younger patients taking this step and began hearing more stories of people reversing their gender transitions. He sought to formally study these gender de-transitions at an English university. His initial research proposal was approved, but after mentioning the possibility of social media criticism to his tutor, the study was blocked from going forwards. Due to the possibility that people would criticise the university for allowing the research, it was stopped.
Therefore, it is not currently possible to do careful, responsible study into why people are reversing their gender transitions.
Kristie Higgs had a child attending a primary school. She was concerned about new books being used at the school that promoted transgender ideology to young children and made two posts on Facebook. An anonymous person complained to a second school, where Kristie worked.
The posts were only visible to her friends. They were not violent, or even rude, but she was labelled an extremist and dismissed for gross misconduct.
Nigel and Sally Rowe are parents of young boys who went to a Church of England primary school. They were concerned about how the school was dealing with a six-year-old in one of their boys’ class. The child was coming to school as a boy some days and as a girl on others. If their son ‘misgendered’ the child or used the wrong name, he could be considered a bully.
This isn’t only theoretical.
Consider ten-year-old Kaysey. By all accounts, she was a model student. She wanted to be excused from extensive, often age-inappropriate LGBT lessons. She and fellow student Farrell were interrogated for their resistance and suspended from school for 5 days. They were treated as a danger to other children and the school reported one of the families’ church for hate crime.
Rev. Dr Bernard Randall, ordained in the Church of England, worked as chaplain for a school with a Christian ethos. The school was promoting relatively extreme LGBT ideas and some students were concerned about what they were being taught. Bernard gave a short, gentle, erudite sermon in chapel, saying that no one should feel forced to believe ideas against their will. He was immediately suspended, then dismissed. This was reversed on appeal, but Bernard was sidelined and then lost his job during the coronavirus pandemic.
These are just a few of the better-known cases. How did the United Kingdom become a country where Christian, traditional views on marriage, sexuality and gender became sackable offences?
We believed the lie that criticism or disagreement with transgenderism or a person’s sexuality is responsible for violence against those people.
To be completely clear, we should condemn acts of violence against people, for whatever reason. But no one willing to physically attack another person stops to consider whether they are breaching equality law.
Free speech isn’t violence. There is a vast difference between critiquing gender ideology and inciting violence.
Attacks against trans people, or gay people, don’t happen because a parent questions what their child is being taught at school. They don’t happen because a ten-year-old objects to the ideology they are being taught or because someone researches gender de-transition.
Equality laws that elevate people’s sexual or gender identities to be free from criticism are ineffective at tackling real world problems. But they are very effective at punishing well-meaning, reasonable people who happen to disagree with LGBT ideology.
Our Equality Act is supposed to protect people from discrimination based on their age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. On paper, it sounds fair and reasonable. But in practice, it has led to a hierarchy where sexual orientation and transgenderism is kept safe from criticism and Christian, traditional views have little to no protection.