Labour government would be a major threat to free speech

28 June 2024

Communications Manager Paul Huxley shows the threat that a Labour government would pose to free speech, even though they are inconsistent about the causes that they champion

If the polls are to be believed, Sir Keir Starmer will soon be the prime minister backed by a sizeable Labour majority.

Since there is a real chance that Labour will soon be in a position to implement its manifesto, it’s fair to point out that two of its proposals would be particularly disastrous for free speech.

‘Conversion practices’ ban

As Tim Dieppe pointed out in his assessment of the Labour manifesto, the party is committed to a ban on ‘conversion practices’, formerly known as ‘conversion therapy’.

This would seek to outlaw any kind of help being given to someone who wants to live as the person God made them – male or female, with sex reserved for marriage. Prayer with a pastor, Christian counselling; even books that aim to help people live chaste lives could be criminalised.

The Labour manifesto says:

Labour will finally deliver a full trans-inclusive ban on conversion practices, while protecting the freedom for people to explore their sexual orientation and gender identity.

While in power, many Conservative politicians said that they would ban ‘conversion therapy’. But the longer they looked at the subject, the more they realised that a ban was both impractical and unnecessary.

For a start, a ‘trans-inclusive ban’ is code for “we will outlaw therapists from asking if your child’s trans identity is real”. It flies in the face of the Cass Review and the obvious need for clinicians not simply to take a child’s word when it comes to gender distress, but to look at other mental health issues.

No one in the UK is being forced into harmful practices aimed at changing someone’s sexual or gender identity. The evidence shows that talking therapy for same-sex attraction is generally beneficial to mental health and often effective.

There are no degrading or abusive forms of therapy being offered in the United Kingdom and if they were, they would already be banned.

The clear target of a proposed ban is Christians. One of the leading campaigners for a ban says she wants to ban ‘hate prayer’. The conversion practices ban pushed by Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle would have banned Christian books if they gave advice on how to stay sexually pure.

The Conservative Party has been far from perfect on this issue, with successive leaders promising a ban and Alicia Kearns working closely with Russell-Moyle on his bill.

But it seems likely that the Labour Party will push through an unnecessary and poorly drafted bill that would breach human rights.

If passed, it will lead to Christians self-censoring and lengthy court battles defending legitimate Christian ministries and challenging the legality of the law.

Islamophobia definition

But that’s not the only concerning plan Labour has.

The party has formally adopted the APPG definition of ‘Islamophobia’, which defines ‘Islamophobia’ as a ‘type of racism’. This definition effectively prohibits the criticism of Islamic beliefs and practices.

So when the party promises a new Race Equality Act and more monitoring of ‘Islamophobia’, there is a real chance of a de facto Islamic blasphemy law.

Islam is not a race. It is a false religion that Christians and others need to be free to critique and criticise.

Pointing out the many problems of Islam is not anti-Muslim hatred. In fact, it is calling people away from a false gospel so that they may receive Jesus Christ and life.

Yet many criticisms of Islam are often labelled as Islamophobic.

If you criticise sharia law or halal food, call for a ban on burkas, highlight any link between Islam and grooming gangs or antisemitism, or point out that according to Islamic texts, Muhammad had a wife who was nine years old, people will call you Islamophobic.

It’s one thing for people to throw around allegations of ‘Islamophobia’. But what if there are laws claiming that this kind of criticism is racist?

Just this week, police officers visited the home of a 12-year-old Jewish boy for saying he wanted Hamas (a proscribed terrorist organisation) ‘obliterated’ and for saying that he is “against trans”.

Last year, Councillor Anthony Stevens was arrested for allegedly ‘inciting racial hatred’ because he is a free speech absolutist – standing up for fellow councillor King Lawal but also for highlighting online the difference between how Muslims and Christians are treated when they make their case in public spaces.

A Labour government and possible legislation would very likely put even more pressure on police to interrogate ordinary people for criticising Islam.

Anti-Muslim hatred can, of course, be real and ugly. But fighting it with an Islamic blasphemy law is deeply irresponsible.

The Apostle Paul wrote of his ministry:

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Sometimes it’s necessary to demolish false ideas to champion the good news of Jesus Christ. A Labour government would threaten the freedom of Christians to do just that.

An LGBTQ+ Islamic coalition?

These two policies are both, in a sense, blasphemy laws. One against the criticism of Islam, the other against the LGBTQ+ claim that people define for themselves their identities.

And yet, as anyone who has paid attention to Islamic countries would know, Islam and LGBTQ+ causes are not friendly to each other. Labour is positioning itself as more pro-LGBTQ friendly than the Conservatives, but is also seeking to win the Islamic vote.

How will this work when the Muslims whose votes it relies on start protesting outside a school about trans indoctrination? Will the police investigate imams for alleged breaches of a  ban on ‘conversion practices’?

What the two causes do share, though, is hostility towards Jesus Christ and those who follow him wholeheartedly.

Whatever happens in the next five years, Christians will need to use their freedom wisely, presenting the life-changing, hope-giving gospel with the innocence of doves and the cunning of snakes (Matthew 10:16).

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