Saturday, December 01, 2007

A right to free speech?

I went in to Blackburn town centre today with all the family. My daughter's favourite dress had had an accident involving an iron, so we were off shopping to replace it.

As we walked into the main pedestrianised area, we were confronted by two people addressing the public with amplifiers.

On the right was Jack Straw MP, Minister for Justice, and someone who, despite being a cabinet minister for many years, takes his constituency responsiblities seriously. Once a month he goes into the town centre, stands on a box, and invites his constituents to ask him questions. Whilst we were passing today he was promising to take up an issue with the Chancellor, and was going to respond in writing to the questioner. Whilst I may disagree with many of the things this government has done, and Jack Straw has been a major player since they were first elected, I cannot but admire him for putting himself out there for his constituents to harangue.

On the opposite side was a man with a board proclaiming him to be from a presbyterian church. What he was doing was rather less praise-worthy. In the middle of a very multi-cultural town, and a time once again of heightened tension due to events in Sudan, he was bellowing offensive comments about Muhammad and the Pope. So much for good will to all men at Christmas. I am pleased to say that the only person appearing to listen to him was his colleague trying to hand out leaflets. However, he may have attracted more of an audience if Jack Straw hadn't been there.

Whilst I believe everyone is free to believe what they want, I don't want my children exposed to this poison. At the moment they don't notice skin colour, and show interest in, not contempt for, the various world religions.