Britain's Lost Freedoms: 'We're Living in a Madhouse'
LONDON - America owes much of its freedom to its British heritage. But today, Britain is losing its freedom.
Many Americans were stunned when British authorities arrested Liberty Great Britain party leader Paul Weston in April for publicly reciting Winston Churchill's criticism of Islam.
The calendar might say it's 2014, but in Britain it's starting to feel like George Orwell's "1984" because "Big Brother" has decided that certain things can no longer be said.
Arrested over Churchill
Weston quoted from Winston Churchill's book, The River War, in which he wrote:
"How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia (rabies) in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property - either as a child, a wife, or a concubine - must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the faith: all know how to die but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith."
As a young officer, Churchill fought Muslim jihadists in Sudan and believed Islam was a dangerous religion.
Weston chose to publicly quote Churchill because he thought that in today's politically correct Britain, comparing Islam to rabies--as Churchill did--would likely get him reported to police and arrested.
"I wanted to make the point that, if it's really become so bad in this country that you can no longer quote the words of the greatest living Englishman, then we really need to look seriously at what we can still say in this country," Weston said.
"We don't have (America's) First Amendment. And speech is rapidly becoming a no-go area if you talk about certain issues. We are living in an absolute madhouse in this country with our free speech laws at the moment," he said.
'You Can't Say That'
In today's Britain, pastors, street evangelists, and political activists all risk being hauled into police stations and either being arrested or warned for speaking out against Islam, immigration, or homosexuality.
British evangelical Pastor James McConnell was questioned by Belfast police for a possible hate crime after a controversial sermon. He spoke about the danger to Britain from radical Islam in which he said, "Islam is heathen. Islam is Satanic. Islam is a doctrine spawned in Hell."
McConnell said he went to the police station voluntarily, and he also apologized. But should he have had to?
"He was expressing a view about a particular religion. You can't have freedom of religion without the freedom to have religious views about particular religions," George Igler, with the Discourse Institute, said of the McConnell case.
It's clear that British pastors have to watch what they say.
Simon Calvert, with The Christian Institute, a legal defense organization, assured CBN News that pastors are still able to preach the whole Bible without being arrested. But he still had some concerns to add.
"There have been some distinct problems in recent years. We have seen a number of cases, typically involving street preachers, of people being told by the police, effectively, 'You can't say that,'" Calvert said.
Law Against Insults
American street evangelist Tony Miano was arrested in Scotland earlier this year for allegedly using 'offensive' language while preaching against sexual immorality.
Police eventually dropped the charges against Miano. Police also dropped the charges against Weston.
But arrests and warnings still have what legal experts call "a chilling effect" on free speech.
Calvert said the speech situation in Britain improved greatly this year with the reform of Section 5 of the Public Order Act, in which insulting someone could be a criminal offense.
He said the law is "every bit as crazy as it sounds. And that law against insults was being used to clamp down on street preachers preaching the gospel."
The law against "insult" was removed from Section 5, but other laws against offending people remain.
"We've made such a big deal out of causing offense," said Anne Marie Waters, a UKIP candidate and head of the website, Shariawatch UK.
"What if you deserve to be offended? Self-censorship is a big problem in Britain. People are afraid to speak. So, in that respect, freedom of speech has been seriously compromised. (Britons are) afraid to say what they think," Waters said.
Britain 'Free' or No?
The experts we interviewed disagreed over whether Britain still has "free speech."
Calvert said it does. However, Weston and Igler agree that when important political and religious speech is blocked, there is no free speech.
"We're ultimately moving toward a situation where, necessarily, the state will have to tell us what kinds of opinions are acceptable and what opinions are not," Igler said.
Weston said he will continue to test Britain's speech laws, to show that speech is longer free.
"You are not going to shut me up. I am going to say it," he said. "If you put me in prison, fine. That's how bad it is now."