If you live pretty much anywhere in the western world these days, you'll notice a certain kind of news item cropping up with quiet regularity. The Irish Times had one last week. As Liam Reid reported, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties has warned Catholic bishops that distributing the Vatican's latest statement on homosexuality could lead to prosecution under the 1989 Incitement to Hatred Act, and a six-month jail term. Mark Steyn reports
"The document itself may not violate the Act, but if you were to use the document to say that gays are evil, it is likely to give rise to hatred, which is against the Act," says Aisling Reidy, director of the ICCL. "The wording is very strong and certainly goes against the spirit of the legislation." No Irish bishop has actually called gays evil yet. But best to be on the safe side and shut down all debate.
From Dublin, let us zip 6,000 miles to Quesnel, a small paper-mill town in British Columbia. Chris Kempling is a high-school teacher and a Christian conservative and he likes writing letters to his local newspaper. In one of them, he said that "homosexuality is not something to be applauded". The regulatory body for his profession, the British Columbia College of Teachers, suspended him for a month without pay for "conduct unbecoming a member of the college".
No student, parent or fellow teacher at Correlieu Secondary School has ever complained about Mr Kempling: he was punished by the BCCT for expressing an opinion in the paper. The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association supported the suspension, not because of anything he's done but because of what he might do in the future. He might discriminate against gay and lesbian students in the future. He hasn't done so yet, but, if we don't pre-emptively punish him now, he might well commit a hate crime somewhere down the road.
He didn't say gays are evil. But he did say homosexuality wasn't something to be "applauded". And, if we start letting people decide who they are and aren't going to applaud, there's no telling where it will end. As in Dublin, best to be on the safe side and shut down all debate.
In Sweden, meanwhile, they've passed a constitutional amendment making criticism of homosexuality a crime, punishable by up to four years in jail. Expressing a moral objection to homosexuality is illegal, even on religious grounds, even in church.
Those preachers may not be talking about how gays are evil this Sunday. But they might do next week, or next month. As in Ireland and British Columbia, best to be on the safe side and shut down all debate.
Anyone sense a trend here? Even in America, where the First Amendment (on freedom of expression) still just about trumps "hate crimes" law, you can see where things are headed. Thus, in Hollywood, they're famously opposed to censorship, and blacklisting, and leaning on studio executives to end someone's career because of his or her views, and making people answer questions such as: "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?"
But, when it comes to: "Are you now or have you ever been a member of a traditional Judaeo-Christian religion?", that's another question entirely.
A couple of years back, the writers of Frasier and various other Hollywood colossi successfully chased America's second most popular radio host, Dr Laura, off the TV airwaves by putting pressure on Paramount over her views on the gay agenda.
That's fair enough. If influential people want to lean on advertisers to get rid of someone they disapprove of, it's not pretty but it's an understandable use of muscle - though a bit rich coming from Hollywood.
If you're an aged survivor of McCarthyism who's unrepentant about being an apologist for a totalitarian system that murdered untold millions, celebrity lefties will be relaxed and, indeed, supportive. But, if you happen to think that gay marriage is not such a great idea, then getting the major TV studios, networks and affiliates to blacklist you is in the public interest.
But what was interesting was how many ostensibly higher-minded people thought that Dr Laura's defence of traditional Judaeo-Christian morality justified gutting the First Amendment. As the San Francisco Board of Supervisors put it: "At what point do her words become the equivalent of yelling 'Fire!' in a crowded theatre?" - or, in this instance, yelling "Robert Mugabe!" in a crowded bathhouse.
Dr Laura has yet to yell anything in a gay bathhouse. But she might, some day. As in Ireland, British Columbia and Sweden, best to be on the safe side and shut down all debate.
Thirty years ago, in the early days of gay liberation, most of us assumed we were being asked to live and let live. But, throughout the western world, "tolerance" has become remarkably intolerant, and "diversity" demands ruthless conformity. In New Zealand, an appeals court upheld a nationwide ban on importing a Christian video Gay Rights/ Special Rights: Inside The Homosexual Agenda. In Saskatchewan, the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix was fined by the Human Rights Commission for publishing an advertisement quoting Biblical passages on homosexuality. Fining publishers of the Bible surely can't be far off. The coerciveness of the most "liberal" cultures in the western world is not a pretty sight.
Whatever happened to "live and let live"? If I can live with the occasional rustle from the undergrowth as I'm strolling through a condom-strewn park or a come-hither look from George Michael in the men's room, why can't gays live with the occasional expression of disapproval?
Christian opponents of gay marriage oppose gay marriage, they don't oppose the right of gays to advocate it. But increasingly gays oppose the right of Christians to advocate their beliefs.
Gay activists have figured that, instead of trying to persuade people to change their opinions, it's easier just to get them banned.
As Rodney King, celebrated black victim of the LAPD, once plaintively said: "Why can't we all just get along?" But, if that's not possible, why can't we all just not get along? What's so bad about disagreement that it needs to be turned into a crime?