Skip to content

FREE SPEECH UNION NEWS

October 31, 2022

PayPal amendment to the Financial Services Bill needs your support

By Toby Young

As many of you will know, last month PayPal closed the account of the FSU with no notice and no real explanation. Because about a third of our members pay their recurring membership dues via PayPal, that placed a huge question mark over the future of the organisation. We kicked up an almighty fuss and about two weeks later a bloody and bruised PayPal raised the white flag and restored our account.

That’s great, obviously, but there are plenty of other individuals and groups whose accounts have been closed by the company for what appear to be purely political reasons and we need to put a stop to this kind of censorship if we can.

Encouragingly, the Telegraph reported last month that Conservative backbenchers were “considering launching an amendment” to a Parliamentary bill that would effectively ban companies like PayPal from deplatforming customers because it doesn’t like their politics. Suitably buoyed by this news, the FSU has been lobbying the Government to develop a legislative mechanism capable of stopping Big Tech companies censoring people for expressing legal but dissenting views (or, as in the case of the FSU, for defending those who express legal but dissenting views).

An amendment has now been brought to the Financial Services and Markets Bill after 42 peers and MPs wrote to Andrew Griffith, the minister responsible for this Bill, to express their concern about PayPal Europe’s decision to close without notice or explanation the accounts of several advocacy, campaigning and journalistic groups in the UK, including the FSU, UsForThem and The Daily Sceptic.

New Clause 15 has been tabled by Sally-Ann Hart MP and will make it illegal for payment services providers to refuse service to customers in the UK because they have said something, or supported a cause, which the provider disapproves of, even though it’s perfectly legal.

This is the amendment we need to stop the emergence of a Chinese-style social credit system in the UK. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. At present, New Clause 15 has been tabled but not yet accepted. To ensure that Sally-Ann Hart’s proposal is adopted by the Government, we need to keep up the pressure on legislators, mobilising the extraordinary public opposition to PayPal’s recent behaviour.

So please use the FSU’s campaigning tool to write to your MP and urge to tell their whip that they support New Clause 15 of the Financial Services and Markets Bill.

The link to the tool is here and it only take a couple of minutes to fill out the form and send an email to your MP. The more people that click the link and get involved, the more likely we are to check the creeping trend of Big Tech platforms financially censoring people who express dissenting views before it starts to become institutionally normalised.

If you’re not a member yet, please sign up and join the fight against these censorious financial services companies.

If you’re already a member, please make a donation so we can devote the time and resources we need to win this battle. This the new front in the ongoing war against free speech and if we lose this one then free speech as we know will effectively be dead.

Neil Oliver

On 9th November I’ll be joined in conversation by historian, author and television presenter Neil Oliver. After a successful career as a TV historian, Neil has become one of GB News’s most popular presenters, with social media clips of his monologues often clocking up several million views. He was an outspoken critic of the UK’s lockdown policy and has subsequently raised questions about the efficacy and safety of the mRNA Covid vaccines. I’m looking forward to hearing Neil’s thoughts on his transformation from pillar of the Establishment to anti-Establishment rebel. Our online events are exclusive to FSU members. Members can find the link to register and receive the Zoom link in last Friday’s weekly Round-Up or in the regular emails from FSU Events. If you’re not receiving those, please email Events@freespeechunion.org.

FSU helps secure apology and £10,000 damages for Christian Activist Hatun Tash

The Met Police has paid £10,000 in damages and apologised to the evangelical Christian activist and FSU member Hatun Tash, who was wrongly arrested at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park, of all places. A letter from Inspector Andy O’Donnell, from the Met’s professional standards directorate, apologised to her “for the distress that you have suffered”. He said he was “satisfied that on these occasions the level of service did fall below the requisite standard”.

Although welcome, Inspector O’Donnell’s apology is long overdue. Over the past few years, Hatun has had to endure some truly appalling treatment at the hands of the police.

The FSU first wrote to the Met on Hatun’s behalf in 2021 after she was slashed in the face with a knife at Speakers’ Corner. (You can read that letter here). We urged the then Met Commissioner, Cressida Dick CBE, to do more to protect Ms Tash.

The second time we wrote to the Met was after I’d visited Speakers’ Corner in June of this year in my capacity as General Secretary of the Free Speech Union to celebrate its 150th anniversary, only to discover that she had been arrested her in the same spot the previous day. (I wrote about that episode for the Spectator.)

In a scandalous miscarriage of justice, Hatun was arrested and dragged away from the scene after being robbed — yes, you read that correctly — and taken into police custody for 24 hours where she was needlessly strip searched, interviewed, kept overnight in a cell, and then released without charge. She was later told by the police that the reason she’d been arrested was because she was wearing an ‘offensive’ t-shirt — it reproduced one of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

We wrote to the Acting Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Stephen House, asking him to justify this appalling treatment and, if he could not, to apologise to Hatun. (You can read that letter here). I’m delighted that the Met has, belatedly, done the right thing and that Ms Tash has now received an apology.

Thanks to the efforts of the Christian Legal Centre, who helped her bring a legal case against the Met, Hatun has also now been paid £10,000 in damages (which she has given to Christian Concern).

Joseph Kelly fundraiser – help stop the creep of blasphemy laws by another name in the UK

One of our most high-profile current cases is a good test of anyone’s free speech credentials. In fact, it’s probably best if you read this one with Lord Justice Sedley’s statement that free speech includes not only the inoffensive but the “heretical, unwelcome and provocative” fresh in your mind.

Joe Kelly was convicted and sentenced in Scotland for contravening the Communications Act 2003, section 127(1)(b), which makes it a criminal offence to make an electronic post which is “grossly offensive”. Mr Kelly was at home on 3 February, 2021, when he tweeted “the only good Brit soldier is a deed [i.e., dead] one, burn auld fella buuuuurn” in response to the news that Captain Tom, the 99-year-old former British Army officer who raised money for charity during the first Covid-19 lockdown, had died. The tweet was only visible to his handful of followers for 20 minutes before he began to receive threats directed against him and his family and deleted it. It wasn’t fast enough, however: someone had already reported Joe to the police for his tweet. So began a long legal process (Spiked have the full story and context).

The Scottish authorities decided to prosecute Joe, and despite his counsel’s best attempts to defend his right to free speech he was convicted and sentenced to a community payback order. Having had his appeal denied by the Scottish Courts and having been labelled an “example case” to deter others from “pressing the blue button”, i.e., posting offensive content on Twitter, Joe is now trying to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Yes, Kelly’s tweet was offensive. But so what? The right to offend is a crucial element of free speech, and it shouldn’t be the business of the police or the courts to protect people from hurty feelings.

The strength of free speech, the foundation of liberal democratic societies, is measured exactly by how tolerant we are of speech that we find reprehensible and offensive. Now more than ever, we should resist the urge of the state to criminalise expressions of dissent which relate to society’s ‘sacred cows’ — we cannot allow the development of blasphemy laws by another name.

That’s why this particular case is about much more than Joe Kelly’s own fight for justice. It’s about ensuring this punishment beating administered to deter others from speaking their minds does not achieve its aim.

Any donations made to Joe’s crowdfunder are to fund the legal expenses associated with preparation of an application to the European Court of Human Rights. We believe it’s a case that’s worth supporting — you can pledge your support here.

The FSU complains to Gonville and Caius’s College Council and Cambridge University’s Vice-Chancellor about the Master’s Email denouncing Dr Helen Joyce

As the Telegraph reported over the weekend, the FSU has written to Cambridge University’s Vice-Chancellor, as well as Gonville & Caius’s College Council, regarding the free speech implications of the astonishing email sent to all students last week by the College’s Master and Senior Tutor denouncing FSU Advisory Council member Dr Helen Joyce.

In their email, the Master of the College, Professor Pippa Rogerson, and Senior Tutor, Dr Andrew Spencer, dismissed Helen’s work as “polemics”, described her gender-critical views as “insulting and hateful to members of our community”, and declared that they would not be attending the talk she was due to give at Caius. On the eve of the event, the head of Cambridge’s sociology faculty also decided to apologise to students for the “distress caused” by sending them an email invitation to the talk.

No doubt encouraged by these expressions of disdain for Dr Joyce’s work, around a hundred protesters, some masked, gathered outside the talk chanting “trans rights are human rights” and banging drums. Witnesses claimed a fire door was hit and microphones had to be turned to full volume because Ms Joyce was becoming impossible to hear.

The first complaint the FSU has made is to the College Council, Caius’s governing body. As I pointed out to the Council, the email looks like it may have been a breach of the College’s Statement on Freedom of Speech. I also pointed out that “the inhospitable reception of Dr Joyce has turned the attention of the world on the College”, and that the College Council really “must now decide whether the College supports freedom of speech, or whether it is merely play-acting at being an institution of learning”.

The second letter we’ve sent was to Dr Anthony Freeling, Cambridge’s Acting Vice-Chancellor, arguing that the email, which was sent by the Master using her University email address, may have been a breach of her duty under s43 of the Education Act 1986 to uphold free speech on campus, which applies to all officers of English universities. We argued that Prof Rogerson’s email was at odds with the University’s own free speech policy and that she “must bear some responsibility for the intolerant and discourteous” protests that “rendered Dr Joyce inaudible at times”.

You can read both of the FSU’s letters here and watch FSU Advisory Council member Professor Douglas Stokes taking about the episode on GB News here.

FSU member Rachel Meade’s “Orwellian Nightmare” is finally over

As reported by the Mail this month, the year-long “Orwellian nightmare” of social worker and FSU member Rachel Meade, who was suspended for posting gender critical views on her private Facebook account, is over. The dedicated social worker with an unblemished 20-year record was suspended from her job at Westminster City Council after a single complaint was made by a Mr Aedan Wolton, then a colleague of hers and now Sport England’s ‘Diversity Champion’ about allegedly “transphobic” posts on her private Facebook page.

According to Mr Wolton, Rachel’s “transphobia” was evidenced by the fact that she shared links to news articles, including one from The Mail on Sunday, about transgender issues, as well as to blogs and petitions surrounding the national debate over whether it should be made easier for people to legally change their gender. Mr Wolton’s single complaint to the regulator Social Work England led to Rachel being suspended from her job for a year. She also faced being struck off by the watchdog at a ‘fitness to practice’ hearing. Legal proceedings hung over her for almost two years.

In a humiliating climbdown, Social Work England has now dropped its case against Rachel, who told the Mail that the “last two years have been nothing short of an Orwellian nightmare for me and my family”. She added: “My apparent crime was to share some news articles and petitions about the self-ID gender debate to fewer than 50 friends on Facebook. I found myself wrongly accused of holding abhorrent transphobic views.” Ms Meade’s solicitor, Shazia Khan, has, unsurprisingly, accused Social Work England of failing to uphold freedom of speech and called for a public apology. So far, they have declined.

It’s utterly ridiculous that Social Work England put Rachel through this ordeal on the strength of a single complaint from an ex-colleague. That said, I’m pleased that the FSU were able to support Rachel with her case and it’s good to hear that she will now be free to resume the career that she loves.

It’s probably also worth pointing out that Rachel’s “Orwellian Nightmare” demonstrates exactly why one strand of the FSU’s Parliamentary and lobbying work is now focused on persuading ministers and senior officials to amend the Employment Rights Act 1996 to make it impossible for companies to discipline staff for saying entirely lawful but contentious things outside the workplace. (You can watch me make the case for this amendment on GB News here.)

The FSU writes to the National Education Union regarding its definition of “transphobia”

Earlier this month I wrote to the National Education Union (NEU), Britain’s largest teaching union, after a whistleblower leaked a document to our organisation containing the NEU’s proposed definition of “transphobia” (LBCiNewsUnherd). The definition has been drafted after a resolution to develop a definition of transphobia was passed at the last annual NEU conference in the spring, and now looks likely to be adopted.

The proposal suggests that anyone who expects trans people “to participate in discussion or debate about their rights and/or identities” is transphobic, and cites “propagating ideas, concepts and misinformation harmful to trans people and which erase and ignore trans history” as examples of transphobic behaviour (while neglecting to define what is meant by “trans history” nor what “ideas, concepts and misinformation” would be considered harmful). It further defines transphobia as a “rejection of trans identity and a refusal to acknowledge that those identities are real or valid” or the “incorrect use of pronouns” (Telegraph).

While protecting trans pupils, trans teachers and trans support staff from harassment is a worthy aim, it’s clear that this proposal goes way beyond compliance with equalities law and would have the effect of rendering any challenge to gender critical ideology or the agenda of trans rights activists as a legitimate reason to sack a teacher. So much for trade unions protecting their members rights.

The NEU is effectively saying to all its dues-paying members that don’t want to go along with gender identity ideology that it regards them as transphobic and no longer wants to represent them or defend their rights. As member relations campaigns go, it’s certainly bold.

And what about the policy’s effect on staffrooms up and down the country? The Telegraph spoke to a whistleblower in the teaching union who is concerned that it will stop people speaking out on this issue. “I am extremely worried,” he told the paper. “I’m from a Left-wing background and I hate this nonsense. We need free speech. Women need safe spaces. If this definition is accepted, anyone who says: ‘You can’t logically self-identify as the opposite sex’, you’ll be a transphobe.” The source added: “I think it will mean that teachers will be too scared to speak up in schools and they will go along with the NEU policy.”

FSU Chairman’s Lecture on Decolonisation

The FSU’s Chairman, Professor Nigel Biggar, explained to a packed Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford last week why he believes the cultural revolutionary version of decolonisation is based on several false premises, starting with the claim that Britain is “systemically racist”. I was in the audience and thoroughly recommend you watch the YouTube video of this lecture (available here). The discussion afterwards with FSU Director Douglas Murray is also worth watching.

Advertisement
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: