Let me declare myself. I am an orthodox Christian who welcomes criticism and satire, even ridicule of my faith. I welcome them because they sharpen my own thinking and they give me an opportunity to talk about what I believe.
Hate speech legislation will kill so much of what I enjoy. It will coerce self-censorship and encourage me and nearly everyone else to be a hypocrite, indeed it is remarkably close to making hypocrisy compulsory. And it does that because perpetrators are infatuated by the cult of diversity, inclusion and equity (DIE) and muddled about human rights. And in that fog of muddle and infatuation there is no fresh Nor ’wester permitted to clear the air.
Hate speech legislation is not what Progressives think it is. They have no rational explanation for what they claim. Certainly, none for where human rights came from. They might think that human rights are a gift from the state and consequently fudge the critical distinction between those rights that are self-evident and claims pretending to be rights.
Understanding “self-evident” is critical. It is peculiar to Western civilisation’s belief in humanity’s connection to the transcendent. For example, our dignity and consequently understanding of freedom, which we all claim to possess, is given to us by God and not by the state.
Self-evident rights include the right to religious belief and expression, freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, freedom of movement, freedom to assemble together and probably freedom to buy and sell. Once recognised they create the duty for the state to let people get on with them. Their definition does not depend on what the state says.
Then there are other “rights”; the right to education, the right to warm and dry housing, and most recently the right to be able to choose one’s gender. However, these are not rights, they are claims that must be delivered by the state and paid for by the taxpayer.
Progressives either deny or fail to recognise that any concept they have of human dignity is a product of Western civilisation and comes uniquely from the Bible. “And God created man in his own image, male and female he created them.” Deny that unique declaration and you are left only with a tautology to sustain the notion of human dignity. And that tautology must be protected by hate speech law.
Progressives assert that hate speech legislation will enhance freedom when it will do exactly the opposite. They think that hate speech legislation will give us free “profanely sacred” choice. They assume that protecting one’s chosen identity is the self-evident good; equality for all after all. Hate speech, although without clear definition offends the Progressive’s dignity. Opposition is heretical.
So one should not be surprised when the Prime Minister, a self-declared Progressive, says she wants to introduce hate speech legislation. In Christchurch on Thursday, 24 September, the mosque massacre in the background, "We do have within our legislation in New Zealand provision that deals with hate speech, discrimination around people's identities, but religion hasn't been included in that. My view is that does need to change," she said. "I just think in a modern New Zealand everyone would agree that no one should be discriminated against for their religion and so it makes sense that we add this to the other suite of things we say is just not OK to discriminate people over."
But just a moment. The Human Rights Act (2001) already prohibits discrimination on religious grounds. The Prime Minister is confusing anti-discrimination law with the right to disagree and criticise. As I have already said I am a Christian who is more than happy to have the Christian faith criticised or even satirised. Anyway, it’s been happening for hundreds of years.
Religion configures culture and for that reason it must always be open to satire and criticism. Race, ethnic or national origin are morally neutral. Hate speech legislation will give them political identity and power by default. Instead of ameliorating racism it will intensify it, identifying race or ethnicity above citizenship. Legislation censoring speech is an expansive industry because its foundation is political.
The desire for hate speech legislation in the present cultural context is deeply ironic. It is a critical tool for those who are in the process of wanting to establish a civil religion to replace a de-Christianised morality. Its focus is to place the new identity culture beyond criticism.
The irony is implicit because the progressive notion of human dignity is parasitic. Dignity, for the progressive, rests on a tautology. I have dignity because I’m human; I’m human therefore I have dignity.
Demand for hate speech law is a consequence of Western culture’s rejection of its roots, its understanding of freedom and the prevalence of human self-deception. Rod Dreher “Live Not By Lies” has it in one. “If there is no sacred order, then the original promise of the serpent in the Garden of Eden—'Ye shall be as gods’-- is the foundational principle of the new ‘Progressive’s’ culture.”
Faith in the authoritarian state’s declaration of dignity replaces the freedom we enjoy and taught to us by the biblical notion of dignity. Hate speech legislation is simply an alternative way for the state to say that truth and consequently freedom begins and ends here. It is a necessary step in the development of a civil religion to reinforce the cult of “Diversity and Inclusion”.
The consequence is to make criticism of the rising civil religion too dangerous. We already have its avant-garde entrenching the cancel culture of its shock troops in the universities, media and virtue signalling commerce. In the wake of hate speech legislation dissenting debate will become impossible for everyone, but especially for a Christian whose understanding of dignity and morality absolutely confronts the progressive underpinning of the civil religion.
Bruce Logan is a retired teacher, a Francophile who has spent every northern summer in Provence since 2008 with his wife Mary, until Covid killed it all. He's working on his third novel.