Volokh linked to a PDF file with the actual text of the flyer that the minister they arrested was handing out at a gay event in Wales. I agree with Eugene that it’s about as non-offensive as a flyer expressing those opinions could possibly be. It doesn’t rant and rave at gay people, it just lays out their views based on their interpretation of what the Bible says about homosexuality. I disagree with those views completely, of course, but I cannot for the life of me understand why the British government thinks there is any cause for even batting an eye at it, much less arresting someone and violating their rights. Volokh writes:
I certainly don’t agree with the moral views expressed in the leaflet, but my sense is that this is probably about as calm, polite, and reasoned a way of expressing those views as is possible. Of course many people would still find it offensive, because of the ideas that the speech expresses; but preventing such speech really does requiring suppressing the ideas, rather than just insisting that they be expressed in less incendiary ways. If the distribution of such speech is illegal in England, then English law has indeed gone a long way to undermining the ability to discuss such moral matters.
It certainly has. And it highlights the problem with hate speech laws in general. A law that makes it illegal to utter “‘threatening, abusive or insulting words” is inevitably broadened, at least with respect to certain protected groups, and it is inevitably targeted only against one side. Calling an anti-gay Christian a bigoted moron (and I do so often, though not in all cases) is, objectively, much more of an insult than merely citing moral disapproval of something. Yet you never hear of such laws being used to stifle that sort of speech, only speech aimed from one side and not the other.
And again, I think that’s inevitable. And if the law is going to be applied this broadly, is there any criticism of anything that could not be deemed equally insulting and therefore illegal? We simply should not allow government to police speech and ideas in this manner, deciding what is and is not “insulting”. There is simply no way of doing so in an objective manner, and the result is invariably to make the expression of certain ideas forbidden.