food-for-thought“WARNING Drunks – Homosexuals – Adulterers – Liars – Fornicators – Thieves – Atheists – Idolaters, HELL AWAITS YOU. REPENT!  —Israel Falou on social media

Human right or hate speech?

by Roger Childs

Since the March mosque massacre in Christchurch there has been plenty of talk on tightening up the law against so-called hate speech. However, many are worried that the government may come up with provisions that infringe free speech and clamp down on criticism of a wide range of issues and policies.

Falou jpgAs regards rugby super-star Falou, does he have right to openly express his Christian beliefs about who is destined for the fires below? Does his statement above qualify as hate speech? Many have defended him, but the Australian Rugby Union wants the highly paid player out of the game because in making such pronouncements, he is deemed to have breached the code of conduct obligations in his contract at least twice. What’s more he is unrepentant.  

However, he feels that he is merely exercising his right to free speech. But does that extend to insulting people? Some feel that a court would uphold his claim to express how he feels about sinners, but others think he would be punished because he is in breach of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

Relevant articles in the UN Declaration

Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2: Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Article 7: All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 10: Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 19: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Falou would argue that Article 19 gives him the right to say what he likes. However, if he does that, is he in breach of Article 1 – acting in a spirit of brotherhood, and of Article 7 which guarantees protection against any discrimination?

The UN Declaration needs to be taken as a whole, and although Article 19 does spell out the right to freedom of opinion and expression, other Articles clearly place limits on how free a person can be to say what they like. There is no right to insult groups of people which clearly Falou is doing.

It’s in the Bible!

Because it’s in the good book, doesn’t automatically make it right. There are many statements in the Bible which may have been appropriate for the people of Palestine two thousand and more years ago [or were the prevailing attitudes of the era —Eds], but cannot be defended today.

Falou might reflect on the “golden rule” which feature in two of the gospels – Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. His warning is not in the spirit of that key Christian doctrine, and is certainly not consistent with the UN Declaration’s first article about acting in a spirit of brotherhood.  

When does free speech become hate speech?

Section 61 of the New Zealand Human Rights Act provides that it shall be unlawful for anyone to publish or distribute threatening, abusive or insulting words likely to excite hostility or bring into contempt any group of persons who may be coming to or in New Zealand on the ground of the colour, race, national or ethnic origins of that group of persons.

Many feel that our law could add sexual orientation as a “ground” as is the case in British legislation, but that otherwise our laws provide adequate protection against breaches of free speech.

Minister of Justice, Andrew Little, intends a ‘fast track’ review with the intent of adding to our laws. Most people do accept that the right to free speech does have limitations and brings responsibilities, and that there is no justification for insults and abuse against anyone.

However, the Minister needs to tread warily and not promote changes which would impinge on people’s right to criticise, which is enshrined in the UN’s Declaration Article 19.