Wellington Phoenix bans flags

The Wellington Phoenix have spoken to Israeli striker Tomer Hemed after he wrapped himself in the flag of his homeland to celebrate a winning goal, saying the club needs to be “sensitive” to both sides of the Gaza conflict.

It comes after Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa criticized Hemed two weeks ago, saying he “crossed the line when, after scoring a winning goal, he ran to a group of Israeli supporters, took one of their Israeli flags and wrapped himself in it.”

What line was that? The line where the Palestine Solidarity Network feels it has the right to police Israeli people’s expression of their nationality and peoplehood?

Fans are now being asked to refrain from bringing national flags to the Pheonix’s New Zealand home games due to growing tensions in the Middle East. Only New Zealand and Australian national flags will be permitted for display at upcoming games!

RNZ bans comments on Laurel Hubbard stories

Transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, 43, is set to make history as the Olympic Games’ first transgender Olympian.

But our national broadcaster, Radio New Zealand, has banned people from commenting on articles that discuss Hubbard’s participation on the broadcaster’s Facebook page. This move was also made by the New Zealand Herald, who said “Transphobia will not be tolerated on this page.”

On Twitter, RNZ was no better — hiding (or reporting) comments that were in opposition to the transgender athlete being allowed to compete against born women. For a state broadcaster to be censoring comments on an article they have published because they fear what people may say about it is absurd and frankly scary. 

RNZ hash-tagged their post with “#LISTEN”, but will they listen to the people of New Zealand who view Hubbard’s participation as unfair to natural-born women, but have nothing against transgender people identifying as the gender they wish?  We’ve filed a request under the Official Information Act seeking RNZ’s policy on this matter and their reasons for banning debate. After all, RNZ’s tag line is ‘news not views’ – let’s hold them to it.

Auckland City Libraries sticks to its principles in the face of complaints from trans activists demanding the removal of controversial books from its catalogue

You might remember earlier this month, we told you about how Mighty Ape had pulled two books from its catalogue after complaints from trans activists. The activists tried to demand the same from Auckland City Libraries, Stuff reports.

Auckland City Libraries did the right thing when it described the ambit of its role as not extending to censoring or limiting what people may choose to read.

Em, a transgender non-binary person who complained, said, “I think it’s reprehensible Auckland Libraries are providing access to hate speech while hiding under the cover of free speech.” Removing or suppressing material simply because it offends an individual or group would be unacceptable. Freedom of access to information is a cornerstone of western, liberal democracy, whereas no one, nowhere, has the right not to be offended.

Why a small and vocal minority feels they have the right to decide for the rest of us what we can and can’t read is beyond us.

It is worth noting that a similar campaign to remove the same books was recently waged in Ottawa, Canada. Irreversible damage went from having 30 holds at the Ottawa Public Library, to now having 162. A clear-cut case of the Streisand effect in action. Surprise, surprise! Censorship always backfires.

We’re not often friends with Auckland Council, but credit where credit is due. Kudos to Auckland City Libraries for siding with the people, free speech and the capacity of people to make up their own mind!

Fee-paying boarding school reports its chaplain to anti-terror unit Prevent for telling pupils in a sermon that they’re allowed to disagree with LGBT teaching.

One of the reasons so many of us a fearful of hate speech legislation is because what is happening in the UK.  In the latest example of speech police going overboard, a school chaplain has been referred to anti-terror police for telling students that they’re allowed to disagree with LGBT teaching.

According to the Daily Mail:

A school secretly reported its chaplain to the anti-terrorism Prevent programme after he delivered a sermon defending the right of pupils to question its introduction of new LGBT policies.

The Reverend Dr Bernard Randall told pupils at independent Trent College near Nottingham that they were allowed to disagree with the measures, particularly if they felt they ran contrary to Church of England principles.

Among them was a plan to ‘develop a whole school LGBT+ inclusive curriculum’.Having decided that Dr Randall’s sermon was ‘harmful to LGBT’ students, the school flagged him to Prevent, which normally identifies those at risk of radicalisation.

Police investigated the tip-off but advised the school by e-mail that Dr Randall, 48, posed ‘no counter terrorism risk, or risk of radicalisation’. Derbyshire Police confirmed that the case ‘did not meet the threshold for a Prevent referral’.

This is where the story should have ended, but when you give busy bodies a hammer, everything is a nail.

But in a disturbing development, Dr Randall, a former Cambridge University chaplain and Oxford graduate, claims that the school later told him that any future sermons would be censored in advance.  He also claims that he was warned his chapel services would be monitored ‘to ensure that… requirements are met’.

Dr Randall was later dismissed. He is suing for discrimination, harassment, victimisation and unfair dismissal and his case is due to be heard next month. ‘My career and life are in tatters,’ he said.

Campaigners said the case was one of the most extraordinary of its kind and raised disturbing questions about freedom of speech. Former Education Minister Sir John Hayes said, if the claims are proved, the school had ‘behaved appallingly’.

Dr Randall’s sermon, delivered in the school chapel on June 21, 2019, was prompted, he says, by concerns from pupils about an organisation called Educate & Celebrate, run by Dr Elly Barnes, which was invited to ‘embed gender, gender identity and sexual orientation into the fabric’ of the school. In it, he said: ‘You should no more be told you have to accept LGBT ideology, than you should be told you must be in favour of Brexit, or must be Muslim.’

But he stressed the ‘need to treat each other with respect’. Several days later, he will tell the tribunal, he was called to a meeting and told the sermon was inflammatory, divisive and ‘harmful to LGBT pupils’.

Dr Randall only learned about the Prevent referral because it was mentioned in documents given to him ahead of a disciplinary hearing. ‘I had visions of being investigated by MI5, of men knocking down the front door,’ he said.Trent College has a ‘Christian ethos’ and Dr Randall was appointed in 2015 to provide pastoral care, share the Christian faith and lead services in the school’s chapel.

But he claims he found himself increasingly sidelined as the school began implementing the Educate & Celebrate programme.

The MoS can also reveal that in legal proceedings against the school it will be claimed: Toby Young, of the Free Speech Union, said: ‘This is a fantastic sermon, reminding us no one has a monopoly on moral truth. For Bernard Randall to lose his job as a result of this sermon is scandalous.‘

What’s so depressing about his treatment is the message it sends to the pupils. The central theme of his sermon is that children shouldn’t be afraid to think for themselves. But the message the school has sent is the opposite. Schools should be teaching children how to think, not what to think.’

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting Dr Randall, said: ‘Who are the extremists in this story? The partisan agency who teach young children that they can be born in the wrong body, or the school chaplain moderately presenting what the Christian church has taught about marriage, sex and gender for the past 2,000 years?’

The College declined to comment.UK Introduces Bill to Censor Legal Speech, Block Websites for Non-Compliance

The UK government has introduced a draft “Online Safety Bill” which would force websites to clamp down on legal speech, and even block them if they don’t comply.

Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, said that the bill would “protect children on the internet, crack down on racist abuse on social media and through new measures to safeguard our liberties, create a truly democratic digital age”

The bill creates a “duty of care” on websites to ensure that explicitly legal speech which has an “adverse psychological impact” is clamped down upon. This means that if the bill is passed, not only would there be a greater standard of what speech is acceptable online and offline, but the government themselves would pass the buck to that decision down initially to the Big Tech companies.

“The Online Safety Bill introduces state-backed censorship and monitoring on a scale never seen before in a liberal democracy,” said Mark Johnson, the Legal and Policy Officer at Big Brother Watch. “This Bill is disastrous for privacy rights and free expression online,” he added.

We’ll be following the UK Bill closely and are talking to MPs in New Zealand to introduce a similar framework here. Thank you for your support,
Dr David CuminDavid sig
Dr David Cumin
Free Speech Union

At one time the UK Conservative Party, now governing alone, was a strong defender of Free Speech, viewing any measure to curtail it as extremely regrettable. Today it has become just as authoritarian and intolerant of dissent as the Labour Party, if not more so. —Eds