Here’s how we can start improving human rights legislation

Jun 12, 2015 by

By Rupert Myers, Conservative Home: […] Having looked at why criticism of a proposed British Bill of Rights is misleading, and atthe appetite within the upper echelons of the legal profession for reform, what proposals should be on Michael Gove’s desk? Here are a few suggestions: […]  The qualification of the rights to freedom of expression and religious freedom have caused widespread discomfort as society has changed over the last half century. The margin afforded to religious freedom has diminished, and the qualification of both rights has led to bitter dispute. It must be time for the consideration of a right to freedom of expression which is restricted only to a prohibition on the imminent incitement of unlawful conduct and the exploitation of minors is concerned. Currently there are genuinely-held religious views which it may well be unlawful to promulgate. The American solution, prohibiting restriction of expression via the First Amendment, should be considered and debated in an age where mass communication is available to us all. The European Convention was not drafted for the internet age in which we are all publishers, all able to express our thoughts to the world, but in which diminishing freedom of expression is tolerated. It may well be that such an unrestricted freedom of expression would alone afford the scope religious freedom required in modern society. Read here...

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The European Court of Human Rights has gone far beyond the intentions of its founders

Jun 11, 2015 by

by Rupert Myers, Conservative Home: It was Professor Hersch Lauterpacht’s 1945 book An International Bill of the Rights of Man in 1945 which first proposed a draft international bill of rights that became the European Convention. The Austrian professor of law at Cambridge wrote of a ‘radical innovation in international practice and a surrender…of the sovereign rights of the state,’ nothing less than ‘a substantial sacrifice by states of their freedom of action.’ It is that sacrifice of freedom which has brought about the debate over a British Bill of Rights. It is extremely unlikely that the drafters of the Convention could ever have expected that their first iteration would be held in such unquestioning esteem for so long without revision. The architects of the Convention would have been shocked by the way in which it has been used to curb the decisions of democratically elected governments in peacetime. David Maxwell-Fyfe, who led the negotiations that led to the European Convention welcomed the Convention as “a simple and safe insurance policy” in favour of “a minimum standard of democratic conduct”, a text that set out “a system of collective security against tyranny and oppression”. He recognised too the implications for the UK, namely that “the Convention superimposes an international code on our unwritten constitution.” Since 1959 the European Court has taken liberties with that superimposition, and the judges of England and Wales have given voice to criticism which underpins the need for a British Bill. Part of the problem of the Convention has been the superimposition of an international code, the other part the unwritten and sometimes murky nature of our constitutional arrangement. For many critics of the Human Rights Act and the effect of Strasbourg jurisprudence, it is the Strasbourg Court’s mission creep and the requirement of Section 2(1) of the 1998 Human Rights Act that domestic courts ‘take into account’ Strasbourg’s judgments which are the most troubling problems with the current law. The European court has far overreached the basis of the original drafting. A document designed to protect Europe against autocratic dictatorships has itself created a body which imposes law by fiat, overreaching the decisions of democratically elected governments. Read here...

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The Christian deception about Conservatives and human rights

May 26, 2015 by

From Archbishop Cranmer: There is a lie permeating the Christian social-media detachment that the Conservative quest to repeal New Labour’s Human Rights Act amounts to an assault upon fundamental human rights; that somehow Tories are inherently opposed to limitations on the state and to the basic protections and assurances of justice and liberty which have been set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights – the ‘Human Rights Charter’ – which the UK helped to draft in the aftermath of World War II. No doubt the Church of England (or, rather, certain anti-Conservative bishops and clergy) will be vocal in their opposition to repeal, insisting (erroneously, not to say misleadingly) that the Government’s intention to replace the Human Rights Act 1998 with a British ‘Bill of Rights’ constitutes an immoral political degradation, if not a grave social evil. Michael Gove is the new Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor. The role is not quite as it was when Sir Thomas More kept the Great Seal with “like place, pre-eminence, jurisdiction, execution of laws, and all other customs, commodities, and advantages”. But like More, Gove is a lay churchman of great intellect and integrity with a profound understanding of theology, ecclesiology, social philosophy and jurisprudence. He is tasked with implementing the necessary legislative reforms – a post-devolution constitutional quandary which will make the establishment of Free Schools look like a brisk walk in the park while nibbling a very dainty piece of cake. Chancellor More saw the Act of Supremacy as theological heresy and lost his head over a sovereign matter of political treason. Michael Gove sees the Human Rights Act as philosophical heresy but is unlikely to lose his head by asserting that British judges ought to adjudicate on the rights and liberties of British subjects: that it is not for activist judges in foreign courts to contravene parliamentary statutes or intervene in domestic courts. If Chancellor More “heard Luther’s call to destroy the Catholic Church as a call to war”, Chancellor Gove hears Cameron’s call to repeal the Human Rights Act as a call to righteous governance, liberty and justice. Read here...

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Human rights warning over bakery case

Apr 11, 2015 by

CEN Editorial: A HUMAN rights lawyer has said that if the Ashers bakery, currently fighting a case brought against them for refusing to make a cake for a gay couple, were to lose their court battle then no defence could be taken against other businesses defending their personal beliefs. Among those cases listed by human rights QC Aidan O’Neill, were an atheist web designer refusing to design a website presenting as scientific fact the claim that God made the world in six days. He also said that a Muslim printer refusing a contract requiring the printing of cartoons of Mohammed would be illegal. Other examples include a Christian film company refusing to produce a pornographic film, a Christian baker refusing to take an order to make a cake celebrating Satanism, a T-shirt company owned by lesbians declining to print T-shirts with a message describing gay marriage as an “abomination”. Another scenario might be a printing company run by Roman Catholics declining an order to produce adverts calling for abortion on demand to be legalised. The court case currently under consideration concerns the McArthur family, owners of Ashers Baking Co, who are being sued by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI). The case arose after a complaint that the baking company refused to make a cake featuring the logo of a Belfast-based campaign group called Queerspace and a picture of the Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie in an embrace with the slogan “Support Gay Marriage”. The bakery is receiving an outpouring of public support. A ComRes poll asking 1,000 people in Northern Ireland whether they believe the ECNI is right to take the Ashers Bakery to court, revealed that 71 per cent of people disagree. Meanwhile a ComRes poll of more than 2,000 people found that 71 per cent said a bakery run by Christians should be able to refuse an order to make a cake celebrating Satanism without being taken to court. Similarly, 71 per cent of those surveyed believe a Muslim printer should be able to refuse to print cartoons of Mohammed without being taken to court; 68 per cent said a printing company run by Roman Catholics should be able to decline an order to produce adverts calling for abortion to be legalised without being taken to court. Read here...

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On Redefining Reality: A Dialogue

Apr 1, 2015 by

by James Jacobs, Crisis Magazine: As I walked down the street, I noticed in the window of a shop a decal advertising the so-called “Human Rights Campaign,” the organization agitating for a redefinition of marriage to include homosexual unions. I was a little shocked somebody would be proud of that association, for I had heard the news that the founder of the Human Rights Campaign (and a major financial backer of President Obama), Terry Bean, was recently arrested in Oregon for sexually abusing a 15 year-old boy. Maybe that story was not broadcast as widely as it should have been—I can only guess why; if the president of the NRA had shot someone, certainly that would make the news. Regardless, it also struck me how utterly debased the notion of human rights had become if an entire genus of moral claims could be reduced to a grotesque assertion made on behalf of one-percent of the population. Yet, I also saw that it is the epitome of the contemporary zeitgeist in which a “right” is nothing other than a sentimental imperative, as Alasdair MacIntyre has put it: on the one hand, it is nothing other than a bold and impulsive desire; yet, this is compounded with the tyrannical demand that others submit to your insistence that that desire be satisfied. This meretricious notion of rights debases them by placing individual desire ahead of objective value, a move which ineluctably reduces to nonsense any and all claims to have rights. I thought I might make a test to determine just how dedicated the shop owner really was to this notion of human rights: did he in fact agree that subjective desire implied the sort of right he seemed to claim for himself? In other words, would he allow me to redefine reality to conform to my own desires? Read here...

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Human rights law and the judiciary

Mar 31, 2015 by

From Civitas: Human rights law has been hijacked in the UK by special interest groups seeking to advance their own rights above those of the rest of the population. The European convention has been repeatedly used in a way that weakens the government’s ability to defend the country from terrorism or to deal with illegal immigrants. But, while there has been a growing clamour for this abuse to be tackled, the real cause of the problem has been fundamentally misdiagnosed. In this forensic study, barrister Michael Arnheim shows how critics are too quick to blame the European Court of Human Rights for the unwarranted extension of the convention’s reach across UK law. In reality, it is Britain’s domestic courts that are largely responsible for this development, while successive governments have been too supine to prevent it happening. Given this misunderstanding of the problem, it is little surprise that current proposals to address it are misguided too. Dr Arnheim details how we have come to this pass and what must be done to address it. Buy or Download The Problem with Human Rights Law: Is it out of control? Who is responsible? What is the solution? In the Media Human rights meddling by UK judges ‘is seriously weakening’ the fight against terror – Daily Mail Judges weakening Britain’s battle against terrorism by caving in to European human rights – Daily Express Politically correct judges on ‘expansionist binge’, says thinktank – Law Society...

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