DAVID KURTEN: Freedom And Equality – A Discussion Paper
Editors Note: David Kurten submitted the below for consideration in the 2017 Manifesto. We republish with his kind permission to throw open the debate on this crucial issue and how we as a Party best address it. He is speaking at Speakers Corner this coming Sunday in defence of free speech between 3 and 4 pm.
Freedom and Equality
UKIP believes in allowing all people their fundamental rights of freedom of conscience, religion and belief. There should be maximum room for freedom of speech and expression, except in the case of incitement to violence.
There should be equal rights and opportunities for all, but not special rights for certain protected groups.
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Equality Under the Law
UKIP believes in equality for all. British law provides this. Parallel and alien systems of law which deny fundamental rights and freedoms to certain groups must be prohibited.
Sharia law treats women, Christians, Jews, ex-Muslims, other non-Muslim unbelievers (known as kaffir) and homosexuals as second-class citizens or worse. Sharia law has no place in the United Kingdom.
UKIP will ban Muslim Arbitration Tribunals which use Sharia law to make decisions and judgments.
Reforming the Equality Act
On the other hand, the law should not provide special rights for certain groups, or be used to curtail freedom of speech.
We will undertake targeted reform of the Equality Act 2010, replacing the divisive either/or approach to discrimination with an inclusive both/and approach to create a public square that recognises freedom of expression and values the diversity of peaceful, lawful opinion.
Moreover, we will change the Public Sector Equality Duty (section 149 of the Equalities Act) and its associated guidance to ensure that public bodies must have ‘particular regard’ to freedom of expression and diversity of lawful opinion so that it delivers an equal opportunity for all, regardless of characteristics or creed.
UKIP will repeal clauses on affirmative action for minorities and protected groups. There should be equal rights but not special rights for minority groups. Affirmative action is positive discrimination, which undermines the centuries-old principle that ‘all are equal under the law.’
There should be no requirement for employers to reflect the demographic makeup of the community – the only requirement for employment opportunities is a genuinely open and fair process where individuals are assessed by merit.
However, discrimination on the basis on British citizenship will be allowed. British citizens should have precedence over non-citizens for employment in the case of a number of candidates being equally qualified and suitable.
Equalities and Human Rights Commission
We will abolish the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. It is time to return the responsibility for guidance on equality and human rights to MPs and government ministers who are accountable to the electorate.
This EHRC has done its job and has now become a divisive body which propagates corrosive ideology. It is wrong to allow an unaccountable, unelected quango to continue to have a far-reaching and damaging impact on national life and culture through issuing guidance which often institutionalises special privileges and treatment of people with protected characteristics, rather than equal treatment for all regardless of characteristics.
UKIP will change laws and guidance to allow ‘reasonable accommodation’ for employees and service providers so that they are not compelled to behave in ways which contradict their conscience or sincerely held religious beliefs if there are alternative employees or service providers which are easily accessible.
As such, given the compelling need of young people for a loving home, we will amend the Equality Act 2010 to ensure that faith-based adoption agencies are allowed to utilise their expertise in the placement of young people in line with their doctrinal beliefs, providing a referral to other agencies where appropriate. Catholic adoption agencies would be able to re-open and continue their excellent work in placing some of the nation’s most troubled children.
Reasonable accommodation would allow, for example, a Christian bakery or Muslim printer to decline to draw a picture or write a message against their conscience when there are other providers of the same service in the same locality. Pharmacists would also be allowed to decline to dispense contraceptive pills if there is another pharmacist in the same shop or locality who does not have a conscientious objection. Midwives and nurses will not be compelled to assist in abortions.
Freedom of Speech and Hate Speech
Freedom of speech and freedom of conscience are fundamental rights and must be defended if our society is to remain at liberty. People should have full freedom of speech and expression provided what is said does not amount to incitement to violence.
These fundamental rights have been eroded over recent decades by the burgeoning concept of hate speech. The definition of hate speech has been so widened in recent years that it is now possible to be prosecuted for incidents that are quite obviously nothing to do with hate. Anybody can report any incident as a hate crime or hate speech if they feel offended, or feel that there is perceived hostility to anyone, anywhere. New guidance to the police services and the Crown Prosecution Service encourages the pursuit of individuals for hate crimes and hate speech simply for having an opinion which is not politically correct.
People should be allowed to debate and criticise differing beliefs and ideas, tell jokes and engage in banter without being afraid of being reported, suspended from their work for incidents happening outside the workplace, dragged through the courts or receiving a criminal record.
UKIP will remove ‘hate speech’ from the political vocabulary and instead refer only to ‘incitement to violence’. This will be an offence if it is proven that the incitement was motivated by bias against another individual or group based on race, religion or belief, biological sex, sexual orientation or disability.
Guidance will be changed so that reports of ‘hate speech’ or ‘hate incidents’ which do not have any evidence and are purely subjective and superficial will not be pursued. People who make large numbers of spurious accusations of hate speech against people with whom they have had no contact will be investigated and prosecuted for wasting police time.