Artur Boruc, a Polish goalkeeper playing for with Celtic, has received a police caution for “a breach of the peace” after he made the sign of the cross during a game. I can only marvel at how Muslims can march through London carrying signs threatening death against people who do not share their beliefs can get a police escort, whereas a devout Christian making the sign of the cross in public can get a police caution. The Polish player was not making rude gestures at a hostile crowd [see update & link below - perhaps he was] or trying to threaten anyone, he was just making a personal gesture indicating a set of beliefs.
I may be a godless rationalist myself but I sincerely hope Artur Boruc not just ignores the police caution but robustly reject it and continues to demonstrate his beliefs as he sees fit. If some Rangers fans cannot stand that and become violent, then perhaps that is where the police’s attention should be more properly focused. Moreover I hope his club supports him regarding this matter and if it does not then I hope he takes his talents elsewhere.
However I am rather bemused that the dismal Ruth Kelly is ‘surprised’ at this development seeing as how she is a leading member of the political class which put the legal infrastructure in place so that exactly this can happen.
Britain has nothing even vaguely resembling the First Amendment or the US Bill of Rights generally, instead relying on common law that springs from a highly imperfect cultural tradition of liberty. As this culture has been in effect ‘nationalised’ and largely replaced by fifty years of highly malleable legislation, there are now few legal tools left to secure individual rights against the state in the UK. Consequently we are left with just hoping for the state to act in a restrained manner as there so now so many laws that can be used to suppress freedom of expression (including not just social but also political speech) that the state can prohibit almost any action it wishes if it really wants to. Moreover public bodies have now been given so much discretion to exercise power ‘in the public interest’ that almost any petty-fogging official can seriously mess with your life if he or she is so inclined. And we can thank the likes of Ruth Kelly in both of the main political parties for this.
Update: Although I stand by my general contention regarding the state of the law and freedom of expression in the UK, there may be a bit more to this specific story than the Telegraph article suggested.