July 15, 2006

Thank God for the First Amendment

At Untethered, Dennis Dale reports on a horrifying case in the UK making the expression of unpopular political opinions in the context of voting punishable by law:

From the Independent:

A branch of one of the world's biggest banks has been found guilty of racism after a senior member of staff told a colleague she would be voting for Robert Kilroy-Silk [head of the United Kingdom Independence Party] at the last general election because she said he promised to "get rid of the foreigners".

The remark was overheard by another employee, who sued the bank, HSBC, for race discrimination. Ruby Schembri, 35, a Maltese national, reported the remark. This week an employment tribunal ruled the remark could be construed as racist and ordered HSBC and the supervisor to pay compensation. The case is one of the first to find that a comment not directly made to another person can constitute racism.

This is an expansion of Britain's "hate" speech codes because now one can be sued for having been overheard. Note what prompted the surveillance of one citizen by another (emphasis mine):

She said: "Debbie asked Rosemary if she supported the Tory or Labour Party and bluntly stated, 'I am against immigration'. My ears pricked up and then Debbie added 'I hate foreigners'. I was shocked and offended. Debbie made her statement with real conviction." Ms Johnstone had made no reply.
In her witness statement, Ms Jones said that all she had said was that she would vote for Mr. Kilroy-Silk because he would get rid of immigrants. She denied using the word foreigners. But the tribunal considered her contemporaneous statement, made in 2005, when she admitted she had said she would vote for Mr. Kilroy-Silk because he "would get rid of the foreigners". The tribunal chairman said it was reasonable to infer that the remark showed a "substantial dislike of foreigners". [More]

We are somewhat more sheltered in the U.S. by the First Amendment, but this case shows once again that, in practice, immigration turns out to be the enemy of freedom of speech.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

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