CARE: Christian Action, Research and Education

Freedom of Speech
Cause menu Close menu

Freedom of speech and expression are vital, democratic liberties. As Christians, we should uphold them for the benefit of all people.

We want to see a public square where the right of all people to speak, write and express themselves freely is upheld, including those whose views are not popular with the powerful in society.

Together, we can champion freedom of speech and expression for all, including the freedom to share our Christian beliefs, and encourage respectful dialogue on every issue in life.

Topic primer

Freedom of speech and expression are fundamental human rights protected by international and domestic legislation. The right of citizens to share their views through speech, writing, music, art, and other forms of expression is vital, allowing society to function, change, and flourish. When free speech and free expression are protected and affirmed, every community benefits. And when they are unduly restricted and undermined every community suffers.

We recognise that the state does have a legitimate right to punish some forms of expression. Laws exist to prosecute citizens who incite violence against others, or who commit libel or slander. However, the state should, in our view, always err on the side of more free speech and expression, not less. Sadly, over the last two decades the balance has often tipped the other way. More and more attempts are being made to restrict these vital freedoms.

At a legislative level, equality laws have caused significant problems for free speech. In enshrining specific protections for certain groups in society, the state has enabled a situation where groups come into conflict with one another. In seeking to balance the rights and entitlements of protected groups, some groups necessarily lose out. A hierarchy of rights has been created. At CARE, we believe that all citizens – regardless of their personal characteristics, identity, or beliefs – should be afforded absolute equality before the law. Ironically, ‘equality’ laws undermine efforts to achieve this aim.

Legislative and non-legislative ‘hate speech’ measures have also proved highly problematic. The concept of ‘hatred’ is subjective and hard to define. Attempts to tackle ‘hate speech’ risk catching expression that is merely considered hateful. Beliefs and opinions that are unfashionable or counter-cultural are often circumscribed. Police forces across the UK have increasingly encouraged reporting of non-crime ‘hate incidents’. This enables malicious and false reporting and results in citizens with unorthodox opinions being blacklisted.

In wider society, we are witnessing a chill on free speech and expression. University and college campuses are increasingly censorious, barring the participation of students with socially conservative views from student unions and ‘no-platforming’ speakers with views that are out-of-step with liberal left orthodoxy. Workplaces are demanding employees to give assent to modish political initiatives and chastising those who refuse to comply. And schools are increasingly politicised, demanding a uniformity of views.

This censoriousness in wider culture, sometimes described as ‘cancel culture’, is resulting in more and more court cases centring on speech and expression. Christians are amongst the most affected citizens as they come into conflict with the views of societal elites on issues such as gender, marriage, and sexual ethics. Women are also increasingly embroiled in court action given their counter-cultural stance on transgender issues.

Perhaps most worryingly, citizens across the UK are increasingly tempted to ‘self-censor’ – to conceal their views on contentious issues and decide not to take part in societal debates. This tendency, although understandable in the current, febrile political climate, is dangerous. It leads to less scrutiny and emboldens bad actors. Democracy thrives with debate and disagreement and is diminished in the absence of these things.

CARE believes in the freedom of all people to express the beliefs and opinions without fear or favour. We will continue to fight for laws that respect and provide for freedom of speech and expression and oppose moves to unduly restrict these vital freedoms.

Keep reading

There is more to read from CARE's perspective

Close up image of an open Bible as a finger reads along a particular line

Is free speech under threat in the UK?

In this discussion, CARE's James Mildred hosts a conversation with Chief Executive Nola Leach and Chairman, Rev Lyndon Bowring on the state of free speech in the UK.

Watch on YouTube

Resources

Explore resources on freedom of speech and expression.

Is free speech under threat in the UK?

Is free speech under threat in the UK?

The CARE team discuss the state of free speech in the UK and how Christians should have the confidence to speak the truth in love into our society.

Watch
Ten Ways to Pray about Free Speech

Ten Ways to Pray about Free Speech

CARE

This is part of our Ten Ways to Pray Series.

Pray With Us
Free to Disagree Campaign

Free to Dis­agree Campaign

Free to Disagree opposed controversial ‘stirring up hatred’ offences brought forward by the Scottish Government in 2020 under the Hate Crime Bill. They continue to monitor implementation of the Hate Crime Act and will raise awareness of any negative impact on freedom of speech and expression.

Learn More
The Free Speech Union

The Free Speech Union

Free speech is the bedrock on which all our other freedoms rest, yet it is currently in greater peril than at any time since the Second World War. The Free Speech Union is a non-partisan, mass-membership public interest body that stands up for the speech rights of its members.

Learn More
The Madness of the Crowds

The Mad­ness of the Crowds

by Douglas Murray

Are we living through the great derangement of our times? In The Madness of Crowds Douglas Murray investigates the dangers of 'woke' culture and the rise of identity politics. In lively, razor-sharp prose he examines the most controversial issues of our moment: sexuality, gender, technology and race, with interludes on the Marxist foundations of 'wokeness', the impact of tech and how, in an increasingly online culture, we must relearn the ability to forgive.

Buy the Book
Censored

Cen­sored

by Paul Coleman

Despite the importance of freedom of speech and robust public debate, the nations of Europe have all adopted criminal laws against so-called “hate speech.” This book seeks to challenge this prevailing orthodoxy by detailing the stark history of the internationalization of “hate speech” laws, their present day application, and their possible future. Fifty “hate speech” cases are discussed and a fully up-to-date compendium containing hundreds of European “hate speech” laws is included.

Buy the Book
Why Freedom of Speech Is Necessary

Why Free­dom of Speech Is Necessary

by Jordan B Peterson

Jordan B Peterson shares his thoughts on freedom of speech and why it matters.

Watch
Why Does Free Speech Matter?

Why Does Free Speech Matter?

by The Federalist Society

Should colleges encourage free speech on campus? Federalist Society student members and professors weigh in on the free speech debate.

Watch
Free Speech in the UK: what does the law actually say?

Free Speech in the UK: what does the law actu­ally say?

Read this brief summary of the law on freedom of speech in the UK.

Read More

Cause history

Learn more about the history of freedom of speech

399BC Cristina gottardi Pl8 Z Mt Fiyi8 unsplash

Ancient Greeks declare free speech as democratic principle

The ancient Greeks coined the word “parrhesia” which means “free speech" At his trial, Socrates asserted his right to freedom of speech, saying 'If you offered to let me off this time on condition I am not any longer to speak my mind... I should say to you, "Men of Athens, I shall obey the Gods rather than you."'

1215 1200px Magna Carta British Library Cotton MS Augustus II 106

The signing of the Magna Carta

This was considered to be the cornerstone of liberty in England.

1689 English history illustration pic 12th february 1689 this illustration shows william and mary being offered the crown by the lords and commons at whitehall the monarchs as william iii an

Bill of RIghts

This established the constitutional right to free speech in Parliament.

1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in 1789

The Declaration of the Rights of Man published

A central document for the French Revolution, this declaration asserted the right to freedom of speech.

1791 Bill of rights 76f84539 2e97 4197 b8d9 5fd865248f0e 850x

First Amendment of the US BIll of Rights

The First Amendment of the US Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of speech.

1948 Human rights

Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is adopted by the UN Assembly, and it urges nations to promote freedom of speech and expression.

1998` HRA

Human Rights Act 1998

Article 10 of the 1998 Human Rights Act guarantees all in the UK the “right to freedom of expression”.

2020 Speechscot

Scotland's Hate Crime Bill paased

MSPs vote 82-32 in favour of a Hate Crime Bill, which was widely criticised for its restrictions on freedom of speech, particularly in that it criminalizes what people say in their homes.

Hate Crime Bill passes despite unresolved free speech concerns
2021 Speech bubble pop art on cement wall texture background design 1591615927 OBF

Free Speech in Universities Bill

A landmark Bill will will require universities to promote freedom of speech on campus, and there will be legal duties places on Students' Unions.

Recent freedom of speech news

Sign up for Impact Direct, and email publications

By signing up stay in touch you agree to receive emails from CARE. You can change your mailing preferences at any time either by getting in touch with CARE, or through the links on any of our emails.

Culture
& society reflecting a better story for everyone.

At the heart of all of CARE’s work is our determination to uphold the truth that human beings made in God’s image are immensely valuable and deserve to be treated with dignity and compassion.

We want to show a better story for our culture and society, and we want to be part of shaping that in structures that we are given as citizens in the UK…

Find out more about the better story

Donate to CARE

Your donation to CARE enables us to continue to work towards a culture and society reflecting a better story for everyone.

We only ask you to consider giving to CARE after you have considered the needs of your family and church.

All donations are securely processed.

I want to give…

A woman sitting with a smart phone in her lap