Enemies of the state: religious freedom and the new repression

Wednesday, 16 November 2016, at Conway Hall in London

A registrar sacked for refusing to oversee a civil partnership; a pastor arrested for preaching fire and brimstone from his own pulpit; a nurse dismissed for wearing a crucifix while at work; a teacher fired for praying for a sick child... Over the past few years, examples of religious freedom being abridged have proliferated. So what is going on? Are we entering a new era of intolerance towards the faithful? Or a brave new world of equality? Is freedom of conscience under threat? Or does the state have the right to adjudicate on what it is acceptable to think and say? These are just a few of the questions we will be exploring in this half-day conference, in partnership with the ADF International, on the state of religious freedom today.

The conscience question: are we free people?
12.15–13.30

Freedom of conscience was once viewed as a cornerstone of individual liberty. It guaranteed one's right to act according to one's beliefs, rather than prevailing orthodoxies. Now, however, this freedom often seems to be presented as an impediment to people's capacity to do the 'right' social and moral thing, be it criticism of the parent who withdraws his or her children from sex-education classes to the sacking of the day-care staffer who refuses to address a six-year-old boy as a girl. Are we in danger of losing sight of the importance of freedom of conscience? And if we do not have a free, robust, internal life, can we really be free?

Speakers

Speaker

Frank Furedi
sociologist and commentator

Speaker

Jodie Ginsberg
CEO, Index on Censorship

Speaker

Roger Trigg
Emeritus professor of Philosophy

The Cake Wars: when equality and freedom clash
14.15–15.30

From the bakers prosecuted for refusing to supply gay-wedding cakes, to the B&B owners legally challenged for turning down custom from a same-sex couple, examples abound of the conflict between equality laws and individual freedoms. But to what extent should equality laws be used to clamp down on people's freedom of conscience? Ought individual or group self-esteem override others’ freedom to act on their convictions? Or are these conflicts better resolved through open debate rather than state legislation?

Speakers

Speaker

Simon Calvert
Deputy director for public affairs, The Christian Institute

Speaker

Peter Tatchell
human-rights campaigner

Speaker

Joshua Rozenberg
writer, commentator and broadcaster

The Hate Trap: should we be free to hate?
15.45-17.00

Hate-speech legislation is spreading across Europe. To many, its ostensible targets appear legitimate: Holocaust deniers, anti-Semites, fascists and so on. But is the reality more complex? Are hate-speech laws being used to punish and silence those who simply hold unpopular moral or religious views, from Christians who criticise gay marriage to secularists who oppose the Islamic preparation of meat? Is hate speech merely heresy resurrected, a category used to denote which ideas may and may not be expressed?

Speakers

Speaker

Paul Coleman
Deputy director, ADF International

Speaker

Muhammad Al–Hussaini
Senior fellow in Islamic Studies, Westminster Institute

Speaker

Brendan O'Neill
editor, spiked

Comment and analysis from spiked and our speakers

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A conscientious objection

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The heart of the matter

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'Radical secularism is stifling free speech'

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The reality of the Enlightenment

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A moral case for abortion

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The British state’s silent war on religion

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Can religious freedom survive gay marriage?

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We must be free to hurt Muslims’ feelings

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Religious freedom: the forgotten liberty?

Time and Location

12.00-17:00

16 November 2016

Conway Hall
25 Red Lion Square
London WC1R 4RL

For more information, email Viv Regan.

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16 November 2016

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