The cancellation of Christians

Expressing sincerely held religious beliefs can now lead to punishment and arrest.

Jacob Williams

Topics Free Speech UK

In a free society, disagreements over moral and religious questions do not usually prevent us from living peaceably and respectfully with one another. Unless, that is, your religious beliefs come into conflict with the LGBT lobby.

This is what King Lawal, a Conservative councillor for North Northamptonshire, recently discovered. Last June, he tweeted his Christian belief that the idea of Pride – of taking pride in one’s sexual identity – ‘is a sin, not a virtue’.

For this single tweet, Lawal was subjected to a brutal cancellation campaign and his life was turned upside down. He was suspended by his local party, allegedly at the behest of Conservative Campaign Headquarters. A local charity asked him to step down as a board member. A local authority threatened not to renew a contract with his business unless he resigned as its director. Seven organisations in total tried to cancel Lawal.

Lawal’s treatment exposed the parlous state of free speech and tolerance in modern Britain. But what has happened since offers some cause for hope. Lawal launched a legal action in July, claiming that his right to freedom of speech had been violated. By October, he had been reinstated by his local Conservative group and restored to various board positions. Last month, a Conservative Party disciplinary subcommittee exonerated him. Its judgement concluded that his comments ‘are a representation of his religious beliefs, which he is free and entitled to hold’. While some might find Lawal’s views ‘offensive’, the panel concluded that they are not ‘discriminatory or homophobic’.

Baseless attacks on freedom of speech, especially Christians’ freedom of speech, have become disturbingly common in recent years. Two months ago, Police Scotland were forced to pay Angus Cameron, a street preacher wrongly arrested for a ‘homophobic’ hate crime, nearly £15,000 in compensation. Other preachers and pastors across the UK – such as Oluwole Ilesanmi, John Sherwood and David McConnell – have been similarly vindicated following wrongful arrests. As has Anthony Stevens, a colleague of Lawal’s, who was arrested last summer for an alleged hate crime after sharing a video of Oluwole’s arrest. Last December, the police dropped their case against Stevens.

All these cases tell us something important. Though Britain’s laws against hate speech are troubling, the truth is that those voicing unpopular religious views rarely end up being convicted of anything. Police forces often barge in and make an arrest, only to realise later that they lack even the semblance of a case.

It’s not just the police who seem to have a wildly inaccurate understanding of the law. As King Lawal discovered, too many organisations and businesses seem to think that they too have some sort of legal obligation to punish people for expressing unpopular views. Or perhaps they are just too cowardly to stand up for free speech.

In any case, it is not enough to continue hoping that the cancelled will eventually be vindicated after lengthy investigations. All those who are exonerated still suffer a tremendous social cost for expressing their views.

We need to start deterring the woke bullies from making their demands in the first place. As part of this, we need to start shouting about victories like Lawal’s from the rooftops. We need to show those inclined to sack or silence supposed wrongthinkers that they will fail.

We will only bring an end to cancel culture when those of us who believe in freedom of expression and toleration push back against the cancellers. Freedom of speech means little unless we are prepared to defend it.

Jacob Williams is a PhD candidate at Oxford University, where he researches the relationship between religion, conservatism and the liberal state.

Matt Ridley and Brendan O’Neill – live and in conversation

Matt Ridley and Brendan O’Neill – live and in conversation


Thursday 21 March – 7pm to 8pm GMT

This is a free event, exclusively for spiked supporters.

Picture by: YouTube.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Free Speech UK


Want to join the conversation?

Only spiked supporters and patrons, who donate regularly to us, can comment on our articles.

Join today