This last week or so has seen a lot of activity and comment around the topic of “free speech” or freedom of speech in the wake of the comments by Jacob Rees-Mogg MP on his fidelity to Catholic teaching on the subjects of abortion and same sex marriage. I’m not going to go over again the myriad of comments that have been published of the aggressive and at times vulgar reactions to what he said. We all know that the issue is about not what he expressed but the fact that he [and indeed anyone who wants to publicly express their Christian belief and conviction about moral questions] had the “audacity” to give voice to them at all.
It reminds us that in fact, there is no such thing [really] as free speech or freedom to speak. Yes [so far] one can legally say what one believes in public on such matters as Jacob Rees-Mogg did but the fact is what he said and what so many others might wish to say in public or print or in company and even amongst one’s own kin; it does not in fact come without a price – a cost of some kind or other.
I am talking about the price one pays for expressing Catholic faith and conviction across a whole range of issues in social settings, the workplace, even to friends and family. More and more conscientious believers in Jesus are prefacing what they say, tweet, write or text with the thought – “but how will they react to this? What will others think of me if I say this or that?”
This is particularly true of the shade of any opinion that in any way places one firmly in the opposite direction of so called “LGBTQ” rights and the ever menacing reality of “transgender” rights etc. The way the draconian interpretation of equality legislation is going will soon mean that even one’s unspoken thoughts will be subject to scrutiny by another who might “perceive” your silence on their rights as denial of their rights to which they can then claim you have offended their feelings [their person] and so report you to the new “hate” police for being mean and unsympathetic etc etc..
What binds us together in civic society in a civil way where all shades of opinion can be expressed and tolerated is rapidly falling apart. Where this will end is anyone’s guess. One Archbishop infamously said “Who knows what’s down the road?” in reply to a question about the future of the Catholic Church and gay marriage. So yes indeed – who knows what’s down the road for conscientious Christians not just in the workplace or social setting but the classroom, the living room, the restaurant or pub [at an overheard discussion] on a train, a bus and not least on social media [which can be often a decidedly anti-social environment] in fact anywhere. Our only hope is that because God sees all and hears all and is everywhere, then our courage to stand up for what we believe in, despite the threats will not go unrewarded.