LONDON (BP)--Freedom to criticize homosexuality in the United Kingdom may be on the line when British citizens go to the polls Thursday to elect a new Parliament and a new prime minister.
British voters won't be electing a social conservative to reside at 10 Downing Street no matter which party wins.
At issue is a section of British law often known as the Waddington amendment that makes it clear that criticizing homosexuality is not prohibited.
Although all three major candidates for prime minister back "gay rights" in various forms, Conservative Party leader David Cameron is the only one to support the amendment, which was added to a same-sex hate crimes law. Parliament tried but failed to overturn the free speech safeguards last year, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown -- the Labour Party leader -- said he is committed to try once again to strike the amendment.
The amendment is in the spotlight now because of the recent case of a 42-year-old Baptist, Dale McAlpine, who was arrested April 20 for street preaching against homosexuality in the British town of Workington. According to the Telegraph newspaper, McAlpine was charged with causing "harassment, alarm or distress" after a police officer -- who happened to be homosexual -- overheard him telling a woman that 1 Corinthians forbids homosexuality. The officer warned him to be quiet, and when he didn't, he was arrested. He was charged and jailed for seven hours under what is known as the Public Order Act, although his supporters say his speech was protected under the Waddington amendment.
The incident is just an example, some say, of what could become the norm if the Waddington amendment is nixed. Reversing the law "would jeopardize Christians expressing their traditional beliefs on sexual ethics," Mike Judge, a spokesman for the Christian Institute, based in Newcastle in the U.K., told Baptist Press.
"[T]he parties differ over whether speech like Dale's should be criminal," Judge said. "... On the issue of free speech when it comes to traditional beliefs on that one issue, there are clear differences."
But British voters won't be electing a social conservative to reside at 10 Downing Street -- the prime minister's residence -- no matter which party wins. Instead, conservative Christians in the country who are choosing between the governing Labour Party, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats will be -- as the old saying goes -- voting for the "least worst" option.
That's mainly because the leader of the Conservatives -- normally the party with the most socially conservative candidate -- is more socially liberal than many past Conservative leaders, such as William Hague, the Conservative leader during the 2001 election. Read More