Thursday, 4 October 2012

Back to Hay Hill

Hay Hill is council land, so Norwich City Council (NCC), as the landlord, did have the right to withdraw its permit for the cleric of the Norwich Reformed Church to give out leaflets that were extremely rude about secularists, Muslims, and even other Christians such as Roman Catholics.

Apparently one person - ONE PERSON - complained about "hate literature" being distributed, and the Norwich Reformed Church permit was revoked. 

This inevitably raises questions.  Did Norwich City Council act too quickly against a soft target?  Did the NCC consider the wider issues?  Is this an attack on Free Speech? 

Not only has the NCC been ridiculed and criticised, it has also handed on a silver platter an excuse for a rag-tag rabble like the EDL to propose a march on the City on November 10.  

Very often EDL marches descend into destructive violence

Hay Hill is a traditional site for protest and free speech in Norwich.  Over the years I have passed many activists publicising one cause or another.  For example here's my photograph of the long-lasting Occupy Norwich protest: 

and I have myself distributed leaflets and engaged in public debate here on behalf of HOPE not hate, the anti-racist group. 

I do not support the cleric's nasty and insulting words against secularists, Muslims and even his fellow Christians, but then if I read them I think I would simply screw up the leaflet, chuck it into the nearest rubbish bin, and walk on by.  Maybe right in front of the reverend.  That would show him! 

Why anyone would want to make a complaint about it beats me.  There is literally no limit to the number of things that give offence to someone or other, and are we then to complain to the council about each and every one of them?  

Is this the way grown-ups in a secular democracy behave?  

The sculptures of Hay Hill commemorate a remarkable son of Norwich, the famous physician and writer Thomas Browne (19 October 1605 – 19 October 1682), whose personal Christian faith "exuded tolerance and goodwill towards humanity in an often intolerant era".

What would Thomas Browne think of NCC revoking a cleric's permit to distribute leaflets, nasty and hateful as the preacher's printed words were?

Actually, we do have some idea of his opinions.  Thomas Browne wrote:
Forcible ways make not an end of evil, but leave hatred and malice behind them.
Thomas Browne


  1. Is this blog just a vehicle for a National Secular Society member to post her incoherent thoughts about whether the distribution of hate literature targeting a minority community is a legitimate exercise of free speech?

    Or is it the official blog of Norfolk Hope Not Hate?

    Either way, I can't imagine that HNH as a national organisation will be very pleased to be associated with the nonsense that's being posted here.

  2. Which part is "incoherent"? I'd be glad to explain -

  3. I'm not asking for you to explain your opinions. I'm asking whether this is your personal blog or the official blog of Norfolk Hope Not Hate.

  4. Its incoherent when you try to make sense of, and align yourself with, the ideologically obsessed NnH.

    You've also aligned yourself with the property owner, in this case a council. Who are ethnically cleansing a native from their property when, I fancy, they'd have been much, much more careful if it was an immigrant.

    Far be it from me to criticise, of course.

  5. About the blog - I started it in June 2009 after an appeal for anti-racist volunteers to form a team with local Norfolk Labour party and trade union activists to counter the far right standing for by-elections in Norfolk.
    Since then I understand there has been some sort of falling out between these local political activists and the HOPE not hate organisation, but I am not involved in that.
    Of course the blog consists of my personal thoughts, and I have no difficulty with being an anti-racist and a secularist at the same time.

  6. Berry, this is a nasty racist post.

  7. If you want to post your "personal thoughts" online then you should set up a blog in your own name. That would be the appropriate place to express your NSS-type views on how anti-Muslim bigots have a right to distribute hate literature and it's wrong for Norwich council to interfere with their exercise of this right. What's unacceptable is that you are posting these views in the name of a national anti-racist campaign.

  8. As a fellow proud member of Norfolk Hnh I would like to support this post - perhaps unlike many other groups(!) we welcome diverse views on all matter of things and whilst not a secularist myself I think the post is, as always, well thought out and argued.

    I am not sure that the EDL would have needed a reason to organise a protest in Norwich so the leaflet is a (red) herring, albeit a particularly charmless one.

    It would be great if contributors could put their real identities on posts just so that we can understand who says what, otherwise "Anonymous" is sometimes schizophrenic.

    The forthcoming protest/march/dust-up by the EDL will inevitably heighten tensions in Norfolk but there is no need for it to do long-term damage provided that it is policed properly and the EDL keep within the law. Indeed there is an argument that by organising their protest the EDL are actually doing their bit for community relations by bringing everybody together who knows that their views are barmy...

    And have been are a very silly boy!

  9. Ah a brief follow up...wandering around the net in search of information about the kindly and knowledgeable pastor who's leaflet started this fandango I discovered that Bob Pitt has been a visiting this blog.

    We always welcome visitors but Bob has been a bit naughty in posing anonymously, asking misleading questions and then denouncing the author of the post in his blog.

    Now Bob, or "Bob the Fibb" as we shall call him from now on, has claimed that we are a disgrace etc etc because the author of the blog post tentatively suggested that Norwich City Council might be playing into the hands of the extremists by banning the barmy pastor.

    Bob even seems to suggest that we are are bad as the pastor if we don't support his immediate burning at the pyre. Now apart from Bob's somewhat lack of a Christian,Muslim or secular sense of compassion to the clearly deranged (the pastor) it is somewhat difficult for any sane individual to consider that this blog is anything other than completely anti-racist.

    So Bob, we can only assume that you, the EDL and the Pastor line up on one side of the debate and sane, sensible and rational Norfolk folk on the other!