The minister, whose ban has given an excuse for the English Defence League to organise a march in Norwich on November 10, has denied having links to the right-wing group. But is this really the issue?
This statement indicates that Mr Clifford is aware that it is a crime to incite racial hatred. He may also be aware that the Human Rights Act 1998 guarantees freedom of religion and expression. But the UK has extra laws on this subject, and section 29A of the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 includes “religious hatred”. The definition is designed to cover hatred against a group of persons defined by their religious belief or lack of religious belief, and makes it a crime to incite hatred against others for their religious or "ideological" beliefs.
Read one of Mr Clifford's leaflets for yourself. I did, and found it critical of Muslims and also of secularists, critical to the point of insolence.
As a secularist I resent being described as "decadent" (I wish), and I can understand Muslims would be offended by much of what Mr Clifford writes about Islam.
Christians might also be offended by the words written by the minister under the guise of "loving" and "forgiving" Christianity.
Mr Clifford showed atrocious manners in distributing such material on Hay Hill, and in my opinion deserved a slap on the wrist for such public provocation against secularists, Christians and Muslims alike. He is now barred from his hateful pulpit on Hay Hill.
Free speech is not at issue here, however much the EDL want it to be. There is no free speech to shout "Fire!" in a crowded building, nor to tell deliberate lies, nor to willfully incite hatred against others for their race, for religious beliefs, for sexual preferences or even for the rational scepticism of atheists, agnostics and secularists.
On the other hand perhaps Norwich City Council has overreacted. Maybe the council should have banned the public distribution of the offending leaflets rather than the cleric himself.
There is a long tradition of tolerance for street ranters in Britain, and it seems to be a relatively harmless way to let off some steam. Care in the community.
So, in the spirit of free speech, I'll let the EDL have the last word on behalf of the "tired and convicted" reverend -