British subjects have never had the broad protections for freedom of speech or the press that American citizens take for granted as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but historically, the United Kingdom has been a beacon for free expression when compared to the rest of the world. Today, however, the right to freely express oneself in the U.K. is increasingly under threat, as exemplified by hundreds of bizarre prosecutions in recent years. The debate is heating up, though, as lawmakers consider reforms that would expand or quash liberty.
Longtime pro-life campaigner Edward Atkinson, 81, was handed a three-month suspended jail sentence for his activism against abortion in September, and it was not the first time he has been prosecuted and even jailed for his work defending the unborn. In fact, Atkinson has been in prison more than a dozen times for his efforts over the years, and while he remains undeterred, the persecution is part of a broader assault by U.K. authorities on freedom of speech and religious liberty that is coming under increasing international scrutiny.
Under legislation planned for early next year, same-sex marriage will be legalized in the U.K., with the Church of England and other religious institutions supposedly free to "opt out" of performing homosexual marriages.
The government of the United Kingdom is under fire from Christian organizations, churches, and activists for refusing to recognize the right of Christians to wear crucifixes and crosses at work — even in government-sector jobs — while Muslim women and Sikh men, for example, are guaranteed the right to wear their traditional religious attire regardless of their employers’ wishes. Critics have slammed this and other policies apparently aimed at silencing Christians or forcing them to act against their faith as discrimination, but U.K. officials are currently defending some of the schemes at the so-called “European Court of Human Rights.”
Former Russian Foreign Minister Igor S. Ivanov, now president of the Russian International Affairs Council, has joined his American counterparts at the Council on Foreign Relations in calling for political and economic "convergence" between Russia and the EU.
Laity within the Church of England shocked the rest of the denomination November 20 by rejecting a proposal that would have allowed women to serve as bishops in the UK's official denomination.
The European Council meeting in which EU leaders will attempt to reach an agreement on the multi-annual financial framework (MFF) for 2014-2020 began in Brussels on November 22 and EU leaders continue in their struggle to find common ground to set a budget.
At the meeting of the European Union's Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on November 19, a group of 27 European foreign ministers issued a statement that read: "The EU considers [the newly formed Syrian opposition coalition] legitimate representatives of the aspirations of the Syrian people."
A Spanish theater owner is protesting the VAT increase on his tickets to 21 percent by offering carrots for sale, which are subject only to a VAT of 4 percent, and giving purchasers free admission.
Across Europe this week, an unprecedented and well-coordinated series of transnational mass strikes and protests led largely by Big Labor took to the streets in major European capitals and cities to demand an end to so-called “austerity” policies — mostly government spending cuts. In many cases, the massive demonstrations turned violent.
Analysts, however, say the seemingly spontaneous chaos may actually have been orchestrated by forces behind the scenes. Indeed, much of the media focus was on the relatively new phenomenon of so-called “pan-European” action, with labor leaders and activists framing the conflict as a regional European Union struggle rather than separate national efforts to influence domestic policy.