Today's (19 November) Court of Appeal decision to uphold a ban on an advertisement which asked Christians to report their experiences of marginalisation in the workplace has been described as an attack on freedom of speech, by Britain’s largest Christian broadcaster.
“But this is not only a bad day for freedom of speech for Christians, it is also a bad day for democracy in general, and a very bad day at the office for the Master of the Rolls,” said Peter Kerridge, CEO of Premier Christian Radio.
London Christian Radio Ltd, and sister organisation Christian Communications Partnership Ltd, objected in 2011 to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport’s decision to prohibit the advertisement after the Radio Advertising Clearance Centre [RACC] claimed that it had a political objective.
A Judicial Review in March last year upheld the decision but the Christian campaigners were granted leave to appeal.
Declaring the advertisement unlawful, the Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, said it was “directed to the political end of making a fairer society by reducing or eliminating the marginalisation of Christians in the workplace”, contrary to broadcasting legislation.
Peter Kerridge said: “This would suggest that any radio advertisement calling for data to inform public debate to help a fairer society would also be banned. But we have to ask ourselves did Parliament really intend a blanket ban on radio adverts for surveys?
LJ Elias, in a strongly dissenting judgement, disagreed with the Master of the Rolls and declared the advertisement to be lawful. He said that any advertisement whose purpose was to facilitate debate was not directed towards a political end and concluded; “If an advertisement does not itself constitute a partial political message, why should it be banned?”