Nelson McCausland: Why freedom of conscience, once respected in NI, is under threat from diktats of 'illiberal' liberals
The radical Left want to abolish our traditional liberties and introduce 'compelled speech', says Nelson McCausland
The broadcaster John Humphrys joined the BBC in 1966 and, over the course of half-a-century, he has presented such prestigious television programmes as the Nine O'Clock News, Panorama and Mastermind. He has presented the Today programme on Radio 4 since 1987, but a few weeks ago he hosted his final edition and is now retired.
With that wealth of broadcasting experience, he is worth listening to and he has some very interesting things to say.
Speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, he said that there is a liberal bias in the BBC and that BBC executives see the world "through a particular lens".
He then used the BBC approach to transgenderism as evidence of this and said: "I'm worried about where it's heading. The BBC's attitude with that sort of social development is to be immediately sympathetic, not entirely detached, as it should be."
John Humphrys, who is an agnostic, said: "I happen to believe, personally, that there are not an unlimited number of genders. I believe we are born men and women."
That is what John Humphrys believes and that is what millions of other people across the United Kingdom also believe.
He wasn't the only person to say that in recent days, but, in the case of Dr David Mackereth, it cost him his job as an assessor with the Department for Work and Pensions. Dr Mackereth told a manager that he would refuse to refer to a biological male as "she", or "madam".
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He was dismissed and, when he went to an employment tribunal, it ruled: "A lack of belief in transgenderism and conscientious objection, in our judgment, are incompatible with human dignity and conflict with the fundamental rights of others."
This is an Orwellian judgment that is draconian in the extreme and, if allowed to go unchallenged, would set an appalling precedent. Dr Mackereth, who now works as an emergency doctor, is going to appeal. And rightly so.
This time, it was a doctor in England, but last week a schoolteacher in Virginia filed a lawsuit saying he was wrongfully fired from his job at West Point High School for refusing to refer to a biologically female student who identifies as a male as "he".
We are living in a post-truth society and he is not the first teacher to get into trouble over this issue.
Last year, a teacher in England, who was accused of "misgendering" a transgender pupil, was told by police that she had committed a hate crime.
Anyone who dissents from the diktats of this intolerant and illiberal "liberalism" is problematised and becomes a potential target.
We saw that here in Northern Ireland with the persecution of the McArthur family, who own Ashers Bakery.
Moreover, the militant "liberals" are not going to let the facts stand in their way.
Psychotherapist James Caspian attempted to undertake a research project into "de-transitioning", where men and women who have "transitioned" to another gender come to regret the decision and take steps to reverse the process.
But Bath Spa University was having none of that and rejected his research proposal on the grounds that it was "politically incorrect" and "might cause offence".
There was a time when the principle of freedom of conscience was respected, but it seems those days are disappearing and, with the near-approach of radical abortion laws and same-sex marriage here in Northern Ireland, where does that leave us?
What about the rights of the doctor, or nurse, who does not want to be associated with abortion? What about the rights of the teacher who believes that marriage is between a man and a woman, or that gender is biological?
There was a wonderful victory for sanity when the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Ashers Bakery and determined that "compelled speech" was a breach of the human rights of the McArthur family.
But the juggernaut of radicalism rolls on and, in the coming days, there will be a lot more battles to be fought.
Anyone who imagines that the radical Left will be satisfied with abortion and same-sex marriage is going to be disappointed.
Their agenda is one of compelled speech and compelled thought, where freedom of conscience is abolished.