In a speech at the London Press Club awards yesterday, the Duchess said freedom of expression was “at the heart of our democratic system” and signalled her desire to see the press free to debate all aspects of society.
“I take enormous pride in our ability to question, debate and criticise all aspects of our society,” she said.
“I believe passionately in freedom of expression. I believe freedom of expression, so long as it doesn’t contravene the law, or offend others, to be at the heart of our democratic system.”
She added, “But just one note of caution: in our right to speak freely, please let us not become too politically correct, because surely political correctness is as severe a form of censorship as any.”
According to a report in the Daily Mail, sources close to the Duchess said she was referring to the ability to speak out on issues such as race and sexual equality without feeling “inhibited”.
“She sees arguments over what is deemed the politically correct thing to say about issues that affect our day-to-day life as a way of curtailing free speech,” the sources were quoted as saying by the newspaper.
The Duchess’ comments are likely to go down well with people who have faced challenges when expressing their viewpoints on sensitive issues publicly before.
Last year, two Christian street preachers were awarded damages after being arrested for suggesting that homosexuality was a sin. In one of the cases, Dale Mcalpine was arrested even though he had not made the comment in his public sermon, but rather in response to a question about homosexuality put to him by a passer-by.
In his historic visit to Britain last year, Pope Benedict XVI raised similar concerns about the right to express Christian views in an address to Britain’s lawmakers.
“Religion is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation,” he said.
“In this light, I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalisation of religion, particularly Christianity, that is taking place in some quarters, even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance.
“There are those who would advocate that the voice of religion be silenced, or at least relegated to the purely private sphere.”
Duchess likens political correctness to censorship
The Duchess of Cornwall has spoken out against political correctness, saying that people should have the right to “speak freely”.
Published 12 May 2011 | Amy Shank