Prime Minister’s Questions: Charles Walker criticises the treatment of gymnast Louis Smith

Charles Walker criticises the treatment of gymnast Louis Smith who has been hounded on social media and suspended by British Gymnastics after a video was released showing the athlete making fun of Islam, when if it had been Christianity the country would have simply, and rightly, turned the other cheek.

Mr Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con)

When people make fun of Christianity in this country, it rightly turns the other cheek. When a young gymnast, Louis Smith, ​makes fun of another religion widely practised in this country, he is hounded on Twitter and by the media and suspended by his association. For goodness’ sake, this man received death threats, and we have all looked the other way. My question to the Prime Minister is this: what is going on in this country, because I no longer understand the rules?

The Prime Minister

I understand the level of concern that my hon. Friend has raised in relation to this matter. There is a balance that we need to find. We value freedom of expression and freedom of speech in this country—that is absolutely essential in underpinning our democracy—but we also value tolerance of others and tolerance in relation to religions. This is one of the issues we have looked at in the counter-extremism strategy that the Government have produced. Yes, it is right that people can have that freedom of expression, but that right has a responsibility too, which is the responsibility to recognise the importance of tolerance of others.

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