“The Law Shouldn’t Protect Us From Having Our Views Challenged”, Says Leading Barrister & Historian

By: Alec Bennetts

“Nobody is entitled to intellectual safety, nobody is entitled not to have their fundamental and cherished views challenged… All knowledge and all opinion is provisional until something more persuasive comes along. If we shut down the persuasive process we will stop advancing,”That’s the view of Lord Jonathan Sumption who, despite his reputation as one of Britain’s pre-eminent minds, is under no illusion as to the fallibility of his own intellect.

In a recent interview with former Australian Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson, Lord Sumption takes aim at the “extremely dangerous desire to use law as a tool for imposing conformity” and the eerie encroachment of the law into areas where it ought not have influence.

We stand to be personally enriched by subjecting our deeply held views to external scrutiny, yet ‘hate speech’ legislation continues its definition creep to protect individuals from ‘offense’, which Sumption considers “far too subjective and variable a concept; variable over time and variable from person to person”.

“We should be prepared to allow our fundamental opinions to be challenged rather than call for our worldviews to be protected by law.”

If we wish to retain the spirit of liberal democracy, we should be prepared to allow our fundamental opinions to be challenged rather than call for our worldviews to be protected by law, he says.

John Anderson served as Deputy Prime Minister of Australia from 1999 to 2005. A committed Christian with a desire to encourage open and honest discussions, John now hosts a podcast where he interviews various thought leaders from around the world on topics as varied as politics, culture, academia and faith.

Lord Jonathan Sumption is a celebrated historian, barrister, and emeritus judge of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. After teaching and researching in medieval history at Oxford University, he pursued an astonishingly successful legal career which resulted in his appointment to the Supreme Court.

While practising as a lawyer, Sumption wrote celebrated works of medieval history, most notably four volumes of a planned five-volume history of the Hundred Years’ War.

Click to watch the full conversation here 

Article supplied with thanks to

About the Author: Alec Bennetts is a writer working for John Anderson and his ‘Conversations’ series, and the ‘John Anderson Direct’ podcast.

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