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Religious Freedoms Update

Printer-friendly version The Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill was amended in last week’s committee stage to include an offence of incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexuality.


Incitement to Hatred Law

The Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill was amended in last week’s committee stage to include an offence of incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexuality. The wording of the amendment follows the wording of the existing law governing incitement to religious hatred. This means it only extends to words or behaviour which is threatening and where there is an intention to stir up hatred.

While we welcome the use of this wording, it is still our view that such a provision is unnecessary, as current criminal provisions adequately protect people from threatening and violent behaviour.

In addition, the new offence does not include a clause specifically protecting freedom of speech, as is present in the incitement to religious hatred provisions. This difference is hard to understand, as it seems greater protection is therefore being given to homosexual rights than to religious rights. Such a clause, stating that the new law will not affect peoples rights to freedom of speech in similar terms to that enshrined in the religious hatred law is imperative to ensuring freedom of speech is protected for those seeking to speak about a biblical view of sex and relationships.

The Bill will continue to be debated in the House of Commons and can still be amended further to either delete this clause completely, or to add a clause protecting freedom of speech. Please continue to write to your MP and/or party leaders, pointing out that the new provision is unnecessary, and also that if it is included there must be further protection for freedom of speech, as is the case with religious hatred.

Do Britons have Christianophobia?

This seems to be the question du jour as we all start looking forward to the Christmas season. This week The Observer contained an article by Cristina Odone, who was shocked by the secularisation of a carol service she was a reader at, and Andrea Williams was invited onto Simon Mayo’s Radio 5 show to discuss with others what life is like for Christians in the UK in 2007 (see links below).

In addition, politicians are joining in, with Mark Pritchard MP calling a debate on Christianophobia in Westminster Hall tonight at 9.30pm. He told the BBC: “The debate is not about doing God or theocracy. It’s about ensuring that the Christian tradition of our nation is recognised.” The MP also added that he would "seek to slay the fashionable dragon of political correctness" which was "assaulting" the nation's Christmas traditions.

Jerry Springer appeal rejected

The High Court has upheld a district judge’s decision to refuse permission to sue the BBC director under blasphemy laws. Two judges ruled it was reasonable to conclude the play ‘Jerry Springer the Opera’, aired by the BBC in January 2005, could not be considered blasphemous when taken “in context”. They said the production "as a whole was not and could not reasonably be regarded as aimed at, or an attack on, Christianity or what Christians held sacred".

Stephen Green, will appeal the decision.

MP introduces Bill to reform film and game censorship

Julian Brazier MP, (Canterbury), is to introduce a Private Members Bill to strengthen the system of classifying films and computer games. The plans would give the Parliamentary Home Affairs Committee a veto on appointments to the Board of the British Board of Film Classification and, very significantly, MPs would be given a say on drawing up the Board’s Guidelines. The plans would also establish an independent appeals process for people with a grievance over a classification decision. The plans come amid mounting public concern about the level of violence allowed through by the BBFC and its impact on our society.

Carol Services

The LCF Carol Service will be taking place this year on Monday 10th December, 6.30pm, at Temple Church, London, EC4. The address will be by Rev. Simon Robinson, and mulled wine and mince pies will be served afterwards. Please attend if you are able.

Gray’s Inn Chapel are also holding a Carol Service on Tuesday 18th December at 12.30pm. The service will be led by Rev. Chris Fishlock of Fleet Street Talks. All are welcome to attend.