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Update on Incitement Law

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Homosexual Hatred Law

Last week we informed you about a proposed new law criminalising incitement to homophobic hatred, a move which could have serious adverse effects on freedom of speech. In Monday’s debate of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill the Lord Chancellor, Jack Straw, announced that the Government intended to table an amendment to extend the offence of incitement to racial hatred to cover hatred against persons on the basis of their sexuality. The homosexual rights lobbyists Stonewall have been pushing for just such an amendment, but it is disappointing that the Government have adopted the proposal.

As Christians we believe that one should not hate homosexuals or incite hatred against them, but should reflect the love of Christ to all people. However, the concern we have about this proposal is the danger it poses to the freedom to speak openly about the bible’s teaching on sex and sexuality.

Our view is that a law prohibiting incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexuality is unnecessary, as the criminal law already prohibits physical and verbal assaults as well as the use of threatening language and behaviour against homosexuals, as it does against all people irrespective of their sexual orientation.

In the debate a number of members of parliament, whilst supporting the amendment in principle, urged caution when balancing any new law with the right to freedom of speech. It was suggested that the starting point for any such law should be the law on incitement to religious hatred, which thankfully, as a result of Christian lobbying, includes protection for freedom of speech. John Redwood referred to the communications he had received from concerned Christians, and Mr Straw also acknowledged that people had contacted him with similar concerns. It is important that we continue to keep concerns about freedom of speech and freedom of religion at the top of the agenda to ensure that any protections are not watered down in the drafting process. We will be keeping a close eye on the wording of any such amendment once it is made available.

One concerning matter is that the Government has decided to rush through the committee stage of the Bill in order to have it finished by the Queen’s speech on 6 November. The committee will therefore have to finish their deliberations by 30th October. The members of the committee are expected to be announced later today. As soon as we know who is on the committee we will send another short email so that you can contact them about your concerns.