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Saturday, April 29, 2017
Date Posted:
12/14/2007


Anglicans and RCs unite against Religious Hatred Bill


British Church Newspaper – 7 December 2007
British Church Newspaper

The Church of England and the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales have jointly commented on the Government's proposal to amend the Public Order Act to create a new offence of incitement to hatred on grounds of sexual orientation.

They believe that the present laws are adequate for the protection of, "people vulnerable to attack on grounds of their sexuality or gender identity".

All the churches question is, "whether these provisions are being enforced effectively and equitably".

They say, ""In the religious hatred debates, both supporters and opponents of the Bill maintained a distinction between protection of people from personal attack, which was agreed to be desirable, and protection of their beliefs and practices from criticism or satire, which was generally thought to be undesirable." They go on to say, " A similar distinction should be maintained in the field of sexuality."

"Our main concern," the Churches say, "is that any legislation on incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation permits the expression of traditional Christian (and other) opinions on sexual behaviour and consequent criticisms of particular forms of behaviour or lifestyle.

The churches then add, "As with incitement to religious hatred, we believe it is vital that there should be the maximum possible clarity about what is forbidden and what is permitted. Christians engaged in teaching or preaching and those seeking to act in accord with Christian convictions in their daily lives need to be assured that the expression of strong opinions on marriage or sexuality will not be illegal."

The memorandum also draws attention to the possible 'chilling effect' on free speech. "Uncertainty in the law has the effect of inhibiting behaviour which may not in fact be illegal," it points out.

The churches want the same protection that is given in the religious hatred law. That is, they want only "threatening words or behaviour which are used with the intention of stirring up hatred" to be made illegal.

The Church of England and the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales have jointly commented on the Government's proposal to amend the Public Order Act to create a new offence of incitement to hatred on grounds of sexual orientation.

They believe that the present laws are adequate for the protection of, "people vulnerable to attack on grounds of their sexuality or gender identity".

All the churches question is, "whether these provisions are being enforced effectively and equitably".

They say, ""In the religious hatred debates, both supporters and opponents of the Bill maintained a distinction between protection of people from personal attack, which was agreed to be desirable, and protection of their beliefs and practices from criticism or satire, which was generally thought to be undesirable." They go on to say, " A similar distinction should be maintained in the field of sexuality."

"Our main concern," the Churches say, "is that any legislation on incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation permits the expression of traditional Christian (and other) opinions on sexual behaviour and consequent criticisms of particular forms of behaviour or lifestyle.

The churches then add, "As with incitement to religious hatred, we believe it is vital that there should be the maximum possible clarity about what is forbidden and what is permitted. Christians engaged in teaching or preaching and those seeking to act in accord with Christian convictions in their daily lives need to be assured that the expression of strong opinions on marriage or sexuality will not be illegal."

The memorandum also draws attention to the possible 'chilling effect' on free speech. "Uncertainty in the law has the effect of inhibiting behaviour which may not in fact be illegal," it points out.

The churches want the same protection that is given in the religious hatred law. That is, they want only "threatening words or behaviour which are used with the intention of stirring up hatred" to be made illegal.

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