Religious hatred – decision time
As this bill goes to the commons vote today, an alliance of humanists, Muslims, Christians and secularists publish a letter in the Daily Telegraph urging MPs not to water down the Lords amendments.
Sir – We, as leaders of some of the main organisations representing the views of Christians, Muslims, secularists and humanists in this country, are calling on MPs to vote tonight to reject the Government’s proposals for a wide-ranging new offence of religious hatred and instead support the cross-party Conservative-Labour-Liberal Democrat amendments.
As people with strong views on religion, we know how easy it is to offend those with whom you disagree and how easy it is to resent what others say, and see insult in it.
But we also recognise that a free society must have the scope to debate, criticise, proselytise, insult and even to ridicule belief and religious practices in order to ensure that there is full scope – short of violence or inciting violence or other criminal offences – to tackle these issues.
The amendments that we hope will be supported will deliver the Government its election pledge of a new law, but one that would cover only threatening words or behaviour, would be restricted to intentional offences only and would have a clear statement in law that protects legitimate free expression.
Tonight’s vote is the last chance to protect this precious liberty that we all enjoy.
Keith Porteous Wood, National Secular Society
Hanne Stinson, British Humanist Association
Colin Hart, Christian Institute
Don Horrocks, Evangelical Alliance
Dr Ghyasuddin Siddiqui, Muslim Parliament
Manzoor Moghal, Muslim Forum
Colin Hart of the Christian Institute doesn’t want to let you see Jerry Springer: The Opera, but we’ll let that pass. For now.