Submission from Messrs J R Anderson and
K W Birch
1. We are making this submission to the
House of Lords Religious Offences Select Committee as believers
on the Lord Jesus Christ and are known to the Government as Brethren.
2. The intention of the Bill is to abolish
the common law of blasphemy and blasphemous libel, and also the
offences relating to disturbing behaviour in a church or churchyard.
The Bill proposes to replace the above offences with an offence
of religious hatred.
3. We have no objection to the introduction
of an offence which would include all religions, but we feel strongly
that there is a principle at stake in abolishing specific existing
provisions that protect against blaspheming the Name of God, and
Christ (as God), and against the interfering with religious services.
4. Government is of God. Pilate, when questioning
the Lord Jesus at the time of His trial was told by Him "thou
couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given
thee from above" (John 19 verse 11).
Government therefore, has been committed to
men by God and this has never been abrogated. It is the responsibility
of Government to maintain and protect every right principle.
This country has a long Christian history, going
back centuries, and indeed the Dedicatory Epistle to the King
James version of the Bible refers to the Monarch as the Defender
of the Faith. The Common Law of England is broadly based on the
teachings of the Bible, and it would therefore be a retrograde
step to remove one of the last vestiges of the recognition of
Christianity in this country. God has been pleased to use this
country and the English language for the spread of the Gospel
concerning our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. As the common law
stands at present, we are confident that it goes at least some
way to act as a deterrent under God's hand to restrain the spread
of blasphemous material. The abolition of the offence of blasphemy
only meets the opinion of lawyers, professional groups and academic
commentators (Law Commisson 1985: 2.8) but relegates the Christian
faith to no more than just another dogma. To surrender the recognition
of God and His rights in redemption, set out so fully in the Holy
Scriptures, is apostacy.
6. We recognise the deficiencies of the
existing common law in its definitions and limited application
but this does not justify its abolition. The honour that is due
to the Name of God and to the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ
must be maintained (eg see Otto-Preminger-Institut case ECHR).
In the absence of restraint the country will be flooded even more
than it already is with the publication of blasphemous material
by the media, the film industry and unscrupulous publishing houses,
which will sap the very foundation of the Gospel. Even the preaching
of the Gospel on the streets, that takes place in so many places
in the UK every day of the week, could be jeopardised under the
proposed Clause 2 of the Bill. Abolition will only further the
ends of "the god of this world in blinding the minds of them
which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ,
who is the image of God, should shine into them" (2 Corinthians
4 verse 4).
We note that the Law Commission 1985 (2.49)
comments on the difficulty attaching to the concept of "religion"
and "matters relating to religion" and how such concepts
could be defined. Furthermore, the recent Consultation Document
"Towards Equality and Diversity" which was the subject
of an enquiry by a House of Lords Select Committee, clearly indicated
that the Government had "reached the view that we should
not attempt to define religion or belief" (13.4). If there
is such difficulty with the definition of "religion",
how can one define "religious hatred"!
8. Places of Worship
We consider it essential that the offence of
disturbing a religious service or religious devotions should be
maintained. For this offence to be generalised under "religious
hatred" is too vague and could lead to dispute. We find it
difficult to understand where it could fit into Clause 2(3) of
We would like to draw your attention to an intervention
in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill, by Lord Robertson
of Oakridge, when he so commendably defended the honour that is
due to the Name of God (HL 16 June 1994 Cols 1896-98). Members
of the Committee will also be very much aware of the more recent
debate (HL 22 Feb 1995) when that attempt to abolish the offence
of blasphemy was defeated.
We therefore urge your Lordships' Committee
to recommend to the Government that as a matter of principle,
the laws relating to blasphemy should remain in place, with the
addition, if considered necessary, of suitable protection for
those not covered by the existing common law.
Under the Law of Moses.
Leviticus Ch 24 verse 16. "And he that
blasphemeth the Name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death,
and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the
stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth
the name of the Lord, shall be put to death."
In the prophets.
Isaiah Ch 37 verse 23. "Whom hast thou
reproached and blasphemed? and against whom hast thou exalted
thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? even against the
Holy One of Israel."
In the teachings of the apostle Paul.
Romans Ch 2 verse 24. "For the name of
God is blasphemed among the Gentiles. . ."
Colossians Ch 3 verse 8. "But now ye also
put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication
out of your mouth."
Future prophetic utterances as to the beast (soon
to be fulfilled).
Revelation Ch 13 verse 6. "And he opened
his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, and
his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven."
22 July 2002