Supplementary submission from Catholic
Bishops' Conference of England and Wales
I must apologise for not replying before now
to your letter
of 11 December 2002 asking whether, in the light of the views
expressed by some other Christian groups to your committee about
the present law, I would wish to alter the written evidence I
sent you by letter on 23 July 2002.
The answer is no. As I wrote to you in that
letter, we agree with the Church of England's position that a
new offence of incitement to religious hatred should be introduced,
and that if this were enacted and proved effective, then it would
provide the context in which the current offence of blasphemy
could be repealed. I added, and I still think, that it would be
important that the new law should extend protection to all faiths.
As to the exact scope of the present law, I
would not presume to judge how narrow it is. But even if it has
a wider meaning in law than some contend, there is still the main
question of how best to protect all faiths in a pluralist society.
I have seen and would agree with the response
you received on 20 January 2003 from Dr Peter Sedgwick on this
matter. He points out at the end of that letter quite rightly
that there may well be perfectly legitimate divergences of view
among Christians about the best way in which Christian and other
faiths should be protected.
I hope this is of some help to your committee
and I look forward to reading the published report.
5 February 2003
1 Copy of letter available from the Clerk to the committee. Back