Select Committee on Religious Offences in England and Wales Written Evidence

Supplementary submission from Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales

  I must apologise for not replying before now to your letter[1] 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were enacted and proved effective, then it would provide the context in which the current offence of blasphemy could be repealed.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

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