Select Committee on Religious Offences in England and Wales Written Evidence

Submission from Caversham Hill Chapel, Reading

  I note that a Select Committee has been set up to examine issues raised by the "Religious Offences Bill" and that a new offence of incitement to religious hatred is proposed.

  I am surprised that a provision which was removed from the bill against terrorism because it would be unworkable has been brought back in this way.

  I am concerned that such provision will not only be unworkable but may be used by unscrupulous people to inhibit genuine religious debate.

  Incitement to religious hatred implies a motive that can be proved and a resulting attitude that must also be proved to exist. Such an attitude is in any case the responsibility of the person who displays it rather than a supposed "inciter".

  The difficulty of defining "incitement" and of evaluating "hatred" will I believe make this provision a minefield for litigation and create great uncertainty as to what is acceptable religious apologetics.

  It is impossible to affirm that Jesus Christ is the only way to God without implying that other ways are wrong and this may then be misconstrued as inciting people to hate other religions and their practitioners. In fact one may need to state sometimes that the doctrines and practices of another religion are wrong. This to my mind does not constitute incitement to hatred. Indeed it might well arouse deep compassion in the hearers for those who are misguided; quite the opposite of hatred.

  Who is able to discern the motives of a speaker in such a case?

  I submit that the provision is completely unworkable and should not be entertained by your committee.

1 July 2002

previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2003