Select Committee on Religious Offences in England and Wales Written Evidence

Submission from the Gospel Standard Strict Baptist Societies

  I am writing on behalf of the Gospel Standard Societies to express our great concern at some of the proposals in Lord Avebury's Religious Offences Bill (HL Bill 39 53/1).

  We are seriously concerned at the proposal to remove the offence of "Blasphemy" and "Blasphemous Libel" from the statute book. This statute has protected Christian believers from distressing insults and persecution over the years. We feel strongly that this statute should remain, either in its present form, or even be strengthened. This would preserve the protection of the Christian faith as any other faith.

  Our second great concern is the proposal to abolish "any distinct offence of disturbing a religious service or religious devotions" and also to abolish "any religious offence of striking a person in a church or churchyard". Christians need protection from those who might object to their religious persuasion and should not be threatened while engaged in public or private devotions. Removing these statutes without proper protection for religious services could lead to violent physical or verbal abuse and persecution against worshippers.

  We would respectfully point out that preaching or expounding the scriptures will never incite people to religious or racial hatred or to violence, but rather to compassion and understanding for others. Christian believers desire that others might be saved. Therefore there should be protection for a scriptural declaration of what sin is and that salvation is through Jesus Christ alone. To remove the protection from interference for those who desire to attend a church service would seem to be an infringement of civil liberties and contrary to the human rights legislation.

  We therefore request you to seriously consider our representations that the existing legislation should not be abolished but rather strengthened to protect all religious people from physical or verbal abuse and violence by any who do not respect the wishes of those who desire to worship in peace.

5 July 2002

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