Submission from the Gospel Standard Strict
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