Select Committee on Religious Offences in England and Wales Written Evidence

Submission from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United Kingdom

  1.  The Bahá'í Community of the United Kingdom believes that existing religious offences, notably that of blasphemy, should be abolished.

  2.  Legislation may well be part of the overall effort to counter any form of religious discrimination. However, the limitations of the law in forging changes in attitude at the community level also need to be acknowledged. It is clear that legislation is not in itself sufficient in tackling prejudice and acts of discrimination. Laws must be supported by a global culture of human rights.

  3.  To eradicate religious intolerance at its root, legislation must be supported by education, beginning in primary school. Children who learn to see in all religions the signs of the one Creator, will consider all religions part of a common human heritage, worthy not only of respect but of careful study.

  4.  Heartfelt commitment to upholding the rights of everyone is unlikely if the goal of human rights education stops at mere tolerance. Not until we truly value the diverse groups that constitute the human family and learn attitudes and skills necessary for full co-operation, will a peaceful yet pluralistic society be possible.

  5.  The Bahá'í Community of the United Kingdom would welcome well-drafted and well-conceived legislation, specially as part of a wider effort in promoting a culture of human rights.

  6.  In order to tackle institutional discrimination, an ongoing dialogue between the Government and interfaith bodies should be nurtured, to deal with a range of social and economic issues.

  7.  The Department for Education and Skills and Local Education Authorities need to continue and reinforce education against religious discrimination. The goal should be to educate students with a knowledge and appreciation of other religions.

19 July 2002

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