Select Committee on Religious Offences in England and Wales Written Evidence

Submission from the Strict Baptist Chapel, Cranbrook, Kent

  May I present a case for leaving the Law as it stands.

  As a "Protestant" Nation it is good that we have laws that agree with the Word of God.

    —  At present our laws make blasphemy an offence and so does the Word of God.

    —  In the Bible we are exhorted to not forsake assembling together for worship, and our present laws protect such gatherings from disturbance.

    —  God will have his servants clearly expose error and every false way as well as preach the true way of salvation. Although many have suffered persecution for doing this in the past, our law as it stands, to my knowledge, does not make this an offence of inciting to religious hatred.

  Under the Law of Moses, Blasphemy was clearly shown as a gross sin to be punished by death.

    Leviticus 24:10-16 "And the Son of an Israelitish woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel; and this son of the Israelitish woman and a man of Israel strove together in the camp; And the Israelitish woman's son blasphemed the name of the Lord, and cursed. And they brought him unto Moses (and his mother's name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan) And they put him in ward, that the mind of the Lord might be shewed them. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp, and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him. And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin. And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall be put to death."

  Under the Gospel, blasphemy is a forgivable sin. Except against the Holy Spirit.

    Mark 3:28-30. "Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit."

  For sin to be forgiven Christ must have shed his blood to atone for that sin. Paul exhorts that believer's lives be upright so that men do not blaspheme. Our laws should also discourage blasphemy.

    1 Timothy 6:1. "Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that, the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed."

  When Paul preached that Jesus was the Christ to the Jews, and the Jews blasphemed, Paul said they were guilty. Under the proposed changes to our laws, would Paul be guilty of inciting religious hatred and the Jews not guilty of Blasphemy?—A totally opposite judgment to the Word of God.

    Acts 18:5 and 6 "And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.

  It will be very hard to word a law on incitement to religious hatred, without restricting free speech from the Pulpit. God forbid that we would preach so that our hearers would be incited to hate and hurt anyone. However, Christ's own sinless words were the means of inciting wrath against himself. Would a minister of the Gospel be prosecuted for preaching the truth in such a way that his hearers where stirred up in wrath in a similar manner?

    Luke 4:27-30 And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian. And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he passing through the midst of them went his way."

  The proposed law on religious hatred could be open to easy abuse. Today, "Christians" have adopted an; embrace all, offend no one, all ways lead in heaven attitude. But there are thankfully some that will still testify of Christ and one way of salvation.

    John 8:24 "I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins."

    Acts 4:12 "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."

  Would such preaching be looked upon as inciting hatred amongst those that followed another god? We would not encourage our hearers to hate anyone because of what they believed or didn't believe, but we would warn to avoid false doctrine and false brethren. Would this be deemed inciting religious hatred? The test really is. If I preach the truths of The Holy Bible, will I be committing an offence under the proposed laws?

  While we want to be delivered from religious fanatics who would stir up people to kill in the name of religion, an attempt to do this may hurt those who it was not intended to hurt.

  It is said of Roger Williams (who was a Baptist) who established Rhode Island as a colony of the USA. "He granted religious and civil liberty to all. When the Quakers asked if they could settle in Rhode Island, Williams told them that they could but he also told them that he would preach against the theological errors that they held." This is the freedom we wish to have maintained.

  May the Lord God give you each wisdom in the making of our laws, praying as we are bidden.

    Timothy 2: 1 and 2 "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

2 July 2002

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