Select Committee on Religious Offences in England and Wales Written Evidence

Submission from Westoning Baptist Church, Bedfordshire

  I am writing to you in my capacity as the Minister of Westoning Baptist Church, and wish to submit the following comments in connection with the work of the Committee who are considering this Bill:

  1.  Whilst I appreciate that Britain today is often described as a multi-cultural society, and many of its citizens profess no religion at all, I believe it is crucial to the work of your committee, that you remember that historically we are a Christian country—our laws being based on the Law of God—The Ten Commandments as recorded in the Holy Bible (Genesis 20 vv 1-17).

  2.  The first Commandment specifies "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Genesis 20:3). This was, no doubt, the basis of the existing law of blasphemy. Essential to the Christian belief in God is an understanding of His immutability—so I consider it would be in the best interest of our country for this Law to remain.

  3.  Central to the Christian Gospel is the belief that salvation can only be obtained through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is the task of all Christian ministers to deliver this message to their congregations. "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved". Holy Bible (Acts of the Apostles 4:12). No law should therefore be passed that could in any way be construed as inferring that the basic Christian message is "an incitement to religious hatred", which it most certainly is not.

  4.  In other areas of our national life, this government has proclaimed the necessity of "tolerance". In practice this has usually meant that all views and practices are to be tolerated except the traditional view (eg in sexual matters and family matters). I am therefore greatly concerned that no new "criminal offence" should be introduced using similar principles. This would undoubtably have the effect of protecting all other faiths, and leaving those who proclaim the unique Christian gospel exposed to the charge of breaking the law.

  5.  Conversely, there are other faiths, such as Islam, which do not tolerate freedom of expression or worship. Would any law be applied against Muslims if they denounced the Christian faith?

  6.  This whole area is a veritable moral minefield, and I would advocate the best course is not to introduce a new criminal offence of incitement to religious hatred, as it would be impossible to monitor, and run contrary to the freedom of speech which we have enjoyed for many years.

2 July 2002

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