UK Religious Hatred Bill Passes the Commons

The UK House of Commons has just voted to support the Religious Hatred Bill ….. It will now go to the House of Lords… This article from the Telegraph details the current situation. Danny Nalliah is currently in London and was at the House of Commons – as mentioned in the article!

Also included is an email from Barnabas Fund revealing that the Muslims asked for the Qur’an and the hadiths to be EXEMPT! And a note from the Lawyers Christian Fellowship detailing action taken on the Bill.

Hatred Bill Goes Ahead Despite Church Protests Telegraph

By Brendan Carlin

The Government pressed ahead last night with plans to outlaw incitement to religious hatred despite warnings from Christians that the move would worsen relations between different faiths. Representatives of more than 1,000 individual churches across the country – including Anglican, Roman Catholic and Presbyterian faiths – handed in a petition to Downing Street, urging Tony Blair to ditch the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill.

The Bill, which returned to the Commons for its final stages before it goes to the Lords, creates a maximum seven-year jail sentence for anyone convicted of intending to stir up religious hatred. In a new concession last night, ministers moved amendments to clarify that citizen’s arrest under the proposed legislation would not be possible. The move follows concern that otherwise, people could take offence at comments in a public meeting or even in a church, and simply seek to arrest the speaker.

Both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats oppose the new law. Dominic Grieve, the shadow attorney general, said yesterday that the Bill’s prospects of getting through the Lords “are pretty limited”. Mr Grieve reaffirmed fears that as the Bill failed to define religion, it could be used to protect Satanists. However, Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, insists that while new legislation is necessary it will not prevent people telling jokes about religion or curb religious freedom.

The churches’ petition warned that criminalising religious hatred “could well have the opposite effect to that intended” and would infringe freedom of speech.

Gathered in just five days to match the speed with which the Government is pushing through the plans, the petition says: “The mere quoting of texts from both the Koran and the Bible could be captured and criminalised by this law.” It adds: “Extremists have shown themselves willing to use malicious prosecution to further their purposes and this law would present such prosecution opportunities against all religious communities.” The churches’ fears were supported by Danny Nalliah, 40, a Pentecostal pastor, who last year was found to have breached a religious vilification law in the Australian state of Victoria after complaints from Muslims. Mr Nalliah came to the Commons to warn MPs that they were about to make the same unintended mistakes as Australian politicians.

But Mr Clarke made clear that the Government intended to press ahead with the proposal. An aide to the Home Secretary insisted that the proposed British law was much less severe than the Australian legislation. The aide acknowledged that unlike in Victoria where the legislation was part of the civil code, the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill in the UK would create a criminal offence. But the aide insisted nonetheless that the Australian version was “more restrictive and far wider in scope than ours would be”.

Mr Nalliah told The Daily Telegraph that he fell foul of the law for quoting from the Koran at a seminar on Islam in March 2002. In December last year, a judge upheld a complaint from the Islamic Council of Victoria that Muslims had been vilified in the seminar, a newsletter and a website article. Mr Nalliah and his co-defendant, Daniel Scot, have now appealed to the Australian supreme court after being ordered to apologise to the Islamic Council and to spend about ‚ £30,000 on newspaper advertisements explaining the ruling. Mr Nalliah, who faces up to six months in jail if his appeal fails and he continues to defy the ruling, warned last night that in Australia, “the law has caused severe tensions between Christians and Muslims”.

Muslim Council of Britain Asks For Qur’an to be Exempt From Religious Hatred Law

Barnabas Fund, United Kingdom

Muslim leaders in the UK have raised with a Home Office Minister the possibility of the Islamic scriptures being exempted from the proposed new law banning incitement to religious hatred, which is being debated and voted on in the British Parliament today.

These scriptures include both the Qur’an and the hadiths (“ahadith” in Arabic) which are traditions recording the words and deeds of Muhammad and his first followers. The Racial and Religious Hatred bill is being debated and voted on in the House of Commons today.

This is the third reading of the bill, and if passed today will move forward to be debated in the House of Lords

Note: The President of the Muslim Council of Britain Sir Iqbal Sacranie stated that he was at eased that matters that had caused some obfuscation in the community had been cleared.

He was knighted in the recent Queen’s Birthday Honours…. The link contains a list of those in the delegation.

Action on the proposed Bill

The following letter from the UK Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship gives an idea of the action opposing the proposed law – the petition mentioned is 33 pages full of Pastors and church leaders – (60 per page = nearly 2,000) representing their congregations from most if not ALL denominations.

UK Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship

Further to recent emails regarding the Incitement to Racial and Religious Hatred Bill, thousands of Christians throughout the UK are responding to the encouragement of their Church Leaders, to lobby parliament with their concerns by taking action on Monday 11th July. In order to make a demonstrative impact, Christians are being asked to join the queue outside St Stephen’s Gate, House of Parliament, at 1.30pm and form a line around the House and onto Westminster Bridge, if necessary. A petition (attached) representing hundreds of thousands of Christians will be delivered to Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street at 9am It is your constitutional right to enter the ‘Central Lobby’ and ask to see your MP. Although your MP may not honour your request. Also, you can enter the ‘Public Gallery’ during the reading and debating of the Bill. It is important to stress that the media and world will be watching, therefore, we must demonstrate the heart of Christ by acting with good behaviour; showing the grace, peace and love that comes with our Christian faith.

Let us be continually prayerful as we queue and wait, with thanksgiving, making melody in our hearts and with our voices. We have just heard that we will have representation on the Today programme tomorrow and that the BBC, ITN AND Sky are interested in filming our activities.

Let us continue to pray for maximum impact for the glory of Christ.

Andrea Minichiello Williams
Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship Public Policy Officer

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