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BosNewsLife – The Evangelical Alliance United Kingdom (EAUK), a platform of the country’s evangelical Christians and churches, fears that proposed religious hatred legislation could lead to persecution of Christians in the country, BosNewsLife monitored Wednesday, October 12.

On Tuesday, October 11, about 2000 demonstrators, including supporters of the EAUK and African and Caribbean Evangelical Alliance protested against the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill outside parliament during the first full debate about the controversial legislation in the House of Lords, the organization said.

“This Bill will undoubtedly restrict freedom of speech and we are concerned on behalf of the whole of society to protect this vital human right for everyone,” added Don Horrocks, Head of Public Affairs at the EAUK in a message to BosNewsLife.

“We hope this protest may prompt the Lords to press for amendments which will, at the very least, make the Bill less destructive,” he said.

The Racial and Religious Hatred Bill would create a new offence of incitement to religious hatred and would apply to comments made in public or in the media, as well as through written material.

Supporters say the aim is to protect people from incitement to hatred against them because of their faith, especially following the September 11 attacks in the United States and more recently in London .

But ministers insist it will not ban people – including artists and performers – from offending, criticizing or ridiculing faiths. Home Office Minister Paul Goggins reportedly said it was about “protecting the believer, not the belief.”

The maximum penalty for anybody convicted of the new offence would be seven years imprisonment. However the EAUK, which also supported an open letter in The Times newspaper against the Bill this week, said it fears that if “the Bill is passed in its current form it will create a barrier to open communication on religious issues and endanger an individual’s right to freedom of speech.”

In the open letter it also said there is “concern that due to the broad and confusing wording used in the Bill, it could potentially be misused. If applied with the wrong motives, the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill could undermine civil liberties in a democratic society; it could also stop Christians legitimately proclaiming their faith and expressing accepted Christian teachings.”

The EAUK was formed in 1846 as an umbrella group representing over one million evangelical Christians in the UK . It is made up of member churches, organizations and individuals promoting and acts as an evangelical voice to the state, society and the wider Church.