ANS – The UK s Racial and Religious Hatred Bill has undergone further debate in the House of Lords, but remains undecided. The Bill, which many UK Christians object to, will now go to Lords Committee Stage where it will be debated line by line by a select number of Peers.
Reverend Peter Kerridge, the Chief Executive of Premier Media Group warns that the Bill could still easily be passed. If the Lords Committee decides to reject the bill or make an amendment, that request then goes to the House of Commons. MPs can accept these amendments or simply vote them down and send it back to the Lords. The strength of the Government means it does not have to accept any Lords amendments. If no compromise is reached, the Government can use the Parliament Act to pass any bill, although this is usually a last resort to pass a Bill.
Earlier this month, Peter Kerridge and The Christian Lawyers Fellowship presented a letter to the home of Tony Blair, the Prime Minister stating their objections to the Bill along with the objections of 35,000 British Christians. On the same day, a peaceful protest was held outside the House of Lords by leading Christian figures and members of the public.
The Reverend Peter Kerridge stated in his letter to the Prime Minister, Tony Blair Many Christian organizations, including Premier Media Group are concerned that if the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill is passed in its current form, the Bill will create a barrier to open communication on religious issues and endanger an individuals right to freedom of speech.
We have further concerns 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.
Many UK citizens argue that current British law already protects minorities from abuse or threatening language and so the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill is unnecessary. The Lord Bishop of Winchester stated that With words such as likely and any in the Bill, it seems that it will be extremely difficult for the distinction, which he sought to draw, between people and faith to be upheld among those who might hope that they can make use of this Bill. I believe that it is much more likely to attract would-be martyrs of various sorts and that it will not achieve the ends that it seeks to achieve. Lord Carey, the previous Archbishop of Canterbury, stated that I oppose the Bill not out of lack of sympathy, affection for those of other faiths or for what the Government want to achieve, but because the Bill is unclear, endangers civil liberties and raises unrealistic expectations.