BosNewsLife (01/24/06) – The Evangelical Alliance United Kingdom (EAUK), an umbrella group representing one million evangelical Christians in the UK , prepared Tuesday, January 24, a major campaign to “alert” believers to “the dangers of the proposed religious hatred (law) and other legislation.”
In a statement to BosNewsLife, the EAUK said that starting February 1, its officials and prominent Christian leaders will hold a month-long nationwide tour, called ‘The Agenda’, to “encourage church leaders and concerned Christians to appreciate the implications of the changing law with regard to their preaching, mission, outreach and community activities.”
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. The maximum penalty for anybody convicted of the new offence would be seven years imprisonment. However the EAUK has suggested that under the new legislation it could become more difficult for Christians to evangelize or preach certain sermons from the Bible.
It said the bill in its current form would “create a barrier to open communication on religious issues and endanger an individuals right to freedom of speech.”
Last year the House of Lord’s voted against the proposed religious hatred legislation, but the government has reportedly made clear it may use the Parliament Act to force the law through if “peers”, as House of Lord members are known “continue to object.”
The EUAK stressed these controversies will be discussed during the month-long tour, which will be hosted by Rob Frost, Director of Share Jesus International organization and Premier Christian Radio.
In remarks to BosNewsLife Frost said there was “a lot of confusion around at the moment” surrounding the upcoming law. “Some people seem to be underestimating the impact of this new legislation which is on the horizon, whilst others are over-reacting. It’s time we took a cool clear look at the prospects of what lies ahead and begin to prepare the Church properly. I urge all local church leaders to make The Agenda an important priority.”
Don Horrocks, Head of Public Affairs at the EAUK mentioned some of the threats to religious liberty in a chapter of Rob Frosts new book, Freedom Fighters Defending Christian Freedoms in a Politically Correct Age.
“This tour is a positive means of equipping the Church to respond intelligently to current critical issues,” said EAUK General Director Joel Edwards.