Select Committee on Religious Offences in England and Wales Written Evidence

Submission from Messrs J R Anderson and K W Birch

  1.  We are making this submission to the House of Lords Religious Offences Select Committee as believers on the Lord Jesus Christ and are known to the Government as Brethren.

  2.  The intention of the Bill is to abolish the common law of blasphemy and blasphemous libel, and also the offences relating to disturbing behaviour in a church or churchyard. The Bill proposes to replace the above offences with an offence of religious hatred.

  3.  We have no objection to the introduction of an offence which would include all religions, but we feel strongly that there is a principle at stake in abolishing specific existing provisions that protect against blaspheming the Name of God, and Christ (as God), and against the interfering with religious services.

  4.  Government is of God. Pilate, when questioning the Lord Jesus at the time of His trial was told by Him "thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above" (John 19 verse 11).

  Government therefore, has been committed to men by God and this has never been abrogated. It is the responsibility of Government to maintain and protect every right principle.

  5.   Blasphemy

  This country has a long Christian history, going back centuries, and indeed the Dedicatory Epistle to the King James version of the Bible refers to the Monarch as the Defender of the Faith. The Common Law of England is broadly based on the teachings of the Bible, and it would therefore be a retrograde step to remove one of the last vestiges of the recognition of Christianity in this country. God has been pleased to use this country and the English language for the spread of the Gospel concerning our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. As the common law stands at present, we are confident that it goes at least some way to act as a deterrent under God's hand to restrain the spread of blasphemous material. The abolition of the offence of blasphemy only meets the opinion of lawyers, professional groups and academic commentators (Law Commisson 1985: 2.8) but relegates the Christian faith to no more than just another dogma. To surrender the recognition of God and His rights in redemption, set out so fully in the Holy Scriptures, is apostacy.

  6.  We recognise the deficiencies of the existing common law in its definitions and limited application but this does not justify its abolition. The honour that is due to the Name of God and to the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ must be maintained (eg see Otto-Preminger-Institut case ECHR). In the absence of restraint the country will be flooded even more than it already is with the publication of blasphemous material by the media, the film industry and unscrupulous publishing houses, which will sap the very foundation of the Gospel. Even the preaching of the Gospel on the streets, that takes place in so many places in the UK every day of the week, could be jeopardised under the proposed Clause 2 of the Bill. Abolition will only further the ends of "the god of this world in blinding the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine into them" (2 Corinthians 4 verse 4).

  7.   Definitions

  We note that the Law Commission 1985 (2.49) comments on the difficulty attaching to the concept of "religion" and "matters relating to religion" and how such concepts could be defined. Furthermore, the recent Consultation Document "Towards Equality and Diversity" which was the subject of an enquiry by a House of Lords Select Committee, clearly indicated that the Government had "reached the view that we should not attempt to define religion or belief" (13.4). If there is such difficulty with the definition of "religion", how can one define "religious hatred"!

  8.   Places of Worship

  We consider it essential that the offence of disturbing a religious service or religious devotions should be maintained. For this offence to be generalised under "religious hatred" is too vague and could lead to dispute. We find it difficult to understand where it could fit into Clause 2(3) of the Bill.

  9.   General

  We would like to draw your attention to an intervention in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill, by Lord Robertson of Oakridge, when he so commendably defended the honour that is due to the Name of God (HL 16 June 1994 Cols 1896-98). Members of the Committee will also be very much aware of the more recent debate (HL 22 Feb 1995) when that attempt to abolish the offence of blasphemy was defeated.

  10.   Conclusions

  We therefore urge your Lordships' Committee to recommend to the Government that as a matter of principle, the laws relating to blasphemy should remain in place, with the addition, if considered necessary, of suitable protection for those not covered by the existing common law.


Under the Law of Moses.

  Leviticus Ch 24 verse 16. "And he that blasphemeth the Name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall be put to death."

In the prophets.

  Isaiah Ch 37 verse 23. "Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? even against the Holy One of Israel."

In the teachings of the apostle Paul.

  Romans Ch 2 verse 24. "For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles. . ."

  Colossians Ch 3 verse 8. "But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth."

Future prophetic utterances as to the beast (soon to be fulfilled).

  Revelation Ch 13 verse 6. "And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven."

22 July 2002

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