Submission from Caversham Hill Chapel,
I note that a Select Committee has been set
up to examine issues raised by the "Religious Offences Bill"
and that a new offence of incitement to religious hatred is proposed.
I am surprised that a provision which was removed
from the bill against terrorism because it would be unworkable
has been brought back in this way.
I am concerned that such provision will not
only be unworkable but may be used by unscrupulous people to inhibit
genuine religious debate.
Incitement to religious hatred implies a motive
that can be proved and a resulting attitude that must also be
proved to exist. Such an attitude is in any case the responsibility
of the person who displays it rather than a supposed "inciter".
The difficulty of defining "incitement"
and of evaluating "hatred" will I believe make this
provision a minefield for litigation and create great uncertainty
as to what is acceptable religious apologetics.
It is impossible to affirm that Jesus Christ
is the only way to God without implying that other ways are wrong
and this may then be misconstrued as inciting people to hate other
religions and their practitioners. In fact one may need to state
sometimes that the doctrines and practices of another religion
are wrong. This to my mind does not constitute incitement to hatred.
Indeed it might well arouse deep compassion in the hearers for
those who are misguided; quite the opposite of hatred.
Who is able to discern the motives of a speaker
in such a case?
I submit that the provision is completely unworkable
and should not be entertained by your committee.
1 July 2002