Submission from the Centre for Justice
Thank you for the opportunity to respond to
your Committee before the end of July. After research, we support
retaining the blasphemy law and profoundly disagree with, and
do not see the need for, an incitement to religious hatred law.
The Centre represents the UK Christian broadcast
industry, (music, production, communication companies, radio and
TV broadcasters), employing about 1,000 people, with a £20-30
million annual turnover contribution to the country. Your proposals
could adversely affect those who work in our industry.
Col. 302 of 23/07/78 House of Lords report defined
blasphemy as "any writing about God or Christ or Christian
religion, or some sacred subject in words which are so scurrilous
or abusive or offensive that if they are published they would
tend to vilify the Christian religion and lead to a breach of
This has worked, is working and will continue
to work in a multi-cultural society. As well as protecting Church
and its leaders, the words already protect the name of God, religion
and religious leaders throughout the United Kingdom. We hope their
Lordships will conclude that this law is sufficiently broad already
for there to be no need to change, modify or remove it. References
to Christ and the Church also recognise centuries of UK Christian
heritage and tradition.
We agree with Baroness Ryder of Warsaw: "It
is not blasphemous to speak or publish opinions hostile to the
Christian faith or to deny the existence of God if the publication
is couched in decent or temperate language" (Lords 22/02/95
col. 1229)and with Lord Elton referring to: "a general
perception of the sanctity of God and the necessity of all mankind
to recognise that" (ibid col. 1229)and with Lord Scarman
that the blasphemy law "belongs to a group of criminal offences
designed to safeguard the internal tranquillity of the Kingdom"
Surely, we should keep this law to respect religion
and UK religious leaders
We agree with the Archbishop of York: "The
way these matters work now means that the protection afforded
to one faitha faith that is after all the faith of the
established church and a faith adhered to with varying degrees
of enthusiasm by between 60 and 80 per cent of the populationprovides
a sort of umbrella from which others can benefit; not directly
through the law, but through the presumption against blasphemy
which the existence of this ancient legislation still retains
within our legal system". (Lords 16/06/94 col. 1895).
We also support retaining associated laws of
"distinct offence of disturbing a religious service or religious
devotions", and "religious offence of striking a person
in a church or churchyard"issues raised by Lord Avebury.
We support the protection of churches, religious buildings, cemeteries
and burial grounds.
Surely, we should keep a law, respecting all premises
that are used for marriages, funerals and the graves of the dead
All faiths need to be able to share what they
believe. There is at present freedom of speech, which does not
blaspheme and it is already covered by the blasphemy law. We oppose
introducing more laws that look for incitement or for offence
and believe this is unnecessary.
We do not want further legislation that could
be used to discriminate against Christian and other religious
views in the media. But, we do support the blasphemy law that
keeps us from causing offence to other religions, whilst providing
a measure of protection against militants who are offensive about
matters of faith and towards any religious people.
The modern reality is that people of faith including
Christians and Jews are experiencing an increasing tendancy to
be targeted by militant individuals who are not just irreligious,
but anti-religious. We ourselves were banned from broadcast licences
and are taking the Government to the European Court of Human Rights
under Article 14 Prohibition of Discrimination, Article 9 Freedom
of Thought, Conscience and Religion, Article 10 Freedom of Expression.
We are convinced that implementation of existing
European Convention protections is the solution, rather than another
law: "incitement to religious hatred" which will be
even more problematic and not benefit anybody, except law firms
and those who hold shares in law firms.
We think it will harm freedom of speech, with
the potential to criminalise religious debate. The judicial system
should not be drawn into adjudicating on people's beliefs. Militant
secular and anti-religious people could well try to use the law
to target people, simply because of their religious affiliation.
We suggest "incitement to terrorism"
or "incitement to crime" are criminal actions, rather
than thoughts. Yet, protection already exists, it is a criminal
offence to incite any crime against another person, whether or
not religion is the reason.
14 July 2002