Select Committee on Religious Offences in England and Wales Written Evidence

Submission from Christian Voice


  This submission is in response to the challenge from Lord Avebury expressed in his "Religious Offences Bill" which has in its provisions the abolition of the Common Law offence of blasphemy, and the introduction of religious hatred laws. As a result, the House of Lords has set up a "Select Committee on Religious Offences." The Committee is inviting short submissions, to consider two main issues:

  1.  Should existing religious offences (notably blasphemy) be amended or abolished?

  2.  Should a new offence of incitement to religious hatred be created and, if so, how should the offence be defined?

  In short, our answers to these questions are:

  1.  No! We do not agree that the blessed name of our God and Redeemer should be publicly blasphemed, our church services should be disrupted by militant anti-Christian agitators, or that any amendment is either logically possible or necessary, and

  2.  No! We do not believe the "religious hatred" provisions thrown out of the Terrorism Bill by Parliament are a proper substitute, or will do any good at all.


  From Lord Avebury's Religious Offences Bill 2002: "Clause (1) The following offences are hereby abolished: (a) blasphemy and blasphemous libel;" Blasphemy is not primarily an offence against a human person, a race or a religious group, nor even against a church or "the Christian religion", as some have falsely said. Blasphemy is an offence against Almighty God Himself. Only in a reference to "the formularies of the Church of England as by law established" does the current law protect the Church of England as such. However, making too much of this reference is a red herring. Those who would abolish the law against blasphemy do not care about the CofE, they want to insult Almighty God.


  Blasphemy is a public act of defiance against Almighty God. A nation which permits blasphemy has as a corporate body scorned the King of kings and Lord of lords. If the Committee decides not to keep the law against blasphemy it will be saying, "We do not want the United Kingdom to enjoy the blessing of God, if such exists. We are not God-fearing folk. We care nothing for God or his blessing."


  The law against blasphemous libel was last invoked in the Gay News trial in 1977. Lord Avebury has correctly said: "the character of the offence . . . is one of strict liability and without an element of intent." The Gay News trial centred on a poem which described a homosexual fantasy about the Lord Jesus, and alleged a homosexual relationship between the Lord Jesus and John the Apostle. It was not the Church of England that was attacked, it was the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

  Without the blasphemy laws, it would be impossible to prevent the publication of a repeat of the poem that appeared in "Gay News". Even now it circulates on the internet. Militant homosexuals want to have public readings of the poem. The ITC Code also recognises that broadcasters are desperate to introduce blasphemy on air, and are only held in check by the current blasphemy laws.


  Clause (1)(b) of the Avebury Bill abolishes "any distinct offence of disturbing a religious service or religious devotions" and Clause (1)(c) abolishes "any religious offence of striking a person in a church or churchyard." These laws protect Christians and others at worship and keep religious premises as havens of spiritual tranquillity. In their absence, the field would be open for those who hate the position of those churches who hold that certain actions, and lifestyles, are inherently evil. We list in our submission examples of such disruption by the anti-Christian bigots of paganism and humanism.

  The pressure for abolition of the blasphemy laws does not come from those of other religions, it comes from secularists and others those who have no time for God or who hate Christianity.


  Although this is not specifically on the agenda, it is certain to be raised. If the blasphemy laws were extended to include other faiths, this nation would be declaring an equality in faiths denied by all except the New Age. Muslims deny Jesus as the Son of God. Christians, they say, follow nothing. How could a blasphemy law encompass both Christianity and Islam?


  We oppose substituting "racial or religious hatred" for "racial hatred" in Part 3 of the Public Order Act 1986. A similar thing has not brought peace in Northern Ireland. As a church service is conducted in a "public place of worship", lawyers exist who would love to argue that the previously lawful criticism of Islam, or witchcraft, or atheism or sin in general, should now be held as inciting religious hatred. It would be ironic and illogical if in the Queen's realm homosexuals were allowed by abolition of the blasphemy laws to wreck a church service, but ministers were by religious hatred laws not allowed to preach against them.


  We finally point out that the United Kingdom has a Christian Constitution. We are aware that raising such a point is unfashionable at this irreligious hour, but perhaps the Committee will share our respect for the institutions which have served this land so well over more than one thousand years.

  In an unbroken tradition from King Edgar, during Her Coronation on 2 June 1953, and before she was anointed and crowned, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth was asked by the Archbishop:

    "Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel? And the Queen replied: "All this I solemnly promise to do."

  Next the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland presented the Bible to the Queen. Between them, the Archbishop and Moderator said to her:

    "Our gracious Queen: to keep your majesty ever mindful of the Law and the Gospel of God as the Rule for the whole life and government of Christian Princes, we present you with this book, the most valuable thing that this world affords. Here is Wisdom; This is the royal Law; these are the lively oracles of God"

  The Archbishop told Her Majesty when she was given the orb:

    "Receive this Orb set under the Cross, and remember that the whole world is subject to the Power and Empire of Christ our Redeemer."

  The Christian Constitution of the United Kingdom could not be clearer; Her Majesty's Government derive their authority solely from Christ our Redeemer. They may govern only according to the justice of God, and must legislate according to the sense of the Laws found in the most valuable book in the world. Repealing laws against blasphemy based on the Laws of God, to allow God to be mocked, Christ to be vilified and services of worship to be turned into a bear-garden, and to obstruct the preaching of the Gospel, are all unconstitutional.


  Blasphemy in British law is primarily an offence against Almighty God and/or the Lord Jesus Christ, from whom our Queen and her officers derive their authority. At her coronation, Her Majesty the Queen promised "to Maintain the Laws of God and the True Profession of the Gospel." Whilst the Christian Constitution of the United Kingdom remains, and long may it do so, no attempt to abolish the blasphemy law, neither any move to extend it to encompass other religions can constitutionally be allowed to succeed. The Select Committee should reject the notion of abolishing the law against blasphemy.

  Equating "religious hatred", which can never be well-enough defined, with racial hatred, is fraught with danger and unintended consequences, and should be opposed.

    Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His Name in vain. Exod 20:7 & Deut 5:11.

    For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. 1 Tim. 2:5-6.

8 July 2002

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