Select Committee on Religious Offences in England and Wales Written Evidence

Submission from Harston Baptist Church

  I understand that the Select Committee is considering:

  (a)  whether or not religious offences, in particular blasphemy, should be amended or abolished; and

  (b)  whether a new offence of incitement to religious hatred should be created, and if so, how the offence should be defined.

  I am the minister of a rural Baptist church with a congregation of some 50 adults and I am writing on their behalf as well as my own. I would make the following points:

  1.  Despite the claims of others, the majority of people in this country regard themselves as "Christian". It is only right therefore that the law against blasphemy which has protected against vilification of our God should be kept.

  2.  There is no way in which committed Christian ministers are going to stop proclaiming in their public services and elsewhere the clear teachings of the Bible; for example that Jesus is the only way to God, that homosexuality is an offence against God, that withcraft is wrong, and other essential Christian doctrines.

  It has been shown in the past that these issues can be dealt with, whilst nevertheless showing tolerance and acceptance of those people who do not agree with us. It is a central tenet of Baptist teaching that we should be tolerant of those of other and no faith. In a country that believes in freedom of speech we should be allowed to continue with our peacable proclamation of what we consider to be the truth.

  We would maintain that no change in the law is necessary; the actions of extremists can be adequately dealt with under existing legislation. We fear, however, that if the law is changed there will be an increase in violent confrontations instigated by extremists who have shown previously that they are willing to invade and violently disrupt peaceful Christian gatherings.

Eric Seager (Rev) Minister of Harston Baptist Church

6 July 2002

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