Select Committee on Religious Offences in England and Wales Written Evidence

Submission from the Old Baptist Church, Chippenham

  With reference to the examination of Lord Avebury's Religious Offences Bill.

  Would you kindly pass the following comments to the Committee examining this Bill.

  I write as the minister of the Old Baptist Chapel, Chippenham to express the deep disquiet felt by many professing Christian people about two of the proposals especially put forward in the Bill.

Firstly, to remove the offence of blasphemy from the statute book

  Surely, in this day, when tolerance is the apparent watchword of our legislators, to give "open season" to those who would maliciously wish to attack the Christian faith in this way is perverse. We would expect the same level of protection for our faith as any other faith.

Secondly, to abolish the offence of causing a disturbance in a religious assembly

  This again is a perverse suggestion. It gives open license to any one who might object to a particular religious viewpoint to disturb a service at will, and there would be no way of redress. We would expect that all religious faiths should have this protection as a civil liberty under the Human Rights legislation.

  It would seem that to enact these two clauses without proper protection for religious services could lead to a serious curtailment of our freedom of worship.

  We feel deeply concerned about the way in which the freedoms fought for at such great cost by our forefathers are being discarded in such a cavalier fashion, with little thought as to the long term consequences for our civil and religious liberty.

1 July 2002

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