Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200-206)|
WEDNESDAY 10 JULY 2002
200. Do you want to say something on this subject,
(Mr Pearce) I do not think I would want to add on
that point. There is a point Lady Perry made earlier and I would
like to comment on that before we close.
201. By all means, please do.
(Mr Pearce) It was simply her reference to the issue
of religious discrimination because this is clearly a very important
issue. Religious discrimination in the area of employment, occupation
and vocational training is covered by the new European Directive,
and discussions are going forward about how best to implement
that and give it the force of UK law. There are other issues relating
to religious discrimination, including, for example, discrimination
in relation to goods and services and other aspects of that and
a wider range of issues covered in, for example, reports by the
University of Derby and the University of Cambridge. I just wanted
to underline again that I would see it not as an either/or but
as a both/and. There is a difference between what legislation
on incitement to religious hatred is trying to tackle and what
would be tackled in relation to laws against discrimination on
grounds of religious identity. But both form part of this broader
issue of what kind of framework of law one needs to have, in a
society of the kind which we want to have, in order to provide
a sense of security, a sense of acceptance and a sense that society
is one in which people can live fruitful lives.
202. I think, Mr Pearce, we recognise both are
an important ingredient. The difference is that the discrimination
one is not within our terms of reference and there would have
to be other mechanisms to deal with it.
(Mr Pearce) Absolutely so. I was merely observing
that it is part of the context within which this particular part
of the field is being examined.
Baroness Richardson of Calow
203. You mentioned the sense of security, a
lot of the submissions we have had reflect the fact that some
people think they are protected from all sorts of ills by the
presence on the statute book of the law of blasphemy and would
feel very much let down and put at risk if this was withdrawn.
Where do we get that sense of security in being able to live in
harmony with each other? It is almost a comment rather than a
question. How can law help? This is the thing we are really trying
to struggle with here. Obviously, education is far more effective,
as you say, but what in law would actually help that sense of
(Mr Pearce) I would say, my Lord Chairman, working
together in ensuring the framework of law is appropriate and that
non-legal measures and non-legal steps to develop the kind of
society we want to have go hand in hand. On the point about discrimination,
of course, there is a sense of discrimination on the part of some
communities in terms of the current law, as it applies for example
to incitement to hatred of that group in a situation where some
groups find themselves covered and others do not. So therefore
a removal of a sense of discrimination is, as I see it, part of
the case for the provision about incitement to religious hatred,
or the hatred of religious groups, should I say.
Bishop of Portsmouth
204. In relation to Jonathan Gorsky's suggestion
that actually religious hatred legislation would not help, a slightly
unfair question but one has to be as comprehensive as possible,
would that be a generally-accepted view from the Jewish community?
(Revd Gorsky) That is a difficult question.
205. I am always asked, "What is a typical
Anglican view", and there are lots of people who like heresy
(Revd Gorsky) It is equally difficult. I suspect there
would be reasonably wide ranging agreement, but I am sure you
will be hearing evidence from the Jewish community too. When I
said it would not be of help, I meant it would not be of help
to the Jewish community to the best of my knowledge. It might
well be of help to other communities but not in our circumstances.
If I can have one more sentence on Lady Richardson's point: I
think it is worth emphasising that these laws have a symbolic
importance as well as a real importance. How well people are really
protected by the laws of blasphemy, I do not know, but they feel
they are, and if the laws were taken away a certain statement
might be made. In the same way the laws have a symbolic importance
for faith communities: if they are included in the law, that is
making a statement, as I think Mr Pearce has said, about their
situation in society. So the symbolic dimension seems to be quite
Chairman: I am going to ask Lady Massey to put
the last question in a minute but can I just say this, because
we have run out of time. First of all, there is a list of questions
about things which have happened and have not been properly dealt
with, and we ought to deal with them, which is our Questions 8,
9 and 10. If you have examples of this, if you have got thoughts
on that, could you let us have them in writing? We have not had
time to do full justice to the balance between criminalising incitement
to religious hatred and a proper discussion, even quite fierce
discussion, of religious tenets and doctrines, and this is an
important thing which we have not had time to deal with. Again,
if you have any further thoughts on that, we did touch on it,
I would be very grateful to have them. I think we must draw to
a close but I am going to let Lady Massey ask her question.
Baroness Massey of Darwen: It is not really
a question but a comment and a kind of musing in response to Lady
Richardson's response to you.
Chairman: You muse away!
Baroness Massey of Darwen: Most of the submissions
which I have seen to us are from Christian organisations or individuals,
and it seems to me that maybe what they are feeling protected
by is not the blasphemy but the religion itself. They are feeling
secure not because of the lawand you were saying something
about symbolic thingsand I do not know how you feel about
206. Maybe we will come back to this internally,
for all I know. I think I must draw this to a close, I am sorry
if not everybody has been able to ask all their questions, but
it was a very full list. Could I thank you both very much indeed
with great sincerity. You have moved us on I think quite considerably
in our deliberations. In addition to the two I have left with
you, if there are more things you would like to tell us, please
both of you feel free to do so. We are going on until Christmas,
I would think, so you have all summer to think about it and all
summer to write the letter. Meanwhile, thank you very much indeed,
we have enjoyed listening to you greatly.
(Mr Pearce) Thank you very much.