Copy of MPs letter.

Here is a copy of a letter received from our local MP, Dr Liam Fox, Shadow Foreign Secretary and Conservative Party Chairman. I received it on paper and my CSM recieved it by email, so this is a copy of his emailed version:

Thank you very much for your letter about the Government’s plans for a new offence of ‘incitement to religious hatred’. As you may know, the Labour Government have twice before tried to legislate for an offence of incitement to religious hatred: in the immediate aftermath of 11th September 2001, and again in the recent Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill.

On both occasions, the plans met with strong opposition both in and outside Parliament, with the result that the proposal had to be dropped. The Government have yet again brought the measure back, now in the form of the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill. The Bill recently received its Second Reading in the House of Commons. The Conservative Party voted against the Bill.

Unfortunately, however, the Bill managed to pass Second Reading. I have argued all along that this proposal will threaten freedom of speech without doing anything to protect religious groups from harassment or violence. In my view, freedom of speech is one of the great virtues and strengths of British society. Unlike race, religion is a matter of choice. That is why it is entirely proper such matters are debated and contested.

The Attorney General has himself admitted that the proposed law raises expectations amongst some religious groups of protection from criticism that cannot properly be satisfied.

Moreover, I continue to believe that the proposed offence is almost entirely unnecessary. Words intended to provoke violence, or to cause alarm, distress, or harassment, are all caught by existing laws. This legislation therefore plans to sacrifice freedom of speech for little or no gain.

For these reasons, my Conservative colleagues and I will continue to oppose this measure.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to write to me. I will certainly take your comments on board when considering these issues in the future.

Yours sincerely

Dr Liam Fox MP Shadow Foreign Secretary

Religious and Racial Hatred Bill -2-

In response to Evangeline’s slight misunderstanding of the issues involved, allow me to go a bit deeper.

I fully agree with the government that peace between our faith communities is of the utmost importance. I also want to affirm that I am profoundly in opposition to the incitement of religious hatred between faith groups. Having been caught up in sectarian hatred as a boy in Scotland between Protestant and Catholic people I have witnessed first hand the harmful effects of this problem.

However, it is the unintended consequences of the Bill that concern me. The Bill apprears to cover cases far beyond the ones the Government says it wants to cover and to have enormous potential to be used for purposes other than the intended one.

More specifically, these are the areas I see are problematic:

a. The lowest threshold for an offence is that words are “insulting”. The courts have already held that relating certain sexual behaviour to immorality would be insulting to some groups. Christianity contains strong moral teaching which will be considered insulting under this definition. Additionally both Christianity and Islam are proselytising religions and teach things which contradict each other, most importantly about the identity of Jesus Christ. The teaching of one religion has great potential, inevitably but unintentionally, to be considered insulting by members of the other;
b. The second limb (b) of the offence requires no intention on the part of the maker of a statement to stir up religious hatred, but only that the words are “likely” to do so. As is made quite clear in the explanatory notes to the Bill, paragraph (b) is stated as an alternative to paragraph (a). That is shown by the use of the word “or”;
c. There is nothing in the text of the offence to prevent “Religious hatred” from being interpreted as hatred against the beliefs held by members of a particular religion, or the practices of the members;
d. There is no defence that the words are true;
e. There is no definition of religion. When Fiona MacTaggart was Home Office Minister she indicated on Law in Action in November 2004 that even Satanists would be protected;
f. Hatred is not defined. The dictionary definition of intense dislike or detestation will be used which is a highly subjective test and very difficult to define or predict.

I fear the consequences of this ambiguity will be that there will be a chilling of the climate of free speech in the religious arena.

a) It will become difficult to expose groups who persecute others in the name of religion.

b) Socially unacceptable practices carried out in the name of religion, such as child abuse, will become more difficult to expose.

c) The effect of this would be to deprive people of information about dangerous cults which would otherwise safeguard them from exploitation.

d) Some public teaching of religion and reading of passages from Holy books will become illegal.

e) The real threat of the breakdown of community cohesion as faith groups seek to use the legislation as a stick to beat their opponents.

The good intentions behind the Bill are undoubtedly overshadowed by the adverse consequences it will have if it is enacted in its present form. The prospect of clergymen hauled in front of a court by a vexatious litigant is not one the government here ever intended. However, neither did the government in Australia intend for a witch to take the Salvation Army to court in an unmeritorious, embarrassing recent case which the judge eventually threw out. Yet it happened there in a nation who have a similar law. Our fear is that the same could happen here.

This information is part of letters I have drafted to peers who sit in the UK’s second senior chamber of government, the House of Lords, who will review the Bill on 11th October.

Religious and Racial Hatred Bill, UK

The Racial and Religious Hatred Bill is about creating a new criminal offence in the UK (with a maximum penalty of 7 years in jail) of ‘stirring up hatred against people on religious grounds’. It does this by adding new parts to an older law: the Public Order Act 1986.

What is it about?
The government themselves have said that the new law is meant to be for the benefit of Muslims living in Britain who need protection from attacks on them which have been more common since September 11th.

What’s happened so far?
The Government have already tried on several occasions to pass this law, but have always been forced to withdraw it because of the strength of opposition, from the Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs and outside pressure from a broad coalition of concerned groups. Now the Government are trying to push through the law because it was one of their manifesto promises.

What does the Religious Hatred Bill mean for Christians?
A law against stirring up religious hatred sounds like an excellent idea – the Gospel is a Gospel of love and all Christians would support measures to punish and deter those who deliberately create hatred of others on religious grounds. However, the way the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill has been written means it is very likely it will have dangerous consequences which the Government did not intend it to have.

For example:

  • A very similar law passed recently in Australia has led to the prosecution of a mainstream Christian pastor who taught a seminar on Islam. The judge decided that the seminar incited ‘intense dislike’ of Muslims and this was enough to count as ‘hatred’.
    Already in England, under existing law, a street preacher’s conviction for a public order offence was upheld by the High Court because he held a placard which said ‘Stop Homosexuality’ ‘Stop Immorality’ ‘Turn to Jesus’ and the court said those words were ‘abusive and insulting’ to a certain section of the community.
  • Also, in certain areas of England with large Islamic populations, Churches have already been asked to take down posters saying things like ‘Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life’ because they could be considered insulting to people of other religions. If the Religious Hatred Bill becomes law it would be even more likely that the freedom for Christians to speak about such things would be removed.
  • Because Christianity teaches tolerance and grace, it is likely that it would be people of other religions, extremists or activist groups, who would try and prosecute Christian leaders, rather than Christians prosecuting others. There are already examples of this sort of behaviour – the Mysticism and Occult Federation monitored Premier (Christian) Radio in order to find grounds for complaint. They then sent those complaints to the Radio Authority. That Authority upheld some of the complaints that it was offensive for Premier radio to warn of the dangers of the occult on air.
  • In a recent case (August 2005) under the similar Australian law, a witch sought to prosecute the Salvation Army for using the Alpha course to preach the good news in the prison where the witch was serving time. The judge said the claim was ‘preposterous’ but criticised the law which allowed the Salvation Army’s time to be wasted as well as the embarrassment and bad publicity of a police investigation and trial, all of which happened even though they were eventually found not guilty. This sort of legal battle and publicity would almost inevitably happen in this country if the new law is brought in.

THERE IS A PUBLIC POLITICAL RALLY ON TUESDAY 11TH OCTOBER AT THE ENTRANCE TO THE HOUSE OF LORDS BETWEEN 1PM AND 4PM FOR WORSHIP AND PRAYER UNITED WITH THE CHURCHES. PLEASE PUT IT IN YOUR DIARY FOR PRAYER IF NOT FOR ATTENDANCE.

The sad thing about this is that the Army appears to support this Bill. Here is a response from the Public Relations Department:

——In a nutshell, the official ‘party line’ currently is that of somemonths ago – broadly supportive of the bill. It is in fact a line stillbeing maintained by all the mainline denominations. However, be assuredthat it is being monitored very closely at the moment and indeed hasbeen over the last couple of months. The rhetoric opposing the bill fromcertain circles is indeed shocking, and it is not being ignored,however, we are researching the issues carefully in order to ensure thatour own position, particularly if it ends up being different to theinitial stance taken, is meticulously researched. The bill has substantial overlaps with another piece of legislationwhich we are in close consultation with the Government on, and which isperhaps even more threatening if not addressed, so please rest assuredthat we are not ignoring the seriousness of the hour. Please continue to pray for the political process and thank yousincerely for engaging in it.——-

I have asked for further clarification and I will post it here. I would like to point out that there are some significant Christian bodies in the UK encouraging opposition to this Bill, including the Evangelical Alliance, the Lawyers Christian Fellowship, the Christian Institute, Premier Radio, Cross Rythms, and many other evangelical Christian Political groups. The Rt Honorable Baroness Cox (of Christian Solidarity) also has encourage lobbying and demonstration to safe guard free speech for all UK citizens. Mainstream denominations many not have problems, but then they have not always supported the Army on various stances so their support, or lack thereof can hardly be considered as grounds for inaction.

Let everyone and their granny know about this for prayer and action. Here are some websites with more info…..

http://www.religioushatredlaw.info/

http://www.lawcf.org/

http://www.lawcf.org/lawreform.php

(under Incitement to Religioushatred), at http://www.christian.org.uk/

The LCF has prepareda 19 minuteprogramme which can be viewed on any of the aforementioned sites.

in Jesus

Andrew

Confession

Was in a conversation and was reminded of something I need to confess to you all here at Army Renewal Blog. Some of you will cringe and some of you will cheer. Some of you will continue to think, and be confirmed in your thinking, that I am an absolute nutter.

After I became converted and became a soldier, I used to wear my uniform to school.

Was it relevant to my school friends? No.
Did it make me lots of friends? No.
Was it appropriate to wear it to school? No, probably not.
Did my parents approve? No.
Did it give me an opportunity to share my faith? Yes, every spare minute of the day.

I remember talking to Karen, who had lost her mum, about the reality of God in my life. I talked to Craig about God’s leading my life in a certain direction. I talked to Richard about attending church not being enough to get to heaven. I talked to Melody about the kind of person God was making me. I remember talking to Desmond about treating girls properly. I remember talking to Kerry about nor being ashamed of her faith. I remember talking to a music teacher about her divorce. I remember Clair asking my opinion about sleeping around.

I remember talking to Barry about God being bigger than science. I remember talking to Pamela about not going off the rails. I used to talk to Ashley about the beautiful person she could become in Jesus. I talked to Kerry-Ann and Laura about the possiblity of having a pure life. I talked to another Laura about God being a better father than any step-father. I talked to Donald about sin and hell (we used to get up to a lot of sin together!!). I remember telling Andrew that homosexual acts were sinful.

I remember getting beaten up. I remember getting my things stolen. I remember my sister being taunted. I remember being called ‘Harold.’

Would I have done all that without my uniform? Maybe. But let me explain that this was a constant flow of conversation about God….I’ve only mentioned a few examples. Now, that wouldn’t have happened without uniform.

Anyway, thats my confession. Who says that uniform is useless?

in Jesus
Andrew

(PS were any of them saved? Not at the time, but 3 of them are now. :o)

Counter Attack

So, there has been the usual little niggley counter-attacks from satan this week seeking to divide over little things and personal circumstances, but God is bigger than all that. I think after a weekend like we’ve had, the activity of the enemy becomes so much clearer.

It seems that the way he goes about altering that is trying to convince us that its not really like that at all….its his plan to get us to think that he isnt active and interfering. You start to think that you read too much into things. And whilst we don’t want to give him any glory at all, we need to remember his plan is to make us think he doesn’t exist. I’m growing wise to that one as the years go by. We shouldn’t be unaware of his schemes.

God is much much bigger. I’m excited about all the future holds. We’re commited to building on what we learned and thats a blessing…it will have a difference on our community. We’re gathering information to inform our prayer. The challenge is where to start with it all come Sunday!!

Anyway, looking forward to what God will do now.

Andrew

Salvation Army grid::blog

Salvation Army grid::blog

Just a thought to try.It seems that daily there are salvationist blogging – if we title a blog entry as above we could link together through a google search. Could be a good way of linking up. Get “Salvation Army grid::blog” in the title – spread the word and lets see how many sally’s blog!