You may remember me writing some time ago about the Religious Hatred Bill. Here is a report on the victory from ‘Christian Concern for Our Nation’:
What can we say but PRAISE GOD!! It was by his glory and grace that our months of prayer and petition were answered! Last night the government’s version of the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill was defeated, despite the government’s majority of 67MPs and the immense pressure exerted by the government to get people to vote for the Bill. It is only the second time in 9 years that Labour have lost a vote in the Commons. It was a vote which even the opposition MPs said could not be won. It is a vote which Christians knew, faithfully trusting in God’s sovereignty, could always be won.
It was last night at 7:45pm that the House of Commons voted against the government’s version of the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill. There were two votes held: in the first vote, the question was whether the RACIAL hatred laws would be changed, and the government was defeated by 10 votes. On the issue of the RELIGIOUS hatred laws, the government was defeated BY JUST ONE VOTE. Tony Blair voted in the first vote, but left before the second vote. That means it was the failure of the Prime Minister to vote which in human terms meant victory for those opposing the government’s Religious Hatred Bill.
The BBC news website described it as a ‘surprise defeat’, the London Metro and The Daily Mail described it as a ‘Shock defeat’, and in the Guardian, Labour minister Mr. Hain ‘admitted the government had been taken by surprise by the defeat.’
The upshot of the vote was that the Religious Hatred Bill was passed, but it was the House of Lords’ version of the Bill, not the Government’s version, that will become law. The Lords’ version was a dramatic improvement in the protection of the uninhibited freedom for Christians to preach the Gospel.
The Bill which will now become law will only allow someone to be prosecuted if:
1) the accused used threatening words or behaviour;
2) he intended to stir up religious hatred; and
3) the words or behaviour cannot be classed as an expression of criticism or dislike, or a discussion of, particular religions or the beliefs or practices of those religions.
It is now hard to envisage a case where a Christian, preaching from the word of God in good faith and from good motives, would fall foul of this legislation.
As you will know, from the very start of this campaign, we have opposed the idea of the Religious Hatred Bill in any form. However, it is our view as lawyers, that the Bill that has been passed has so many safeguards and protections built in, that it will represent almost no threat to Christians preaching the word of God. We would still prefer that the law was removed from the statute books, but the victory last night in the Commons was real, and allays almost all the fears which we have talked about over the past months.