Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Finally an Anti-Hatred Law That Makes Some Sense

Yesterday's narrow vote by the British House of Commons to reject the Labour government's "Racial and Religious Hatred Bill" and to adopt the House of Lord's amended version is, in my opinion, a vote in favour of freedom of speech for people of all religious belief in the United Kingdom. The originally proposed legislation was drawn far too widely and there were concerns that it could have potentially been used to outlaw all criticism of religious belief. This could have had significant dampening effect on evangelistic and apologetic ministries, as well as on groups like The Voice of the Martyrs in the UK who report on the persecution of Christians by members of other religions.

Under the passed legislation, prosecutors must prove that offending parties actually intended to incite hatred towards another's religion. The burden of proof lies with the prosecutor to prove incitement rather than with the accused to prove that he did not intend to spread hatred. This is a subtle but significant distinction in supporting the premise that someone is innocent until proven guilty.

This amended bill is a noteworthy piece of legislation that, I think, finds the right balance between absolute freedom of speech and censorship. This bill makes it possible for British Christians to discuss and critique other religions, proclaim the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ and draw attention to the persecution of Christians for religious reasons. The right to do all of these was somewhat murky under the originally proposed legislation tabled by Tony Blair's government. At the same time, it protects religious adherents from abuse by malicious individuals and groups intent on spreading hatred and intolerance.

I hope that other governments will look at this legislation and see the wisdom in it. This is an anti-hate law that finally makes sense.


Anonymous said...

For a satirical analysis of Tony's latest loss, try this KTAB News article: Religious Right: Government Wrong.

Glenn Penner said...

That's pretty funny. Thanks for posting it.