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PROTECTING COMMUNITIES FROM HATRED

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Measures to protect individuals from hatred stirred up against them...
Measures to protect individuals from hatred stirred up against them

on the basis of their religious belief were set out today by the

government as it published the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill.

The Bill would give members of all faiths equal protection from

incited hatred, which has a corrosive effect on communities and can

lead to violence and harassment, dividing communities and increasing

the fear of crime.

It would create a new offence of incitement to religious hatred,

closing a gap in existing law, whereby Jews and Sikhs are protected

explicitly against incited hatred by the racial hatred offences in

the Public Order Act, but members of other faiths are not. The

offences would apply where threatening, abusive or insulting words or

behaviour are used by someone who intends to stir up hatred against a

group of people defined by reference to religious belief or lack of

religious belief, or it is likely that such hatred will be stirred

up.

Home Office minister Paul Goggins said:

'People of all backgrounds and faiths have a right to live free from

hatred, racism and extremism. Only by tackling such issues head on

will we preserve the tolerance, fairness and inclusiveness which are

such vital parts of our society.

'This Bill, supported by a wide range of faith and secular

organisations, takes up that challenge. It will not rule out

criticism of religion, or outlaw the telling of religious jokes. It

is about protecting individuals from hatred, and the fear of

violence and harassment created by it.'

Attorney general Lord Goldsmith said:

'This Bill is unfinished business from the last session of parliament

and will provide protection to groups of people which other groups

already have. It's about protecting people from hatred, not faiths

from criticism.'

Prosecution under the new offence of incitement to religious hatred

would require that offensive words or actions must be threatening,

abusive or insulting and intended to stir up hatred, or, having

regard to all the circumstances, likely to stir up such hatred.

Religious hatred is defined as 'hatred against a group of persons

defined by reference to religious belief or lack of religious

belief.' All prosecutions would have to pass the Crown Prosecution

Service public interest test and require the consent of the attorney

general.

The new proposal would not prohibit people, including artists and

performers, from offending, criticising or ridiculing faiths, but

would protect people from incitement to hatred against them because

of their faith.

Notes

1. The Bill would create a new offence of incitement to religious

hatred which would extend the protections offered to Jews and Sikhs

under the racial hatred offences to members of all faiths.

2. The Bill is published, together with explanatory notes, at

www.parliament.uk

3. This Bill is supported by a wide range of faith and secular

organisations, including:

* The Association of Chief Police Officers

* Justice

* The Commission for Racial Equality

* The Muslim Council of Britain

* The Hindu Forum

* The Board of Deputies of British Jews.

* The Imams and Mosques Council

* The British Humanist Association

* The Law Society

* The Hindu Council

* The Network of Sikh Organisations

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