on the basis of their religious belief were set out today by the
government as it published the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill.
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
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
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
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.
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
3. This Bill is supported by a wide range of faith and secular
* The Association of Chief Police Officers
* 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