Methodist Church Backs Religious Hatred Bill

The Methodist Church welcomes the aims of the proposal to outlawactions which incite religious hatred contained in the SeriousOrganised Crime and Police Bill. The Bill would make it a criminaloffence to incite hatred against any individual or group because oftheir religious beliefs.

Although some have claimed that the Bill will make religiousjokes or evangelism illegal, Methodist Parliamentary and PoliticalSecretary Rachel Lampard says that these views are based on amisconception of what the Bill proposes. "The legislation is aboutinciting hatred," says Rachel, "not about satire, jokes orevangelisation. It is about preventing extremist political groupsusing loopholes in the existing law to promote hatred of certainreligions. The test of hatred will be very high, and the AttorneyGeneral will have to approve each prosecution. If our jokes ormethods of evangelisation could ever incite violence or hatred,they would be at variance with all that Christianity standsfor.

The Bill is supported by a variety of faith communities, and DrElizabeth Harris, Secretary for Inter Faith Relations, says "theMethodist Church is committed to an open discussion of beliefs andensuring that people of all faiths are protected from hatred. Otherfaiths tell us that they want this legislation. We have to respectthis. This legislation is not about debating truth claims nor aboutwhether all religions are the same. But it is about all individualsand communities having the right to live and work without the fearof violence arising from religious hatred. The legislation willapply to everyone, so Christians will be protected as well."