The Government has published its proposed 'homophobic hatred' law. Parts of the law are modelled on the religious hatred law but there is no specific free speech protection.
Only 'threatening' words or behaviour will be covered by the Government's current wording, not those which are 'insulting' or 'abusive' (both very broad terms).
In addition, a prosecutor must prove that a person intended to stir up hatred on grounds of sexual orientation, rather than having been 'likely to' stir up hatred. This mirrors the religious hatred law.
Some of the concerns about free speech appear to have registered with Government ministers. Thank you for your letter writing and your prayers.
However, The Christian Institute and the Lawyers Christian Fellowship (LCF) are concerned that the free speech protection which is present in the religious hatred offence is not included in the 'homophobic hatred' law.
While the Human Rights Act offers some protection for free speech and religious liberty, the lack of a specific protection in the offence sends out the signal that free speech is more important when debating religion than when debating homosexual practice.
The Christian Institute and LCF remain opposed to the principle of a 'homophobic hatred' law. Existing offences are sufficient to protect homosexuals from any violence or harassment. A 'homophobic hatred' law, in any form, could be used as a pretext for challenging the free speech and religious liberty of Christians.
The offence, which has been published today, could yet be amended by MPs or Peers. The final wording of the offence could therefore be better, or worse, by the time it is passed by Parliament. So there is still a long way to go.
Please continue to pray for the protection of free speech and religious liberty.
To read the Government's wording in full, click on the link below: http://www.christian.org.uk/issues/2007/gay_rights/hatecrime/amendment_1 5nov07.pdf
Yours in Christ,
Director, The Christian Institute
Andrea Minichiello Williams
LCF Public Policy Director