Posted on July 12, 2005

Religious Hate Bill Clears Commons

UPI, July 12

LONDON — The British government’s controversial incitement to religious hatred bill has cleared Parliament’s lower chamber, the House of Commons.

Members of Parliament passed the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill 301-229. However, it faces a tough time in the House of Lords, where the government has no majority.

The government moved to reassure opponents faith groups would not be able to place critics under citizen’s arrest. It tabled an amendment to prevent “malicious” attempts by religious organizations to stop criticism if the police declined to step in.

But hundreds of Christians demonstrated outside Parliament as the bill was debated, arguing the law would prevent them criticizing other religions.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were defeated when they proposed an amendment banning reference to religion as a pretext for racial hatred. However it is likely it will be raised again in the Lords.

Supporters of the bill say it closes a loophole in the current racial hatred law, which protects Sikhs and Jews because of their distinct ethnicity, but not Muslims, Christians or Hindus.