Right to Preach from Scripture is in Danger again

Last year, the Government came to a handy compromise over the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill. Despite including (rightly so) clauses to prohibit “incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation”, they included the following clause which has (“will” technically, as it has not yet come into force) become section 29JA of the 1986 Criminal Justice Act:

In this Part, for the avoidance of doubt, the discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred.

What this clause does is allow one to put forward a Biblical argyument around sexual practice, confident that one will not be accused of inciting hatred (which of course is not the intent of the vast majority of people who take a conservative stance on the issue).

However, a clause in the new Coroners and Justice Bill has been put forward (Clause 58) which says the following:

58 Hatred against persons on grounds of sexual orientation
In Part 3A of the Public Order Act 1986 (c. 64) (hatred against persons on grounds of sexual orientation etc), omit section 29JA (protection for discussion or criticism of sexual conduct etc).

The new proposed clause quite simply removes section 29JA, allowing a prosecution for incitement to hatred to be considered simply for suggesting that those with a homosexual orientation should refrain from homosexual behaviour. What this would do potentially is to make this blog itself illegal, simply for expressing the (Biblical) viewpoint that we should refrain from sexual behaviour outside of marriage between a man and a woman.

You can read the whole Bill for yourself here, but of course barring this proposed clause there is nothing pertaining to sexuality in the legislation. However, that link will allow you to see any future changes to the Bill, or amendments proposed.

Who is behind this? Well the legislation is being put forward by the Ministry of Justice. One of the Parliamentary Secretaries of State there is Maria Eagle who is the twin sister of Angela Eagle, the Treasury Minister who was the first female MP to enter into a Civil Partnership. Maria Eagle is a firm favourite of Stonewall and has recently (October 2008) taken on official Government responsibilities for equality. Last year she opposed from the front bench the successful amendment (eventually passed in the Lords) which introduced section 29JA in the first place.

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11 Comments on “Right to Preach from Scripture is in Danger again

  1. This shows a weakness in our democracy where certain individuals can be used to restrict the liberty of the vast majority, using sly last minute tactics and reneging on a compromise that everyone thought had been agreed.

    Given Labour’s performance over Lisbon I guess we should expect no better of them.

    I would assume this will be repealed by an incoming Conservative govt.

  2. Yet again we see the ideological desperation of New Labour who have attempted again and again and again to sneak this clause into legislation related to it or otherwise. We are required by scripture to pray for those in authority over us but methinks New Labour will one day reach the point (if they are still in power) where these prayers will be coupled to imprecatory psalms.

    And for this floating voter I am very unlikely even to consider voting Labour for a decade or two.

    (It’s enough to bring on the rabies I tell you.)

    Frothingly yours,

    The Foxe.

    PS Is there any evidence that the Tories would repeal such clause?

  3. Evening all.

    This may simply be complacent (or naive), but I’d be staggered if this blog could be considered hate speech once part 29JA is removed (assuming that it is). Presumably there will be guidelines on how the law is to be applied, and precedent will also carry weight. I’m not convinced you’ve anything to fear, frankly.

    in friendship, Blair

  4. I think you are being complacent Blair. This clause was originally put in because the law is vague enough to allow someone to be prosecuted simply for expressing the view that homosexual behaviour is sinful. Remember, the law as it stands to be implemented says that you don’t have to have intended to cause hatred, simply that the person that heard you understood it as hatred. Clause 29JA prevents such a prosecution arising simply out of objecting to someone’s viewpoint. Remove Clause 29JA and I would be wide open to prosecution (and there are a number of people who would take great delight in “taking offence” at what I wrote).

    I really do think this is serious Blair. I do my best here to defend the gay community when it comes under attack from unthinking conservatives. Perhaps now is the time for some who self-identify as gay to stand up and say, “You know, we really don’t have to get rid of this clause”.

  5.  Peter, although I’m pretty liberal (although I don’t currently self-identify as gay) I agree with your concerns here. 

  6. Hello Peter and ryan,

    you may well be right. Perhaps the only other question I’d ask is, do you know the timescale for the Coroners and Justice bill, and is there any word on how much support the Bill in general and Clause 58 in particular, have? Was going to ask if you could put in a link to the text of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill, to help give the full context, though I could just go and look it up :)

    ryan – being terminally nosey, if you don’t currently self-identify as gay, what do you identify as? (& yes I accept s*d off as a response!)

    in friendship, Blair

  7. Hi Peter
    Very interesting reading here…
    And totally OT, but could I possibly have your present personal email address?
    Thanks again
    Lisa

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