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.