The British Humanist Association (BHA) has today written to Peers in the House of Lords, urging them to support legislation that will close a loophole which currently exempts a minority of people with extreme religious views on homosexuality from laws banning incitement to hatred on grounds of sexual orientation.
Naomi Phillips, BHA Public Affairs Officer, said, ‘Last year Parliament voted to introduce important new legal protections against incitement to hatred on grounds of sexual orientation. The threshold for the new law was already extremely high – it wouldn’t include name-calling or saying that homosexuality is sinful – but would include highly threatening speech that is deliberately aimed to stir up hatred against gay people. Unfortunately, at the last minute an amendment was made to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill to exempt a minority of people with extreme religious views on homosexuality from the new offence.’
Ms Phillips continued, ‘That it may be religiously-inspired is no reason to exempt people who use highly threatening hate speech from the law. Parliamentarians now have the chance to close the loophole and ensure real protection for gay people in the UK.’
The British Humanist Association (BHA) supports freedom of speech and freedom of expression as fundamental aspects of an open, democratic and just society. We take seriously any attempt to curtail freedom of speech and hold that people have the right to express their beliefs, even if they may seem peculiar or even abhorrent to others – that right is essential in a free society. However, language which is threatening and intended to stir up hatred against people on the basis of an intrinsic characteristic such as sexual orientation or race should be unacceptable in a society that values and respects freedom, human rights and equality.
For further comment or information, contact Naomi Phillips on 020 7079 3585.
Peers are set to debate Clause 61 in the Coroners and Justice Bill in Lords Committee, on Tuesday 7th July.
The British Humanist Association (BHA) is the national charity representing and supporting the non-religious and campaigning for an end to religious privilege and discrimination based on religion or belief. It is the largest organisation in the UK working for a secular state.