Render to Caesar

Act Now for Free Speech: Coroners and Justice Bill in the Lords

The "˜Chilling Effect' on Free Speech of the Coroners and Justice Bill and How You can Help to Stop It

The offence of "˜inciting hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation' is part of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 ("˜CJI Act'). Lord Waddington successfully inserted a free speech clause into that Act, which clause 61 (formerly clause 58) of the Coroners and Justice Bill now seeks to remove. Clause 61 has been passed by the Commons. It reads as follows:

61 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).

Section 29JA (which clause 61 seeks to omit) reads as follows:

29JA Protection of freedom of expression (sexual orientation)

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.

The provisions of the Bill are likely to be considered in the House of Lords shortly after its Second Reading on 18th May.

"˜Stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation’ carries a sentence of up to seven years’ imprisonment. Without highlighting the legal distinction between "˜discussion’ on one hand and the "˜stirring up’ of "˜hatred’ on the other, ordinary people will be frightened into silence, unsure whether they can challenge the new morality that seeks to normalise and promote homosexual practice.

Nobody supports the stirring up of hatred, but equally no reasonable person should object to peaceful criticism and discussion of sexual behaviour. Repealing this clause would remove the clear legal protection for such criticism and discussion from the face of the statute. Issuing Guidelines to police and prosecutors cannot hope to undo the damage this will cause. If clause 61 is passed, the consequences would include a climate of fear surrounding the mere discussion of sexual ethics and potentially the silencing of the Christian view.

Let us stand as Christians for our freedom to make a peaceful and reasonable case for biblical sexual ethics.

Attempts to amend this same Bill to allow assisted suicide, including a high-profile bid by former Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt, have so far failed. However, we can expect further attempts by the pro-euthanasia lobby to decriminalise assistance with suicide abroad during its Committee Stage, which follows Second Reading. This would render the existing law inconsistent. People would ask why it is acceptable to assist with a suicide abroad, but not at home. The consequences are plain for all to see.

A concerted campaign is growing in the media to normalise the idea of legalising assistance with suicide: Dr Philip Nitschke is in the UK once again promoting different methods for committing suicide and this month Chris Woodhead, former chief of OFSTED, has made known his desire to commit suicide in the Daily Mail. Pray that the Lord would hold the line and that the sanctity of life would be preserved in our law. For further information, read the latest newsletter from Care Not Killing by clicking here

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Please use the list of Peers’ votes at the link below to find out which Peers voted for the free speech clause in May 2008. Please write to as many as you can, asking them to attend Parliament to vote for any amendment that would remove clause 61. If you have any personal contact with a Peer, please seek to persuade them of the necessity of voting for the free speech clause. To see our list of Peers’ votes, please click here

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