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New religious hatred law comes into force

Posted By Sunny On 4th October, 2007 @ 5:24 am In Religion, Civil liberties | 15 Comments

Given the uproar it caused when first mooted, the introduction of the Religious Hatred Act seems to have gone unnoticed. Either way, it came into effect on 1st October.

Here is the Home Office press release:


Incitement to religious hatred will today become a criminal offence in England and Wales with the commencement of the Racial and Religious Hatred Act.

The Act creates a new offence of intentionally stirring up religious hatred against people on religious grounds, closing a gap in the current legislation.

Existing offences in the Public Order 1986 Act legislate against inciting racial hatred. Jews and Sikhs have been deemed by the courts to be racial groups and are protected under this legislation, but other groups such as Muslims and Christians are considered to be religious rather than racial groups and have therefore not previously received any protection under the law.

The new Act will give protection to these groups by outlawing the use of threatening words or behaviour intended to incite hatred against groups of people defined by their religious beliefs or lack of belief.

Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker said: “This Act closes this small but important gap in the law against extremists who stir up hatred in our communities. To be attacked or targeted because of your race or religion is wholly unacceptable.

“It can have a devastating effect on victims who can find themselves on the receiving end of bigotry and hatred.

“We are committed to protecting everyone in our society and legislating against this abhorrent behaviour. Our overarching goal is to build a civilised society where we can all achieve our potential free from prejudice.”


1. The Racial and Religious Hatred Act received Royal Assent on 16 February 2006. The Act can be found at:

2. This Act applies to England and Wales.

3. Legislation against religiously and racially aggravated crimes is already in force under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. The Act introduced nine racially or religiously aggravated offences, (including assaults, criminal damage, public order offences and harassment) which make higher maximum penalties available to the courts where there is evidence of racist or religious motivation or hostility in connection with an offence.

4. The reference to “religious belief or lack of religious belief” is a broad one, and is in line with the freedom of religion guaranteed by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
It is intended to include, although this list is not definitive, those religions widely recognised in this country such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Rastafarianism, the Baha’i faith, Zoroastrianism and Jainism.

5. The existing racial incitement offence carries a high threshold in order to protect freedom of speech. Offensive words/actions must be threatening, abusive or insulting and must either be intended or likely to incite hatred. The hatred must be aimed at people who are members of that group.

6. The new offence therefore has an even higher threshold than the race hatred offence, recognising that religious beliefs are a legitimate subject of vigorous public debate.


The lack of media attention is probably down to the fact that it isn’t as bad (as far as I can tell) as what was originally bandied about.

Let me put it this way. Jews and Sikhs were protected under the law for reasons I have [1] outlined before. What that meant was you could not demonise Jews or Sikhs but could still incite hatred against or demonise Muslims / Christians / Hindus generally. This law closes that loop.

It still allows people to challenge and reject & ridicule religious beliefs generally. Even without this law I could have ridiculed Sikhism and got away with it under the law.

In fact it looser than that. During the Sikh play [2] Behzti controversy in 2005, the agitators (from Sikhs Human Rights Group) wanted to take the writer Gurpreet Bhatti to court for inciting hatred against Sikhs. When they declared this on radio while I was a panellist, I laughed at them. Needless to say they could not legally continue with their fantasy.

15 Comments To "New religious hatred law comes into force"

#1 Comment By Kismet Hardy On 4th October, 2007 @ 7:32 am

Oh well, while I can.

Two Palestinians sitting in a cafe.

One pulls out his wallet and sighs: ‘this is a picture of my son abdullah. He was a martyr at 17.’

The other man pulls out his wallet and sighs also: ‘this is a picture of my son jamal. He was a martyr at 15.’

Wiping a tear from his eye, the first man says: ‘Kids…

They blow up so quickly these days’

#2 Comment By Kismet Hardy On 4th October, 2007 @ 7:34 am

Confused freshie off the boat at bus stop in Golders Green

‘Excusing me sir, but time is next bus joo?’

Says the rabbi: ‘Piss off paki’

#3 Comment By Kismet Hardy On 4th October, 2007 @ 7:35 am

Italian mums say eat your food or I’ll kill you, Asian mums say eat your food or I’ll kill myself

#4 Comment By Kismet Hardy On 4th October, 2007 @ 7:38 am

Who’s the most important person that walked the earth, asked the visiting vicar in the school with no christians.

‘The prophet Mohammed PBUH’ says the muslim kid

‘Guru Nanak,’ says the sikh kid

‘Buddha’ sas the buddhist kid

And so on

Finally, the vicar gets the answer he was looking for - Jesus Christ - from a Jewish kid no less

After class, he had to ask him why he thought so

Said the kid: ‘Look, I know it’s Moses. You know it’s Moses. But business is business.’

#5 Comment By Leon On 4th October, 2007 @ 10:18 am

Jews and Sikhs have been deemed by the courts to be racial groups and are protected under this legislation

This tracks with my understanding of their inclusion.

#6 Comment By Rumbold On 4th October, 2007 @ 12:15 pm

From the Act:

“29A: Meaning of “religious hatred”

In this Part “religious hatred” means hatred against a group of persons defined by reference to religious belief or lack of religious belief.”

So atheists and agnostics are also protected. Interesting.

The intent bit is scary, as it can easily be widely intepreted. Just wait for the large number of cases of people arrested because they question somebody’s core beliefs. This act will be a nightmare.

#7 Comment By sonia On 4th October, 2007 @ 12:38 pm

now how does it affect freedom of speech thats what i want to know. does this mean we cant go around insulting mullahs anymore?

#8 Comment By justforfun On 4th October, 2007 @ 12:58 pm

Sonia - atheists and agnostics are protected so now mullahs can’t go around insulting us, and I’m sure they have a shorter fuse.

My question - When I read my copy of Mien Kampf - will I have to read it quietly? I presume bed time reading to the kids is out.


#9 Comment By newmania On 4th October, 2007 @ 5:02 pm

Speak for yourself …another load of crap to put up with

#10 Comment By newmania On 4th October, 2007 @ 5:08 pm

still allows people to challenge and reject & ridicule religious beliefs generally. Even without this law I could have ridiculed Sikhism and got away with it under the law.

But it does not allow you to hate that which is hateful…the state is finally getting its grubby fingers into our souls and for whose convenience?

#11 Comment By Tanvir On 4th October, 2007 @ 5:19 pm

So where would this facebook group fall into
[3] http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=5791706178

#12 Comment By Laban Tall On 4th October, 2007 @ 8:50 pm

Pub Philosopher’s noticed.

He’s in India at the moment, and reporting on Lord Ram’s bridge.

[4] http://pubphilosopher.blogs.com/pub_philosopher/2007/10/a-very-indian-r.html

#13 Comment By Elaine On 5th October, 2007 @ 6:13 am

I keep hearing that existing laws protected Jews and Sikhs, yet there has been no shortage even in respectable journals such as the New Statesman of the kind of statements that arouse hatred against Jews - they’re all rich, they control the media, foreign policy etc. Yet nobody has been prosecuted for this.
So does the act refer to specifically rousing hatred on religious grounds - “Islam is a terrorist religion” or on personal grounds - “Muslims are terrorists”?

#14 Comment By Kismet Hardy On 5th October, 2007 @ 2:17 pm

Personally, I think there isn’t enough done to protect Muslim people’s feelings. There is a dance musician for instance, who is something of a mascot for ecstasy users with not much understanding of proper dance music, who goes by the name Fat Boy Muslim or something. This hurts me as I’m a Muslim and I resent being referred to as a fat bastard

Just as Joy Division and New Order were brought to an end, the first by hanging and the latter by old age, to please the Anti-Reich, I propose the beheading of Norman Cook

#15 Comment By soru On 6th October, 2007 @ 11:40 am

That doesn’t fall under the religious hatred act, but the CPS would like to speak to you about a possible violation of the Pun Quality act of 1807.

They suspect you may be a pun-qualler.

Article printed from Pickled Politics: http://www.pickledpolitics.com

URL to article: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/1426

URLs in this post:
[1] outlined before: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/1349
[2] Behzti: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Behzti
[3] http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=5791706178: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=5791706178
[4] http://pubphilosopher.blogs.com/pub_philosopher/2007/10/a-very-indian-r.html: http://pubphilosopher.blogs.com/pub_philosopher/2007/10/a-very-indian-r.html