How unworkable are they?
The Orthodox religions have for centuries used religious dissenters as whipping boys to enforce their temporal power over their own followers. Attacks on alternative faiths within and without Christianity are so interwoven into our history and culture that representatives of the orthodox religions seem to feel as though they not only have a right but a 'duty' to lambaste, denigrate, criticise, disinform, repudiate and ridicule many minority beliefs. They are aided and abetted in their wicked statements by the papalling British Media ,who almost daily jump on the moral bandwagon to unfairly demonise those whose spiritual beliefs are not mainstream, and of course, the inevitable opportunist MPs who are always ready to play to the gallery if they think it will get them noticed.
Whenever anything connected with occultism occurs the media immediately trot off for opinions from some Christian activist who, without a shred of evidence, jumps to confirm their worst fears , blames it all on ungodliness, and demands that Witchcraft or Satanism should be outlawed. But do the Media ever consult an Occultist for his views in the frequent instances when a Christian priest is found guilty of assault, fraud, or abusing children?
If any were needed, the classic proof of the existing religious hatred built into our society can be seen in the way the Christianised British Media responded to the proposed new laws on religious hatred - 'Now you can't even be Nasty to Satanists' - their headlines screamed - as though it was taken as read that anyone who believed in Satanism was a worthless person who could be summarily disposed of out of hand as some kind of sub-human entity. When one adds to this the verbal restraint of the language itself with, for example, the constant pejorative use of the word 'Witch' as an insult against women, young and old . it makes one wonder why a Religious Hatred Bill has been formulated by the government now, after so many hundreds of years of abuse of minority belief by the Christian Church right under their noses?
The government simply has not given enough thought to the implications of such a law because anyone in the know realises that most of the priesthoods of the thousands of extant sects are at each others' throats 100% of the time anyway and will seize upon any new law to enlarge their market share. The law is bound to be misused.
What for instance is going to happen to those fundamentalist Christians who preach Deuteronomy 18:20 to warn off visitors to a Psychic Fayre
' But the prophet which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die!'
Will that Christian Minister be prosecuted?
If a fundamentalist Christian begins a pro-active campaign against the pagan observance of Halloween by preaching Leviticus 20:27 and inciting people through letters to the newspapers to:
'Any man or woman that is a wizard shall surely be put to death - you shall stone them with stones and their blood shall be upon them'+
Will that Christian be prosecuted under the Religious Hatred Act as being 'likely to stir up religious hatred'?
In an attempt to assuage criticism of it, the government has given an example of the nuances they say are necessary to breach the new law. If one says:
"I hate Buddhism (Christianity, Islam etc), it's a nonsense religion that serves no good."
then one is in the clear - but if one says:
"I hate Buddhists (Christians, Muslims etc) - their ideas are dangerous and we need to do something about them"
then one could be imprisoned for up to seven years.
This is supposed to assure us that the new law will not suppress freedom of speech!
This farcical attempt at pasteurising the effect of this new law shows just how stifling it could be. Basically, if anyone tries to persuade anyone else to take action against some aspects of a religion which one believes wrong then that may cease to be seen as dissent and instead becomes a criminal offence.
It would, for instance, stop the parents of people who have been 'inculcated' into cults from campaigning to discredit the cults' methods. It would, for example, stop people from campaigning against religious circumcision.
There are a whole host of practical problems with this ill-thought-out, law which is barmier than the Dangerous Dogs Act.
What about the anti-abortion extremists (already responsible for the killings of obstetricians in the U.S.A.)? Will the government prosecute them when they justify their opposition using religious texts which say that doctors who perform abortions are doing the work of Satan and should be stopped? Or will the heads of fundamentalist groups who urge such actions be imprisoned?
Well technically they should of course and the government already has other laws it can use to stop this kind of activity, but in fact there would be no prosecution of religious hard-liners under the new law because the government would not dare to come into direct conflict with the authority of the bible and alienate a very large swathe of its voters in the process. In order to win a prosecution Biblical Laws would have to be overturned, diminished, deleted and demeaned. It might even mean that bookshops could not sell bibles as they would , (as described in the new law) be 'material likely to stir up racial and religious hatred' (Similar to racist leaflets put out by the National Front !) People possessing and distributing bibles would be technically guilty of a crime (as they are today in China). Would all Bibles and copies of the Koran have to be censored in the U.K.?
And what about Humanists who have campaigned for years against any form of religion, considering it to be the root cause of all society's problems. Is a Humanist free to say that Christianity is dangerous and that we should do something about it? No, according to the government's new law. It will be up to a judge to decide whether the Humanist was urging his followers to do something about it through democratic channels or whether he wanted them to go out and smash someone's face in.
This foolish government has breached one of the longest standing protocols of the Establishment - politicians should not mess with Religion.
The implications of this new law are immense. It will pop up at the most inopportune time. Instead of protecting social harmony it will disrupt it. So WHY did the Labour government rush through this new law even against mighty opposition in the Commons and the Upper House? Because of pressures from the anti-racist lobby, particularly the Commission for Racial Equality. The CRE has for many years been attempting to expand its empire and in the mid 1990s began research into bringing Religious Discrimination within their legal remit. We know this because during this period a team of researchers at the S.A.F.F. was asked by the CRE to help by sending them our then groundbreaking work with the U.N.A. relating to the definitions of Belief and Religion. (see www.saff.ukhq.co.uk/descrim.htm for some background) and our volunteers worked with the CRE legal department for quite some time on it.
In the view of our team leader the CRE was fishing for an angle to approach the government to expand its remit beyond race and into religion. This is because of the problem they had with defining Jewry. Not everyone who believes in Judaism is semitic. The Black Jews from North Africa for instance. The Race Relations Act was a first attempt to legislate against hatred/prejudice and so included Jews who were defined by virtue of their religion. Of course their are plenty of black Christians and Black Moslems so defining further wasn't necessary. Thirty years later the missionising of Islam has moved apace and now there are millions of white muslims around the world. The Moslem lobby within the CRE is of course influential. Therefore people who verbally attack Islam who could have been brought within the terms of the race relations act satisfactorily at the time the original legislation was drawn up cannot now so be so easily defined. In order to expand their remit the CRE has spent the past few years pushing for an expansion of its power into the areas of religion. One could justifiably complain about this because the coterie of people involved in the Commission for Racial Equality are not qualified or experienced in the immensity of policing Religion - a far, far more controversial and complex area than simple racism. However they appear to have won over the government , which according to the BBC admitted that the legislation is a response to the concerns of faith groups, particularly Muslims. One of the main planks of the government's justification is clearly set out in the new Racial Hatred laws. That Jews and Sikhs already have full protection under the CRE and the Religious Hatred laws now give that protection to Muslims. We feel that this extension of the CRE's power is a poisoned chalice and it is a mistake to tack it on to race descrimination laws just because they were partially formed in the first place. We would all be much better off with a completely new system of religious freedom based on clearly set out rights handled by a body made up of people who were truly qualified in Religion, sociology, Philosophy and anthropology - that's the only fair and equitable way if the government wants to do it properly.
Some of our research was used by the CRE but they cherry picked the bits that furthered their political ends rather than accepting the overall conclusions which would have lead to a greater understanding of what belief is and put everyone's spiritual beliefs on an equal footing. However, under executive powers the government have invoked a statutory instrument which expands the existing race relations legislation substituting terms such as 'racial hatred' in the original bill with 'racial OR religious hatred' as a knee jerk reaction to the actions of Islamic terrorists. Thus the legislation is more about stopping the negative polarisation of our society than bestowing religious freedoms. The intention of this bill is NOT really to protect a person's religious beliefs, whatever they are, but to harden up and further expand the powers to stifle any incitement against Moslems. Obviously Moslems do need protection from any violent backlash - that is only fair but is this new law really the way to do it? Whilst we do not condone incitement against anyone the government have clearly confused two separate issues in order to push past the people control mechanisms for public peace. This can be seen clearly when one realises that the government has failed to even consider a definitive definition of what constitutes a Belief or Religion and has mystifyingly also applied the religious hate law to people who don't have a religion!
'hatred against a group of persons, defined by reference to a religious belief or lack of a religious belief'
The entire law is completely unnecessary and unworkable and it will not be long before some troublemakers begin to hi-jack it to censor TV and Theatre performances, just as the 'Boyo' case brought the law into disrepute (a man was found guilty of nationalistic prejudice and fined a ridiculous sum because the word Boyo offended a Welsh person.). There are similar but lesser known cases. In Scotland a man was prosecuted for flying a 'Nazi Flag' outside his home. His neighbour was Jewish and complained. In court it turned out that the man was a Bulgarian immigrant and was flying the Bulgarian State Flag (which contains an Imperial Eagle) on his National Day! Instead of criticising the police for bringing the case to court in the first place the judge threw it out with a warning to the Bulgarian that he should have taken into account the sensitivities of his Jewish neighbour before putting out the flag! Reading between the lines this was a case of the usual piffling antagonisms between neighbours where new laws enacted by the Scottish parliament, ostensibly to stop the growing sectarian hatred between Catholic and Protestants, had been hijacked by warring neighbours who simply disliked each other.
The government say it will be up to the courts to interpret the new religious hate laws and that there is a 'high test' for what constitutes incitement but the examples quoted above show just how unsafe these reliances can be. What a pity - if the government had really wanted to do this properly they could have achieved so much with a little more thought and attention..
Mortlake, September 2005
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