Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Incitement to Religious Hatred

Question Number 8 from the Incitement to Religious Hatred FAQ available at the Home Office Website.

8. Will religion be defined? Will the definition include cults?

In keeping with similar legislation, the proposals do not define the meaning of religion. 'Religious hatred' is defined as 'hatred against a group of people defined by their religious beliefs or lack of religious belief'. Explanatory notes have been published which provide a non-exhaustive list of widely practised religions and clearly explain that the protection also covers people identified with a particular branch of a religion. They also stress that the protection of the offence covers Atheists, Humanists and Agnostics. When the circumstances are unclear, the courts will decide whether a particular group of people is protected, in the wider context of the criminal behaviour being considered. If the courts ruled that a new religious movement qualified as a religion for the purposes of the new offence, that would not prevent criticism of the practices of that movement.

This really is beyond parody. Within the 'Alice In Wonderland' world that this law's framers inhabit it makes complete sense for Atheism to be covered.

It was not so long ago that "Jedi Knight" made it to the list of religions for the 2001 UK census. You can get the complete list here. Other highlights include Druidism, Satanism, Wicca, and Celtic Pagan.

Given this precedent, I think we can confidently expect many interesting cases in which the courts are required to rule if a movement "qualifies as a religion for the purposes of the new offence."

Prince Charles famously wants to be Protector all All Faiths if and when he is King. He is going to be busy.

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