The UK government has lost its attempt to overturn Lords changes to the controversial Racial and Religious Hatred Bill to make 'ncitement to religious hatred a crime. MPs voted last night by 288 to 278 to back a key Lords amendment to the bill. Changes introduced by the Lords say that "threatening words" should be banned by the bill, not those which are only abusive or insulting. They also called for the offence to be intentional and specified that proselytising, discussion, criticism, insult, abuse and ridicule of religion, belief or religious practice would not be an offence. Earlier in the day, hundreds of Evangelical Christians, atheists and agnostics joined forces to stage a noisy protest outside parliament calling for the bill to be thrown out. They said current laws already protect people from abusive behaviour and the proposed new ones would threaten free speech. Comedian Rowan Atkinson said the proposals would limit artistic freedom and might have stopped comedians making jokes about religion. Democratic Unionist MP Sammy Wilson said Christianity had spanned 2,000 years and did not need protection from Tony Blair or his new legislation. The bill, with the Lords amendments, will now become law.
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