Peers express concern at proposed religious offences legislation

 Attempts to reform the laws on religious offences could result in "profound controversy", a cross-party committee of peers warned yesterday. The deliberations by the House of Lords Select Committee followed attempts by David Blunkett to create an offence of ncitement to religious hatred. Old common law offences, including blasphemy, were examined by peers to see if they should be scrapped or updated. The Home Secretary attempted to introduce the new offence in the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill in 2001 and in the Religious Offences Bill in 2002. But the House of Lords Select Committee on Religious Offences said it was concerned about the potential threat to freedom of expression and the risk that the standards of proof required would make it a difficult offence to prosecute. Viscount Colville of Culross, the chairman of the inquiry, said: "A Bill to deal with these issues is likely to run into profound controversy, despite the pressure to take action on incitement to religious hatred" reported the Daily Telegraph. Source: Ekklesia

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