Saturday, September 08, 2007

Racial and Religious Hatred Act comes into effect

source: NSS Newsline August 31st 2007

After a long delay, the Racial and Religious Hatred Act has been signed and will now come into effect on 1 October 2007.

The NSS led the campaign against this legislation for five years when it became clear that in its original form it would have posed a severe threat to free expression – particularly on the right to criticise and mock religion. In a high profile campaign – that involved Rowan (Mr Bean) Atkinson, and which was spear-headed in Parliament by NSS Honorary Associate Evan Harris – we managed to get the most illiberal elements of the Bill removed.

The Government was not happy with the watered down version, but it was passed by the House of Commons with a majority of one. The-then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, had left parliament before the vote on the Bill was taken in the mistaken impression that it would be lost regardless of his vote.

It is thought that the Government still wishes to bring in stronger legislation.

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