I was so encouraged when I read it for the first time:
"A person is not guilty of this offence by reason of anything done ... so far as it consists of criticising, expressing antipathy towards, abusing insulting or ridiculing any religion, religious belief or religious practice ..."
"Excellent" I thought. "Fantastic". "Job done".
Sadly, the next word is "Unless". "UNLESS he intends thereby to stir up religious hatred or was reckless as to whether religious hatred would be stirred up".
In order words, you haven't committed an offence unless of course you've committed the offence, in which case I'm afraid you've committed an offence.
Becuase of course, the real difficulty is demonstrating intent. In actual fact that may be a protection, but Mr A is right; it is viciously circular as a definition.
Guardian Unlimited Politics | Special Reports | 'Every joke has a victim': See also Polly Toynbee's article which points out what a minefield the recklessness clause is, inordinately empowering those who feel offended. Well sometimes we should feel offended. Ideas worth having cut deeply to values. So ,unfortunately do ideas not worth having but that is the risk of freedom of thought. I don't want legal protection from being offended because someone hates my beliefs. I only want anyone to be protected from being discriminated against, persecuted, physically abused or tortured for our beliefs.I don't think that God needs protecting, being big enough and understanding enough to cope. And I think that all systems of thought are prone to the effects of fallenness and so need the acids of criticism to keep them honest and to moderate their abusive potentials. If my faith is not able to cope with disagreement, God help me, seriously.
I fear being held hostage to the possibility that someone might be offended by my opinion, no matter how respectful. There are Muslims who in the sincerity of their belief in what the Qur'an says, think it blasphemous that I -among most Christians- believe that Jesus is the "Son of God". There's no getting round it; it is abhorrant to Islam, it is shirk. I happen to think that it is not and that the Qur'an is misinformed about the nature and substance of Christian doctrine at that point, and that the common Muslim apologetic on the matter is inconsistent and flawed. And that too is offensive. I'm stuffed: just by expressing my faith I am going to be offending some Muslims, and I will compound the offence if I try to give reason for the hope that is within me on the matter.
No, it's bad law and the assurances about intent are worthless since they are not actually in the legislation.
Filed in: religion, hatred, offence, legislation, Rowan_Atkinson, UK