Charles Clarke replies on behalf of Labour

On 26th April, Charles Clarke wrote the following reply on behalf of the Labour Party in which he defends the Party’s position:


Dear Lisa Appignanesi,

Thank you for your letter of 18th April to the Prime Minister and other Ministers, in reference to our intention to bring back the propsed legislation on incitement to religious hatred. I am replying to you on behalf of the Labour Party. 

I am sorry that you feel we were ambiguous in laying out our intention on this particular piece of proposed legislation. We continue to believe that this is an important piece of legislation. We have laid it out as clearly as possible. “It remains our firm and clear intention to give people of all faiths the same protection against incitement to hatred on the basis of their religion. We will legislate to outlaw it and will continue the dialogue we have started with faith groups from all backgrounds about how best to balance protection, tolerance and free speech.”

As I have made clear on several occasions, the law does not currently allow us to take action against those who incite hatred but who fall short of expressly inciting people to violence or crime. Nor does it cover those who target groups and stir up hatred against them. We know that extremist groups get around the existing offence of inciting racial hatred by substituting religion as a marker for their hatred.

The proposed offence will not be blasphemy-type law; it will not penalise causing offence and is designed to protect groups of people targeted by hatred because of their beliefs rather than beliefs and ideologies themselves.

As we have stated, we will continue our dialogue with faith groups on these issues. I would also like to point out that in the past, these dialogues also have included groups of no faith and will continue to include them.

Yours sincerely,

Charles Clarke.

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