English PEN is Urging its Members to Write to their Constituency MP

Please write to your respective constituency Member of Parliament as he or she is obliged to reply to correspondence from constituents.

Please find below a ‘model’ letter, to use in full if you need to. However, bear in mind that it is much more attention-grabbing for an MP to receive a personal letter from a constituent who may decide to vote/not vote for him/her during the next election.

Dear X,

 

I am writing to you as my constituency MP to express my deep

opposition to the government’s new Racial and Religious Hatred Bill

which had its first reading in the House of Commons on 9th June.

 

As you will know, the proposed legislation to outlaw incitement to

religious hatred is opposed by a very broad spectrum of individuals:

writers, artists, comedians, theatre producers, and citizens of many

faiths and none, including many British Muslims. It is opposed by

groups as diverse as English PEN, Index on Censorship, Article 19,

the National Secular Society, the Southall Black Sisters, and the

Islamic Commission on Human Rights. All of these electors oppose this

Bill not just because of its threat to freedom of expression, but

because it will undermine the human rights of every citizen and

seriously damage the fabric of tolerance in our society.

 

After meeting opposition in the last parliament, the Home Office

formally promised to engage in wide consultation before reintroducing

this legislation. It has gone back on its promise, publishing the

proposed offence in exactly the same words as before.

 

As a member of the writers’ organisation English PEN, and as a

citizen, I believe this legislation is ill conceived, badly drafted

and unnecessary. One serious consequence is that it will lead many in

minority communities to believe that it is their faith that is being

protected, and not they themselves as believers. The new offence will

leave them unrequited when it fails to produce their desired

outcomes, leading to frustration, division, and violence of the kind

seen in Birmingham last December. It will also open a Pandora’s box

of prosecutions between faiths, threatening, as similar legislation

has done in Australia, their own ability to function.

 

English PEN, which strongly opposed this legislation in the last

parliament, now intends to lead a powerful coalition of the very many

and diverse groups that are against this legislation. We believe the

government is about to make a terrible mistake and create a climate

in which religion can be used politically, to intimidate and inflame,

instead of enlighten. We need not more repressive laws in Britain

today, but a more open society for all citizens in which free speech

can combat bigotry of all kinds and promote tolerance.

 

I ask for your assurance that as my MP you will vote against this

Bill, and look forward to hearing from you.

 

Yours sincerely

Y

Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/aboutenglishpen/campaigns/offence/archiveofnews/englishpenisurgingitsmembersto/

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