A cross-party group of MPs has tabled an amendment designed to ensure that homophobic Christians can continue to express their views on gay people.
Devout Roman Catholics Ann Widdecombe and Jim Dobbin are among the MPs attempting to amend the government’s proposal to make incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation a criminal offence.
Christian Concern for our Nation, a pressure group which attempts to “stand up against a tide of unChristian legal and political changes in the United Kingdom,” is urging its supporters to pressure MPs into supporting the new amendment.
Concerns about freedom of speech in relation to the new proposed homophobic incitement law have already been addressed by the government and MPs when the proposal was put before a committee.
Stonewall, the gay equality organisation, gave evidence about the sort of incitement to homophobic murder and hatred that goes unchallenged.
Chief executive Ben Summerskill quoted extensively from the homophobic lyrics of dancehall star Beenie Man and others to demonstrate the nature of their comments about gay men and lesbians.
MPs were confronted with the words “motherfucker,” “pussy-sucker” and “batty-fucker” during his testimony, along with excerpts from BNP leaflets claiming the government were trying to “legalise child sex” by equalising the age of consent.
Mr Summerskill rejected concerns that a law banning incitement to religious hatred would be used to silence the voices of religious people who regard homosexuality as a sin.
“We are crystal clear that people are perfectly entitled to express their religious views. We are also crystal clear that the temperate expression of religious views should not be covered by the legislation.
“One might also want to look at the context in which any expression is made that people should be killed or put to death because they are homosexual.
“Members of the Committee will be mindful that that is from chapter 20, verse 13 of Leviticus.
“One might want to inquire whether that person was pursuing and articulating what is said in verse 10 or in verse 16 with quite so much enthusiasm; those versus make the same requirement that anyone who has committed adultery or who blasphemes is to be put to death.
“Clearly, in context it would be a very good defence to say, ‘Well, I have been going around telling every adulterer and homosexual that I meet that they should be put to death.’
“Quite often and quite by chance, we find people choosing to peddle their particular obsession with homosexuals out of that religious context as a whole.”
The homophobic incitement provisions were later passed by the whole committee, and none of the Tory MPs voted against them.
The new amendment from Christian MPs reads:
“Nothing in this part shall be read or given effect in a way which prohibits or restricts discussion of, criticism of or expressions of antipathy towards, conduct relating to a particular sexual orientation, or urging persons of a particular sexual orientation to refrain from or modify conduct relating to that orientation.”
Among the MPs asking for the right to show antipathy towards their gay constituents are: Lib Dems Colin Breed (South East Cornwall) and Alan Beith (Berwick Upon Tweed); Conservatives Philip Hollobone (Kettering) and Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone and the Weald); and Labour MPs David Taylor (North West Leicestershire) and Jim Dobbin (Heywood and Middleton).
There will be a vote on the amendment on 9th January.