Opinion: Religious Hatred Bill Crosses Line, Too Careless in Curtailing Freedom of Expression

June 19, 2005

Source: The Observer


On June 19, 2005 The Observer ran an opinion piece by Will Hutton on the reintroduced religious hatred bill. Hutton writes, "[T]he Racial and Religious Hatred Bill has been reintroduced, a seemingly more than justified response to [protect Muslims from abuse]...It all sounds extremely reasonable, but it isn't. It has crossed another line that is no less dangerous in a liberal society. To incite or express hatred for someone because of the colour of their skin is plainly unacceptable, but to put the expression of views about religion in the same off-limits territory, even if only in tightly drawn circumstances where they incite hatred, is wrong. By protecting belief systems from criticism, it challenges the very heart of why and what we are...There is a terrorist threat on a scale that did not exist before [9/11] and there is an intensification of Islamophobia. The government would be condemned if it did not respond. But just as in its response to terrorism, where it has been too careless about civil liberties, here it is being too careless about protecting freedom of expression. There are lines that cannot be crossed, even while we have to do more to stamp out intolerable abuse. This is one of them."