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Last Updated: Friday, 27 January 2006, 15:47 GMT
Racial and Religious Hatred Bill
This bill makes it an offence to stir up hatred on religious grounds and amends the law on encouraging racial hatred.

Responsible department: Home Office
Origin: House of Commons
Introduced: 9 June 2005
Second reading: 21 June 2005
Committee stage: 28,29,30 June 2005
Remaining stages: 11 July 2005
Consideration of Lords amendments: 31 Jan 2006
First reading: 12 July 2005
Second reading: 11 Oct 2005
Committee stage: 25 Oct 2005
Report stage: 7 Nov 2005
Third reading: 24 Jan 2006

ROYAL ASSENT: 17 Feb 2006

  • Extends the racial hatred offences in the Public Order Act 1986.
  • Applies to words or behaviour and the display, publication, broadcast or distribution of words or behaviour that is likely to stir up religious or racial hatred
  • Applies to believers in any or no religion, both ethnically diverse and mono-ethnic, or where the hatred is against a person or group that does not share the beliefs of the perpetrator

    Similar provisions were included in the first versions of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill 2001 and the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill 2004/05.

    The legislation emanated from the April 2003 report of the House of Lords religious offences committee.

    Muslim groups called for this kind of legal protection for their faith, since discrimination against Jews and Sikhs was already covered by existing race hatred laws.

    It is in line with the European Commission on Human Rights guarantee of freedom of religion.

    Some comedians are concerned that they will be barred from joking about religion, but Home Office Minister Paul Goggins said: "It is about protecting the believer, not the belief."

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