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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 May, 2005, 11:04 GMT 12:04 UK
Religious hatred proposal revived
Rowan Atkinson
The Blackadder star expressed fears about freedom of speech being curtailed
Plans to outlaw incitement to religious hatred will return to Parliament with a pledge they will not affect "criticism, commentary or ridicule of faiths".

It would cover "instances where people stir up hatred of others on the basis of their religious belief".

A similar proposal before the election drew vocal opposition from writers and actors including comic Rowan Atkinson.

The new plans are in the Queen's Speech after the earlier attempt to create such an offence was blocked by peers.

Right to disapprove

Ministers say that at the moment members of some religions such as Jews and Sikhs are protected against incitement to religious hatred, under racial hatred offences, but Christians, Muslims and Hindus are not.

"It would apply to members of extremist organisations who stir up hatred against members of minority faiths and to individuals who seek to stir up hatred against those who do not share their faith," notes accompanying the published plans state.

"The offence would not be an assault on people's right to simply disapprove of the beliefs, teachings or practices of a religion."

People found guilty of the offence, which was included in Labour's election manifesto, will face up to seven years in jail.

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