Opinion: Religious Hatred Bill is Justified, Distinction Between Religion and Culture "Not So Clear-Cut"

October 8, 2005

Source: The Guardian


On October 8, 2005 The Guardian ran an opinion piece by Simon Rocker, a journalist with the Jewish Chronicle, in support of the proposed religious hatred bill. Rocker writes, "According to the government, the intention is to protect members of a religious group from harassment and abuse, not the faith itself from ideological attack. But the bill's numerous adversaries - writers and comedians, as well as politicians - fear it will become a kind of backdoor blasphemy law which will stifle legitimate criticism of religion. And the summer's events seemed to have done little to melt the opposition: several Christian churches are lobbying parliament against the bill on Tuesday. One of the arguments is that there is a significant difference between legislating on race and on religion. Race, it is said, is an innate characteristic, over which an individual has no choice. Religion, on the other hand, is about ideas and beliefs that are acquired. In practice, however, this distinction is not quite so clear-cut. The anti-racism laws go beyond biology: as well as colour, they also specify nationality and ethnic origin. It is true that a person has no choice over where they are born, but nationality is partly a cultural and historical construct. Nationality, too, can be exchanged - as, for example, with the sportsmen who are born in one country but play for another."