Orders of the Day — Racial and Religious Hatred Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:50 pm on 21st June 2005.

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Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 5:50 pm, 21st June 2005

Chris Bryant refers from a sedentary position to Lord Mackay of Clashfern. Of course he was the Lord Chancellor, not the Attorney-General, but he may not be the worst example. The hon. Gentleman may not be aware that Lord Mackay of Clashfern was expelled from the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland because he attended the funeral of a Catholic colleague. If that had happened in England and after the Bill had been enacted, I wonder whether the Free Presbyterian Church would have been prosecuted for inciting religious hatred by expelling the noble Lord and treating him in that way.

At the heart of the Bill lies the distinction between things that are immutable, such as race, which should be protected, and those that are not because they are a matter of choice. [Interruption.] Once again, the hon. Member for Rhondda shouts from a sedentary position that faith is immutable, but I do not accept that. I am surprised at the idea that the Church of England is going down the path of predestination, which even the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland gave up about 150 or 200 years ago.

Another aspect of immutability that the hon. Member for Rhondda and I have debated in the past is sexual orientation. I believe that people are born with their sexual orientation, but if the Government have their way—to develop a point that was made earlier—it will be open for a Christian, a Jew or a Muslim to condemn homosexuals as perverted, damned and people to be hated. Many in the more fundamentalist sects of all three faiths might well do so.