Schedule 26 — Hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 8:15 pm on 6th May 2008.

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Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Shadow Minister (Justice) 8:15 pm, 6th May 2008

No, I was suggesting that my right hon. Friend was no longer a member of the Church of England.

The High Court also held that

"the publication must be such as tends to endanger society as a whole, by endangering the peace, depraving public morality, shaking the fabric of society or tending to cause civil strife...This element will not be shown merely because some people of particular sensibility are, because deeply offended, moved to protest. It will be established if but only if what is done or said is such as to induce a reasonable reaction involving civil strife, damage to the fabric of society or the equivalent."

That was the reasoning of the High Court just before Christmas.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and of York wrote a letter to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government on 29 February, setting out the Church of England's view of the proposal to abolish these common law offences. Broadly, they said that the decision on "Jerry Springer: The Opera" appeared

"to make it even clearer than before that the real purpose of the offences is the preservation of society from strife rather than the protection of the Divine or any particular religious beliefs; and in so far as achieving that end indirectly protects religious beliefs, they are the beliefs of Christians generally, not just those of the Church of England."

Against that background, the two archbishops suggested that the Church of England had

"serious reservations about the wisdom of legislating at this moment, and especially as part of a Bill introduced to deal with quite different matters."

I could not agree with them more in that: this is the most shambolic piece of legislation that has ever had the misfortune to come before this House. I think that many hon. Members on the Treasury Bench would agree with me.