Schedule 26 — Hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 8:30 pm on 6th May 2008.

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Photo of Ann Widdecombe Ann Widdecombe Conservative, Maidstone and The Weald 8:30 pm, 6th May 2008

I believe that we should disagree with their lordships' amendment. I have not been persuaded by anything that I have listened to for the past 22 minutes or, indeed, by the brief remarks of the Minister.

I should like to give what I think is a good illustration of the dangers of getting rid of our blasphemy laws, which apply very specifically to the Christian religion. We all remember the outbreak of outrage among the Muslim community when the Danish cartoons were published. If ever one wanted an example of a propensity for civil strife, one had it there. However, the point that I consider more relevant is that it served to demonstrate that Christianity does not receive equal treatment in our country. I was one of the worshippers who arrived at Westminster cathedral shortly after some of the Pope's remarks had been rather badly misinterpreted, and I was confronted with banners being held by members of the Muslim community proclaiming, "Jesus is the slave of Allah—Islam will conquer Rome": not one or two banners from one or two lunatics but a very large number. The police were there, but they did nothing. I do not, in fact, advocate that they should do something, because I am, as I have said before, a big believer in free speech. However, let us suppose the reverse and that I was stood outside a mosque with a big sign saying, "Allah is the slave of Jesus—Rome will conquer Islam". I would be up before the bench before one could say "Jack Robinson", or "Danish cartoon". I could not do that—I do not think that the Minister would deny that—but they could. That, to me, is a clear demonstration that Christianity would not, as my hon. Friend Dr. Lewis said, receive equal treatment.