Tuesday, October 25, 2005

UK: Witches see an opportunity in new hate bill
Jon Ungoed-Thomas

THE government faces new embarrassment over the religious hatred bill with a warning that witches and satanists could use it to trigger police investigations of their critics.

The Racial and Religious Hatred Bill, now passing through parliament, has been used by Labour to bolster support among Muslims. Charles Clarke, the home secretary, says the bill is of “vital importance” to protect Muslims and other groups from “religious hatred”.

Opponents of the bill — including Rowan Atkinson, the comedian, and Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury — have said that it could be used to censor films, books and television programmes.

Last week they warned that it could also be abused by members of religious cults who could complain to the police about anyone who insulted their beliefs. A similar law in Australia was used by a jailed witch to launch a criminal prosecution of the Salvation Army after it criticised witchcraft.


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