On January 31, 2006, members of the UK House of Commons narrowly approved a set of amendments to the controversial Racial and Religious Hatred Bill that was previously approved by the UK House of Lords in 2005. The legislation was intended to ensure freedom of speech and excluded simple insults and verbal abuse from the list of punishable offenses under UK law. The religious hatred bill was also written to give followers of all faiths equal protection from incitement to religious hatred. Under the Public Order Act, Jews and Sikhs, but not Muslims, Christians or followers of other religions, had enjoyed protection from faith hate crimes. The bill was also written to prohibit extremist Islamist preachers from calling on their members to commit violent acts. The amended version of the bill applies only to threatening and intentionally offensive hate speech and took full legal effect in October 2007.
Coat of arms of the United Kingdom
Learn more about the United Kingdom and the laws governing free speech and religious freedom from the JURIST news archive.