March 14, 2006
Roberts case goes to court
Message from Colin Hart, Director, The Christian Institute
… news about the case of Joe and Helen Roberts, the Christian couple interrogated by police because they complained about their local council's 'gay rights' policy (see further down page for details).
Despite repeated correspondence, the police and the council have both refused to apologise for their actions. Joe and Helen have made clear at every stage that what they want is an apology. They are now taking Lancashire Constabulary and Wyre Borough Council to court in order to obtain this apology.
In order to help Joe and Helen, … [The Christian Institute] … have decided to establish a Legal Defence Fund (LDF). The Legal Defence Fund can accept any donations large or small. After Joe and Helen's legal action is over, any unspent funds will be put towards other cases of national importance for Christian religious liberty.
To make a donation, click here and select the 'Legal Defence Fund' option. … Christians feel very strongly about this matter. Some have already contacted … [The Christian Institute] ... to help fund the case.
This is an extraordinary case and it is very important to remember Joe and Helen in prayer and to pray that they will obtain justice.
February 1, 2006
Government defeated over Religious Hatred Bill
We give thanks to God that the Government has been defeated in the House of Commons over the Religious Hatred Bill.
MPs voted by 288 to 278 votes to accept Lords amendments which introduced protections for free speech and evangelism.
The Religious Hatred Bill will become law, but with the excellent Lords safeguards included. This is a fantastic result.
A wide range of Christian organisations, as well as other groups, have worked very hard to protect religious liberty.
This victory shows the value of speaking out and never giving up. I want to thank all our supporters who have prayed and contacted their MPs about this vital issue.
We will analyse the vote in due course, but one thing is for certain: even MPs determined to support the Government changed their minds because of the repeated arguments of their constituents. Many Christians met their MP face-to-face, or wrote letters, or telephoned. This clearly had an effect.
Yours in Christ,
The Christian Institute
February 6, 2006
Religious Hatred Bill: important news
"O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you." (2 Chronicles 20:6)
The result on Tuesday was extraordinary and historic. In order to keep the excellent Lords amendments it was necessary to win two votes. If we had lost either one of the two votes, the ping-pong procedure between the two Houses of Parliament would have continued. The first vote was won with a majority of ten. The second was won by a single vote! The Prime Minister himself left after the first vote having been told there was no point staying. There have also been reports that during the proceedings a small number of MPs who backed the Lords amendments accidentally voted with the Government on the second vote. If true, such confusion would be understandable. The Government used a timetable motion which changed the order of the votes.
Political journalists have spent much time trying to come up with an explanation as to how the Government lost the vote on Tuesday. But as things come to light, it is becoming easier to see how the vote was lost. All of the circumstances, including the personal role of the Prime Minister, are a poignant reminder of God's sovereignty. As Christians we thank God for his great mercy for this victory. As a nation we do not deserve it. If ever there was a vote for Christians to win, this was it. We do rejoice and thank God for answering our prayers.
As well as prayer, God also expects us to act. I do not believe that the Lord would have answered our prayers if we had neglected the importance of action. As Spurgeon pointed out, we should pray as if it all depends upon God and act as if it all depends on us.
The campaign against the religious hatred law involved the biggest mobilisation of Christians there has been for a generation. A wide range of Christian organisations worked very hard to protect religious liberty. At The Christian Institute it was by far and away the biggest campaign we have ever fought - with meetings all over the country, and large postage, travel and printing bills. If you would like to help us cover our costs then you can give on-line.
Simon Calvert, from the Christian Institute, was at Westminster talking to MPs right up until the debate started. Even at a late stage MPs changed their minds and said they would back the Lords amendments. Our friends at the Lawyers Christian Fellowship also reported the same thing.
From a human point of view I am absolutely certain that it was the lobbying by the individual Christians of their MPs which was the most decisive factor of all. Many supporters have told us how they went to see their MP in trepidation! Yet their courage has been honoured.
We will never know which conversation, letter or telephone call it was which convinced an MP to change his or her mind. It could have been yours! When we consider that the victory was won by a majority of only one, we see how vital every MP's vote was. It all goes to show the great importance of Christian involvement. Let us not neglect our freedom, as has been done in years past. We must be watchful and prayerful.
What the Bill says
The Religious Hatred Bill will become law, but with the excellent Lords safeguards included. It is only possible to break the new law by using threatening words or behaviour with the intention of inciting hatred against a person because of their religious belief.
The Minister, Paul Goggins, told the House of Commons on 31 January that if the Lords amendments were passed "it would be virtually impossible to bring a successful prosecution." (Hansard Column 190). Well now the Lords amendments have been passed, so according to the Government a successful prosecution would be virtually impossible!
The Lords amendments have added the following free speech protection for the new religious hatred offence:
29J Protection of freedom of expression
Nothing in this Part shall be read or given effect in a way which prohibits or restricts discussion, criticism or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse of particular religions or the beliefs or practices of their adherents, or of any other belief system or the beliefs or practices of its adherents, or proselytising or urging adherents of a different religion or belief system to cease practising their religion or belief system.
We have always opposed the Bill. There is a danger that it could be misused, although now that danger has been massively reduced. Our greatest concern is that legislation simply should not be made in this area. We can be very thankful indeed that Gospel freedom will not be put in jeopardy, as it so easily could have been by this Bill.
However, now that legislation has been made covering religion, there will be calls for "homophobic hatred" to be specifically outlawed. This is a concern because of a number of recent high profile cases where gay rights activists have sought to get the police to stop Christians speaking up about homosexuality.
Joe and Helen Roberts
You may remember that just before Christmas a Christian couple from Lancashire were interrogated by police because they complained to their local council over its gay rights policy. We have been involved in helping the couple, Joe and Helen Roberts, lodge an official complaint to the police and the council. We recently held a public meeting in Preston about the case. A recording of the meeting, which includes a statement from Joe Roberts, is available from our website.
To listen to Joe Roberts' statement click here:
To listen to experienced barrister, Neil Addison, talk about the case click here.
To listen to the whole meeting click here.
If the Police do not accept that they were in the wrong, there is the possibility of legal action to seek redress in the courts.
Joe and Helen may know God's strength as they seek to take a stand against what the Police have done.
Lancashire Constabulary will apologise and say that no crime has been committed and that they should not have visited Joe and Helen.
The resolution of the case by whatever means will set a precedent to protect Christians
It has been a very long campaign against the religious hatred law. Thank you for all your prayers and support during that time.
Yours in Christ,
The Christian Institute
In December 2006, in an out-of-court settlement, the Police and the Council both admitted they were wrong in how they responded to the Roberts' complaint. The Police and the Council agreed to pay legal costs and also made a compensation payment to the Roberts. The Police admitted they should have investigated the matter more fully before deciding to send two police officers to the Roberts' home and admitted that if they had made further enquiries, it is likely they would have decided not to send the officers. The Police also said they have revised their policy specifically to avoid episodes similar to the Roberts' case happening in the future.
For more detail visit: http://www.christian.org.uk/rel_liberties/cases/roberts.htm
… While Muslims in Britain whine about persecution in the UK their 'brothers' continue their hate crimes in Pakistan!
Stand Up for Persecuted Christians in Pakistan
Last year saw an appalling range of criminal hate acts against Christians in Pakistan (see examples) and an incredible lack of action - by the authorities - against those responsible.
On September 2, 2005, a Christian girl named Ribqa Masih was raped by two Islamic men, who repeatedly pressured her to convert to Islam. She refused. Now, she and her family are facing death threats because of their faith in Christ.
Tragically, Ribqa's case is not an isolated one. During the past year, Pakistani Christians have been the victims of increasing violence by radical Muslims.
You can take a stand with these suffering believers by urging the Pakistani government to introduce greater measures of protection for the Christian minority there. Sign a petition for Pakistani believers today.
Go to the petition at: http://www.standtoday.org/pakistan_january2006.asp