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New law in U.K. will mean 7 years in prison for “gay hate” preachers

By Philip Johnston, Home Affairs Editor

Last Updated: 2:30am BST 09/10/2007

People convicted of stirring up hatred against homosexuals face up to seven years in jail under a new law.

Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, told MPs that existing prohibitions against race and religious incitement would be extended to cover ”homo-phobic” behaviour.

His statement prompted fears among Christian organisations that they could be prosecuted for preaching that homosexuality was wrong. There would also be concern that playground insults or jokes about gays could be caught by the new offence unless strict safeguards were included.

Mr Straw said he would amend the Criminal Justice Bill to make it unlawful to use threatening words or behaviour on the grounds of sexual orientation.

“It is a measure of how far we have come as a society in the last 10 years that we are now appalled by hatred and invective directed at people on the basis of their sexuality,” he added.

Mr Straw said the law could be extended further to cover hatred against disabled and transgendered people ”if a case for this can be made”.

It is likely that the new offence will be modelled on the religious hatred law, which came into force last week. This caused huge controversy and was eventually changed to protect free speech.

However, Christians have voiced their concern that Biblical teaching on sexuality could be silenced.

Mike Judge, of The Christian Institute, said there would need to be proper protections to ensure people were free to express their religious beliefs.

He said: “We are still very concerned that this law may lead to Christians being censured by the state for their views on sexual ethics.”



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