Preliminary findings of a government report into the freedoms of Christians in the UK were released this morning.
The inquiry, overseen by Christians in Parliament was undertaken in response to the difficulties Christians in the UK face in being able to live out their faith, and also because of a series of high-profile cases which have seen Christians subjected to police action due to objections from those who simply don’t share the same beliefs.
The government and the police both come under attack in the findings due to their lack of understanding in dealing with issues of a religious nature, particularly where complaints of being insulted are used against Christians simply due to a disagreement in beliefs.
Whilst Section 5 of the 1986 Public Order Act still gives police powers to act if someone feels insulted, the report suggests that the bar has been set too low over when this clause is used. As mentioned in a blog post on religious tolerance earlier this month, a government review is currently in progress over the wording of Section 5, due to a series of cases where it has been wrongly used to prosecute.
Labour’s 2010 Equalities Act also comes under fire in the report for failing “to deal with the tensions between different strands of equality policy”, while the courts have been accused of creating a “hierarchy of rights” in their decisions of some cases.
Amongst a number of recommendations was the restructuring of the Equality and Human Rights Commission in order to better represent religious beliefs.
Opponents of Christianity may not agree with aspects of the report, entitled ‘Clearing the Ground’, though if it is a step towards ensuring that Christians are as free to voice their beliefs as other groups, then it is to be welcomed.