The religious hatred bill is being voted on today, and thousands of people are expected to protest outside parliament. Rowan Atkinson gave a superb speech explaining why, from the comedians’ (and therefore cartoonists’) point of view it is a bad thing and that the government should back down. See also this ‘debate‘ with a Home Office minister. In fact, based on a brief wander around the internet just about everyone seems to be against the law, apart from some Muslim groups and the government.
Would the sort of humour I do be affected? Well, probably not, but it seems to me that in the bill’s present form one couldn’t be 100% sure. Cartoons do sometimes attract extreme criticism from religious groups. As Andii says:
No, it’s bad law and the assurances about intent are worthless since they are not actually in the legislation.
Update: Ruth Gledhill makes some further points:
Unless one of the Lords amendments is successful, and I doubt it will be, it will not be a defence to claim that there was no intention on my part to stir up religious hatred. All that will have to be proved, to send me to prison for up to seven years, will be that my words did incite hatred. Even if I didn’t mean them to.
She also mentions the ‘Is the Bible true?’ story, which, if you remember, inspired my cartoon.
Recently, I wrote a couple of stories that generated enormous vitriol against me in the blogosphere. One was about a research paper challenging the benevolent effects of religious belief on society, the other about a document of the Roman Catholic bishops of England and Wales that threw new light on biblical interpretation.
I was attacked without mercy in blogs, mainly in the US. Some of the attacks were astonishing in their vitriol and certainly defamatory. This was even though my reports were devoid of comment and simply summarising and reporting what other people had written and said. Yet I had clearly, inadvertently, simply by doing my job in a professional manner, incited hatred in these people, and it was clearly religious hatred. Their hatred was directed at me. Yet they would probably argue that I had incited hatred of their religious beliefs.