A representative of the British government in the House of Lords has refused to say whether proclaiming the Christian faith could be considered a hate crime.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch, the former leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), said that he raised his concern about the issue on the House of Lords, but the government did not clarify whether Christians cannot be prosecuted just for proclaiming their faith.
“I said to the government ‘Will they confirm unequivocally that a Christian who says that Jesus is the only son of the one true God cannot be arrested for hate crime or any other offence, however much it may offend a Muslim or anyone of any other religion?'” Pearson told Premier.
In response, government whip Baroness Vere of Norbiton reportedly told him, “My Lords, I am not going to comment on that last question from the noble Lord,” adding that the legal definition of “hate crime” has remained the same for the past 10 years.
Pearson said that Vere’s refusal to answer his question “was pretty unique” and “makes one very worried.”
The UKIP peer clarified that he does not condone attacks against a person of another faith, but he said he does not think that the government should be involved if someone is merely criticizing another religion or proclaiming their own.
He stated that the current definition of “hate crime,” which relies on whether the victim feels offended, was “stupid” and called for a clarification of the law.
The Crown Prosecution Service currently defines racial and religious hate crime as “particularly hurtful to victims as they are being targeted solely because of their personal identity, their actual or perceived racial or ethnic origin, belief or faith.”
According to Express, the Crown Prosecution Service has documented a total of 15,442 hate crime prosecutions between 2015 and 2016.
Several clerics and street preachers have been charged with hate crime in the past few years for sharing their views on homosexuality and Islam.
Last year, two senior Spanish clerics were accused by feminists and gay rights groups of committing hate crime after they delivered homilies that criticized gender theory.
Cardinal Antonio Cañizares and Archbishop Francisco Javier Martinez were both charged, but they were immediately dropped after prosecutors found insufficient evidence that they broke the law.
In September this year, street preacher Daniel Courney was convicted by Lincoln Magistrates Court of using “threatening and discriminatory language” after he was accused by Muslims of hate speech while he was preaching in Lincoln in June.
Courney appealed the conviction with the help of Christian Legal Centre’s solicitor Michael Phillips, who argued that English law provides the preacher with the freedom to share the Gospel and that this has been successfully upheld for many years. A Crown Court judge agreed with Phillips and overturned the lower court ruling earlier this month.