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Southport Reporter®

Edition No. 224

Date:- 24 October 2005

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THERE has been a very important development in the campaign to oppose the Government's religious hatred offence. There is to be a vote in the House of Lords on Tuesday 25 October. This should be made a matter of earnest prayer.

Friday, 21 October 2005, Lord Hunt (for the Conservatives) and Lord Lester QC (for the Liberal Democrats) tabled a cross-party amendment to the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill.

Many people would rather not have the Bill at all, but the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats said yesterday that if they simply threw out the Bill, or passed wrecking amendments, the Government would carry out its threat to use the Parliament Acts to force the legislation through the Lords. Faced with this threat, the two opposition parties, along with Lord Carey of Clifton, the former Anglican Archbishop, and Lord Plant of Highfield, a prominent Labour Peer, have tabled a compromise amendment. Their initiative seeks to protect free speech and religious liberties, whilst at the same time allowing the Government to fulfil its manifesto commitment.

For most campaigns on Christian issues it is a back bench politician who takes the initiative. On this occasion the two main opposition parties want to take the lead in a major way. This means that the potential numbers on the Christians' side in any vote are considerably greater than is usually the case. A key factor in all this is the hard work of many and of Christians up and down the country who have been making contact with their MPs. A level of Christian lobbying is currently going on which, is unprecedented. This has undoubtedly triggered a great interest from front bench politicians.

The main points of the compromise amendment significantly narrows the scope of the proposed incitement to religious hatred offence in three ways:

(1) It provides a robust defence for free speech and evangelism (Clause 29J). The wording states:-

'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.'

(2) The loosely worded phrase 'likely to stir up religious hatred' has been removed. It must now be proved that a person intended to stir up religious hatred.

(3) Only 'threatening' conduct would now be covered by the offence. The words 'abusive' and 'insulting' have been removed.

The full text of the amendment can be found via this  link

The amendment removes the most obvious problems with the wording of the religious hatred offence, and is the only one with support of both the main opposition parties.

Any religious hatred offence involves a risk to all religious liberties. That is why Christians say they continue to oppose the Bill and pray that still somehow it will be dropped. It is right and proper to pray for this, whilst at the same time using the practical opportunities which present themselves, bearing in mind that the two opposition parties have decided to hold the first vote at very short notice. Whilst there is no time before Tuesday to step up a letter writing campaign, there is plenty of time to pray!

If the Lords accept the amendment, the Bill goes back to the Commons and MPs must decide whether to accept the Lords' amendment or re-instate the Bill as originally drafted. This will mean future votes in Parliament with the potential for the Bill to 'ping-pong' between the two Houses. So it is vitally important that, as well as praying, Christians continue to contact their MPs.


HOMOTOPIA is counting down to launch in Liverpool! The festival is in its second year and will celebrate homosexual culture both within the gay community and bringing it to a wider audience. Events run from Monday 31 October until Saturday 12 November and include an appearance by the international million-selling musician Marc Almond of Soft Cell, who will be DJ-ing at the closing party.

Liverpool City Council's leader, Councillor Mike Storey, said:- "With all cultures being welcomed with open arms, Homotopia is a very strong sign of Liverpool's tolerant society. We can always strive to become more friendly towards diverse communities which celebrations like this really achieve."

More than 50 events will take place in Liverpool during the festival, covering art, film, theatre, performance art,
heritage, music, comedy, photography and cabaret. This year, organisers are hoping to improve on the 75% average attendance from last year's pilot events which attracted 3,500 people in total.

Festival director, Gary Everett added:- "Homotopia is a unique event and we are all thrilled that there will be
another festival. Homotopia is testament that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender artists and the community at large have a very real part to play in the development and delivery of a world class European Capital of Culture."

Homotopia will be collaborating with international performance artists, Tim Miller and Bridge Markland with
Liverpool-born artist Trademark will be presenting a retrospective exhibition as part of the festival. Ben Zuckhle will be documenting Liverpool l/g/b/t individuals for a personal photographic exhibition entitled Real Lives and Veteran performance poet Chloe Poems will be returning to her native roots to present 'From Scottie Road To Harvard' a new show at Unity Theatre.

The festival includes a special live interview with leading gay/human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell and a host of events entitled 'Queer Conversations' which features guests from politics, literature and theatre. Homotopia is also excited to announce the 2nd Liverpool Lesbian & Gay Film Festival. Key partner Matt Fox will be presenting a programme of over 20 screenings at FACT and other venues across the city. Film screenings include a special gala screening of cult classic 'Whatever Happened To Baby Jane' will be shown at Liverpool's Philharmonic Hall.

ANDREW PHILLIPSON MISSING. Request for help by Merseyside Police

MERSEYSIDE Police are growing increasingly concerned for the welfare of 35 year old Andrew David Phillipson who has been missing from his Southport home since Sunday 16 October 2005.

He was last seen at his home address by his mother and has not been in contact with his family since then. This is believed to be out of character for him.

Andrew is described as white, 6' 2" tall, of medium build, with short dark brown hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a black coat, a black tracksuit, white trainers and was last seen carrying a holdall.

Andrew is known to frequent the Ainsdale and Southport area.

Police would urge Andrew or anyone who may have seen him since 16 October to contact them on 0151 709 6010.
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