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Courts used to silence religious criticism in UK

A man is on trial in the UK for ripping pages from a book. The pages were ripped from a copy of the Koran in front of a stall where Muslim volunteers were promoting Islam. According to one report:

Peter James Crawford (52) then threw the holy book onto the ground and told them: “Your religion is a load of b******s.”

He is on trial at Leicester Crown Court accused of causing religiously aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress, by demonstrating hostility based on membership of a particular religious group, Islam. He denies the charge.

The incident happened at the Islamic Information Centre’s stall, near the Clock Tower in Leicester city centre, on a busy Saturday afternoon, on May 12.

Although this is a UK trial, cases like these could be seen in Australian courts if the Gillard government’s proposed anti-discrimination laws are passed next year. Indeed, the threshold is even lower under the government’s exposure draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012. Where the UK requires at least “harassment, alarm or distress,” the Gillard government’s exposure draft legislation merely requires conduct that “offends” or “insults.”

The exposure draft legislation would introduce a full blown blasphemy law that threatens to put an end to any kind of public discussion about religious ideas and practices – for both believers and non-believers.

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