OSJ Legal Rights

OSJ (UK) is not against people making their own life style choices and willingly accept that free will is a God given gift to each individual.  We respect that.  However, 'respect' does not always mean or imply 'agreement'.  It is sometimes 'an agreement to disagree'.

It may be that some of these life style choices are not consistent with the bible's teaching and as Christians we may choose to voice our concerns or opinions, even if what we say is not popular.  

Those concerns are not intended to be criticisms of people's individual and personal life style choices but are expressions of what we consider to be acceptable or unacceptable within the Christian family itself, and about maintaining the integrity of the Christian faith, its teachings and about understanding what is written in the bible.  

This is particularly true when it comes to issues like same sex marriages.  Not all Christians can support the idea but they are fearful of entering into public debate because they are confused about equality, hate and anti-discrimination laws.  

They basically do not know that their views and opinions are protected under civil law in the same way as those who hold different views.

This short guide is prepared by the Christian Institute and it explains what rights you have, about what can and cannot be said regarding Same Sex Marriage.  

It explains things quite simply and should be very reassuring to all those who wish to enter into the debate.

To open a PDF copy on a new page, click Download


The Human Rights Act:  your rights under article 9


The right to hold beliefs

Article 9 protects your right under law to hold both religious and non-religious beliefs. This is an absolute right which means it can’t be interfered with by the state, groups or individuals. Article 9 includes the right to freely choose or change your religion or beliefs.


The right to manifest your beliefs

Article 9 also protects your right to manifest (live out) your beliefs - for example, your right to wear religious clothing, the right to speak about your beliefs or take part in religious worship. 

The right to manifest your beliefs is 'qualified' - in certain situations it can be legally over ridden, for example, to protect the rights of others or in matters of keeping public order, but these situations are exceptionally rare.


The Equality Act: religion or belief discrimination

The Equality Act 2010 says you must not be discriminated against because:

  • you are (or are not) of a particular religion
  • you hold particular (or do not hold particular) religious views/beliefs
  • you hold (or do not hold) a particular philosophical belief
  • someone thinks you are of a particular religion or hold a particular belief (this is known as discrimination by perception)
  • you are connected to someone who has a religion or belief (this is known as discrimination by association)


In the Equality Act religion or belief can mean any religion as long as it has a clear structure and belief system. 


The Equality Act also covers non-belief or a lack of religion or belief.

  • the Equality Act also protects  those with no religion if they are discriminated against because of their beliefs

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Hate Crime:


A hate crime is when someone commits a crime against you because of your disability, gender identity, race, sexual orientation, religion, or any other perceived difference.

It doesn’t always include physical violence. Someone using offensive language towards you or harassing you because of who you are, or who they think you are, is also a crime. The same goes for someone posting abusive or offensive messages about you online.


Hate crimes and hate incidents


A hate crime is defined as 'Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person's race or perceived race; religion or perceived religion; sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation; disability or perceived disability and any crime motivated by hostility or prejudice against a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender.'

A hate incident is any incident which the victim, or anyone else, thinks is based on someone’s prejudice towards them because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or because they are transgender.


Not all hate incidents will amount to criminal offences, but will be recorded by the police.

Evidence of the hate element is not a requirement. You do not need to personally perceive the incident to be hate related. It would be enough if another person thought that the incident was hate related.


Types of hate crime


Hate crime can fall into one of three main types: physical assault, verbal abuse and incitement to hatred.


Physical assault

Physical assault of any kind is an offence. This law covers physical assault motivated by prejudice.


Verbal abuse

Victims of verbal abuse are often unclear whether an offence has been committed or believe there is little they can do. However, there are laws in place to protect you from verbal abuse.


Incitement to hatred

The offence of incitement to hatred occurs when someone acts in a way that is threatening and intended to stir up hatred. That could be in words, pictures, videos, music, and includes information posted on websites.

Hate content may include:

·         messages calling for violence against a specific person or group

·         web pages that show pictures, videos or descriptions of violence against anyone due to their perceived differences

·         chat forums where people ask other people to commit hate crimes against a specific person or group



Summary:

You have the legally protected right to hold whatever beliefs or opinions you wish and the right to express them.  This is protected under Article 9 of the Human Rights Act. 

You may not be discriminated against because you hold those beliefs or opinions under the Equality Act.

However, these laws do not give you or anyone else the right to behave or speak abusively, unreasonably, inappropriately or irresponsibly or to deliberately cause offense.

If in any doubt, take legal advice.  In respect of this, the Citizen's Advice web site has a very useful page worth visiting - Connect

Information collated from various authorative sources and summarised.


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