Atkinson protests British hate-crime bill

LONDON, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- "Mr. Bean" actor Rowan Atkinson has said part of a British bill outlawing the inciting of religious hatred could stifle freedom of speech.

Atkinson has launched a comedians' campaign against the bill, which has its second reading in the House of Commons Tuesday, the BBC reported.


The main thrust of the bill is to create a new government agency to fight drug trafficking, people smuggling and criminal gangs.

However, the bill also would make incitement to religious hatred illegal. This is meant to protect faith groups, particularly Muslims, from attack.

Joined by a group of writers, members of Parliament and members of the National Secular Society at the House of Commons Monday night, Atkinson said there are "quite a few sketches" he has performed that would come into conflict with the proposed law.

"The freedom to criticize ideas, any ideas -- even if they are sincerely held beliefs -- is one of the fundamental freedoms of society," the comic actor said.

"A law which attempts to say you can criticize and ridicule ideas as long as they are not religious ideas is a very peculiar law indeed," Atkinson said.


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