I am proud that the UK has a long and diverse history of freedom. This includes the Magna Carta in 1215, the 1689 Claim and Bill of Rights, and the Slave Trade Act of 1807, through to the 1918 Representation of the People Act.
As you know, as announced in the Queen’s Speech, the Government has introduced the Bill of Rights Bill to replace the Human Rights Act. This follows a consultation on the subject which closed on 19 April.
The Bill of Rights Bill will strengthen our traditions of liberty and free speech, restore public confidence in the justice system and ensure Parliament has the last word on the law of the land.
I note that many are concerned about what the proposals mean for the UK’s policies on freedom of religion or belief. Let me reassure you, the reforms seek to curtail abuses of the system and restore public confidence. The Bill ensures that everyone continues to have the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. It sets out that this right includes the freedom to change their religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private and to manifest their religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance. This protects the right to manifest one’s beliefs whether they are religious or non-religious.
The freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs is only subject to limitations that are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health, or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
It is my firm belief that people of every faith, and none should be able to enjoy the same freedoms and equal treatment so that they can practice their religion and live by their principles. My ministerial colleagues and I are committed to ensuring that freedom of religion or belief is safe in modern Britain.