Politics: Religions escape human rights Bill

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The Independent Online
RELIGIOUS groups will be protected from prosecution for breaching new human rights legislation under changes accepted by the Government last night.

The move came after a defeat over the issue in the House of Lords earlier this year. Religious bodies had argued that they should be exempt from the provisions of the Human Rights Bill because, for example, it could penalise a Christian school which insisted on hiring Christian teachers.

The peers' successful amendments would allow someone accused of breaching a human right to argue he had acted "in pursuance of a manifestation of religious belief in accordance with the historic teaching and practices of a Christian or other principal religious tradition represented in Great Britain".

But in last night's committee stage debate, the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, said ministers could meet the concerns.

He introduced a government clause that would allow courts to decide whether someone accused of violating a human right was exercising their own right to "freedom of thought, conscience and religion".