Letter: Bill criminalises worshippers

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The Independent Online
IT IS with the utmost concern that the Council of British Druid Orders views Part Five of the proposed Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill, at present in its report stage at the House of Lords. If the Bill becomes law, the police will have the power to intervene directly in cases involving landlords and people such as travellers, ravers or festival-goers who occupied land or property. In the past the courts have arbitrated.

While ostensibly consisting of measures against trespassers, squatters and illegal camping, the Bill is worded potentially to criminalise activities that have hitherto been the inalienable right of the British people. Two weeks ago, their Lordships decided that you cannot push persons who have a nomadic way of life on to private sector sites that have not yet been provided. (The Lords objected to the clause removing the obligation of local councils to provide caravan parks.) Hopefully last week they will have perused the other draconian steps outlined.

In its eagerness to ban traveller sites, raves and festivals, the Government is apparently making it impossible for virtually anyone to hold a party, play music, or organise any form of cultural gathering without police permission.

Of greatest concern to those of us who follow the druidic path of our ancestors in these islands is a clause that attempts to outlaw religious gatherings at our ancient sacred sites. Are we entering a new era of religious persecution?

Prince Charles's forthright views on wishing to be seen as a Defender of Faith in this country have never been more sorely needed. In 1747 there were 1,300 fixed and movable feasts and fairs throughout Britain, held on holy days by permission of Royal Charter, as part of our tradition of venerating the spirit of the land with gladness, music and good cheer. Now there is only Glastonbury.

Legislation on these matters needs relaxing, not tightening. Ban religious gatherings and festivals altogether, and we will only count the cost in terms of more inner-city disruption at a time of high unemployment.

Rollo Maughfling

Council of British

Druid Orders