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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Protect free speech. Reform Section 5

VICTORY!

The Reform Section 5 campaign succeeded in its aim to amend Section 5. The change is now incorporated in Section 57 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 which will come into force on 1 February 2014.

Who should decide whether words, posters or ideas are insulting? Individuals? The police? A judge? Should it ever be a criminal matter? It might surprise you to know that under Section 5 of the Public Order Act, the police and the courts can decide if you or someone else might feel insulted.

Did we really need the police and the courts to deal with insults? Should we not just accept that the risk of insult is a fair price to pay for living in a society which values free speech? We think so, and here's why.

"Insulting words or behaviour" were outlawed by Section 5, and this had a chilling effect on free speech right across our country, in a wide range of communities. The law rightly protects us against unjust discrimination, incitement and violence. It shouldn't have been used to protect us from having our feelings hurt.

That's why we worked alongside the Christian Institute, The Peter Tatchell Foundation and many others on a campaign to reform Section 5 of the Public Order Act to remove the word 'insulting'. Removing "insulting' will afford greater protection to freedom of expression – for both the religious and non-religious.

The law rightly protects the public against unjust discrimination, incitement and violence – but that the law does not need to protect us from having our feelings hurt.

Find out more at the Reform Section 5 Campaign website

Find out more