Christian hoteliers from Liverpool who were subjected to a criminal trial because of comments they made about Islam have called for a change to the law.
Watch an interview with the Vogelenzangs
Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang, who were declared innocent last December, were prosecuted under Section 5 of the Public Order Act after a female Muslim guest complained that she had been offended by the couple’s comments.
Now, in a bid to protect other Christians from a similar ordeal, the Vogelenzangs have encouraged Christians to visit their MP and ask for the word “insulting” to be removed from the Public Order Act as part of the Coalition’s forthcoming Freedom Bill.
Describing their ordeal Mrs Vogelenzang said: “we were shocked to be arrested, charged and prosecuted under Section 5 of the Public Order Act.
“We later stood trial, accused of a crime. After a two-day hearing, the judge threw out the case against us.
She added: “As Christians we should help each other. We want to help people by making sure that this can’t happen again to anyone else.
“That’s why we are asking you to tell your MP that the Freedom Bill should repeal the word ‘insulting’ from Section 5 of the Public Order Act.”
Throughout their ordeal the couple were supported by the Christian Institute.
Despite the case against them being thrown out the couple’s business was never able to recover and closed at the end of September.
A number of groups are also calling for the word “insulting” to be removed from Section 5.
Justice, a civil liberties organisation, has argued that Section 5 is an “extremely broad offence” and that removing the word insulting “would go some way to prevent the overuse of this power in the context of protests and demonstrations”.
Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights has also called for the removal of the word “insulting”, expressing concern that it was being used to restrain freedom of speech.
The Liberal Democrats manifesto promised that the Party would: “Restore the right to protest by reforming the Public Order Act to safeguard non-violent protest even if it offends”.
In 2009 Conservative MP Dominic Grieve, now Attorney General, said he was “sympathetic” to the idea of repealing the word “insulting” from the Public Order Act.
Ed Miliband, the new leader of the Labour Party, has admitted that the former Labour Government went too far in restricting civil liberties.