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LONDON, ENGLAND, November 26, 2001: An attempt to block legislation for a new offense of incitement to religious hatred has been defeated despite the rebellion of several Labour MPs. The bill extends the racially aggravated offenses of assault, public order, criminal damage and harassment to cover attacks aggravated by religious hostility. They extend the provisions concerning incitement to racial hatred to cover religious hatred. They include cases where the hatred is directed against groups abroad, and increase the maximum penalty for such offenses from 2 to 7 years imprisonment. To be prosecuted for stirring up religious hatred, a perpetrator must use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior intended or likely to stir up hatred against a group of people because of their religious belief (or lack of religious belief), including through spoken, published or broadcast material. Possessing such material will be a crime. This article states that the shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin warned the anti-hatred plans could prove counter-productive because they could prevent legitimate debate about religion. One kind of enterprise that could find itself curtailed under the new act is Christian proselytization, under which other faiths are often criticized in harsh terms. For this reason, similar laws have always been defeated in Western countries, and this one may not survive the House of Lords.