Guidelines

Section 12: Religion

Introduction

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The BBC respects the fundamental human right to exercise freedom of thought, conscience and religion.  This includes an individual's freedom to worship, teach, practise and observe.

There is no longer an offence of blasphemy or blasphemous libel in any part of the UK, but religious beliefs are central to many people's lives and arouse strong views and emotions.  We should take care to avoid unjustified offence.  We aim to achieve this by ensuring our output is not used to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, while upholding the right to freedom of expression.  Under the Ofcom Broadcasting Code, "The religious views and beliefs of those belonging to a particular religion or religious denomination must not be subject to abusive treatment".  In law, the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006, which applies to England and Wales, forbids a person from using threatening words or behaviour or displaying written material that is threatening" if he intends thereby to stir up religious hatred".

The BBC also has a duty to protect the vulnerable and avoid likely harm.  The Ofcom Broadcasting Code requires that religious output "must not seek to promote religious views or beliefs by stealth", nor "improperly exploit any susceptibilities of the audience".

For the purposes of the BBC Editorial Guidelines, religious output is defined as output dealing with the religious views and/or beliefs of a religion or religious denomination as the central subject or a significant part.

This section of the Guidelines has considerations both for religious output and any other output concerning religion.  Such output should also take account of all other sections of the Editorial Guidelines and, in particular, Section 4 Impartiality and Section 5 Harm and Offence.

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