HL Deb 21 June 1982 vol 431 cc904-5WA
Lord Avebury

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What advice they have received, on what dates, from the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church on the recognition of Rastafarianism as a religion within the prisons of England and Wales; and whether they will now reach a favourable decision on this matter.

Lord Elton

We have not received advice from the Church of England or the Roman Catholic Church as such, but we have had the benefit of views from the Church of England Board for Social Responsibility and the Catholic Commission for Racial Justice, which are advisory only to their respective Churches. Advice has also been received from the senior Church of England and Roman Catholic members of the Prison Service Chaplaincy.

A representative of the Board for Social Responsibility visited the Prison Department on 1st March this year and presented a report entitled, The Church of England and Racism (published in October 1981). This recommended that within prisons Rastafari should be recognised as an authentic religious belief and its adherents treated accordingly.

Members of the Catholic Commission for Racial Justice attended a similar meeting on 7th April to discuss the recommendations in the commission's report Rastafarians in Jamaica and Britain (January 1982) that Rastafari should be recognised as a valid religion and that Rastafarians in penal institutions should be allowed the same privileges as are accorded to other religious believers. These views will be considered together with those of the other interested parties consulted. A final decision has not yet been reached.