Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Today, Stephen Green of the peculiar pressure group - more one man and a bandwagon - Christian Voice, is seeking judicial review in the High Court of a Magistrates Court's refusal of his private prosecution against the BBC for broadcasting 'Jerry Springer - The Opera'. Mark Vernon, a previous victim of the law, has written a good article about this anomalous situation.

The bizarre High Court episode has led to renewed calls for the abolition of the UK's archaic and unjust blasphemy law by Liberty, Ekklesia and others. They are surely very near to toppling now - notwithstanding the government's extreme nervousness about anything touching on religion and identity. The problem is, anxiety is a self-fulfilling emotion.

In the C21st, extraordinarily, blasphemous libel claims can still be brought against the publication of any matter that insults, offends, or vilifies Christ or the Christian (principally Established, Anglican) religion - whether the publication intended to be blasphemous or not.

Here's what I had to say in Ekklesia's media release today: "Human rights advocates, including people of faith, have quite rightly campaigned against blasphemy laws in Pakistan and other countries, and having one on the statute in the UK is both an offence and an anachronism. Privileging one religion above other views is indefensible in a democracy, and for Christians there is the added irony that Christ was himself arraigned on a charge of blasphemy. Using the law to attack opinions about belief is to misuse it, and suggesting that God needs protection against free speech makes no theological sense at all. The Christian message is about the power of self- giving love, not the love of one's own power. This is why it is wrong religiously as well as legally and democratically."

Liberty is arguing that the offence of blasphemy violates Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights which protects free speech and that blasphemy should be decriminalised in English law because of its lack of legal certainty (as has been held by the Irish Supreme Court in Corway v Independent Newspapers, 2000).

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