The law on blasphemy

I note the recent response of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to the Government’s consultation on abolishing the blasphemy legislation (see the report in the Times. The closest thing to the full text I can find is on the Canterbury site.) It strikes me that it might have been wise, as they suggest, to take somewhat longer to assess the impact of the offence of incitement to religious hatred. It also seems inaccurate to suggest, as the National Secular Society has, that this is simply a delaying tactic on their part.

The debate in the Lords, during which the amendment was passed, may be found in Hansard, beginning at col. 1118. I’ve been struck by the general lack of attention to this in the press, especially when compared with the response to Rowan Williams on sharia. There is probably some useful historical work to be done on the reasons that have been advanced for having retained the legislation for so long, since the last prosecution was nearly a century ago.

For background: Christian Voice’s case against Jerry Springer, the opera was defeated in the High Court and finally had a proposed appeal refused by the House of Lords.

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