Sunday, June 8, 2008

British Blasphemy Law Abolished

According to some newspaper reports, England's long-standing common law offence of blasphemy has finally been abolished:

The offence lay unused between 1922 and 1977, but was the basis of a successful private prosecution against a gay newspaper in the late 1970s for publishing a poem about Jesus and a gay centurion. Another private prosecution was attempted in the late 1980s/early 1990s against Salman Rushdie for publishing The Satanic Verses. However, the courts ruled that only Christianity is protected by the law, not Islam. Most recently, just last year, the courts dismissed a private prosecution against Jerry Springer: The Opera.

Although the blasphemy offence has received its well-deserved death, it's not necessarily the end for some blasphemy-type prosecutions, as one of the reasons for abolishing the law was the recent enactment of a religious hate speech offence.

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