Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Time to abolish Britain's blasphemy law

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Both the British Humanist Association and the National Secular Society are calling on supporters to write to their MPs in support of a new move to repeal Britain's archaic blasphemy laws.

MPs Dr Evan Harris (Lib Dem), Frank Dobson (Lab) and David Wilshire (Con) have tabled an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill that would abolish the offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel, and this will be considered by MPs tomorrow (9 January).

A letter published in today's Daily Telegraph makes the case for repealing the law: "As the Law Commission acknowledged in 1985, when it recommended repeal, it is uncertain in scope, but lack of intention is no defence, and the law is unlimited in penalty.

This, together with its chilling effect on free expression and its discriminatory impact, leaves it in clear breach of human rights law. In the end, no one is likely to be convicted under it."

The letter is signed by a host of honorary associates and distinguished supporters of the Rationalist Association, the BHA and the NSS, including Richard Dawkins, RA President Jonathan Miller, philosopher and regular New Humanist contributor AC Grayling, historian David Starkey and author Philip Pullman. It's even been signed by former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, with the letter pointing out that "the Church of England no longer opposes its abolition on principle".

The BHA have set up a campaign page with instructions on how to easily email your local MP. By doing so you can help to show MPs just how much popular support there is for abolishing this archaic piece of legislation. It is best to act now, as the amendment is being tabled in the Commons tomorrow.

3 comments:

ExecutedToday said...

What a timely campaign. Today also happens to be the anniversary of the last execution for blasphemy in the UK:

Paul Sims said...

Thanks for that, a great fact. I think it's purely coincidental too. And the poor guy was hanged for being an atheist!

radius said...

What was the outcome? Was the amendment rejected?