The outdated and discriminatory blasphemy laws were abolished in May 2008. The offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel were common law offences which were contrary to the principle of free speech and probably contrary to human rights laws adopted by the UK, which protect freedom of expression. The law fundamentally protected certain, Christian, beliefs and makes it illegal to question them or deny them.
There were a number of recent attempts to prosecute using the blasphemy law, all of which have been rejected by the courts. Most recently the High Court rejected the case against BBC Director-General Mark Thompson over the screening of Jerry Springer – The Opera (penned by Stewart Lee, who subsequently became a Distinguished Supporter of the BHA).
We campaigned for an end to the blasphemy laws in the UK for over century and warmly welcomed their abolition. Most recently, we published a briefing on the compelling reasons to abolish the blasphemy laws and we supported amendments to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill to abolish the laws, in both the House of Commons and in the House of Lords. The Government wrote to us to say they were grateful for our support and Evan Harris MP, who spearheaded the initiative to abolish the laws thanked the BHA and especially the 1000+ people who emailed their MP through the BHA on the two days running up to the Commons vote on the subject.
What are we doing now?
Although the blasphemy laws have gone, many religious groups are stepping up their campaigns to have books or artworks they disagree with banned or censored – the BHA will be working to oppose such attempts whenever we hear of them, and to uphold freedom of speech.
What can you do?
Many of you gave fantastic support to our campaign to abolish the law on blasphemy in the UK, with well over 1000 of you using our “email your MP” facility to request that your MP supported the amendments to the Bill – thanks!
We are now keeping a watch out for religious campaigns to curd free expression through boycotts and intimidation – if you hear of or experience any such campaigns, let us know.
You can support the BHA by becoming a member. That helps in itself, and you can help even more by supporting our campaigns in the ways suggested above. But campaigns also cost money – quite a lot of money – and we also need financial support. You can make a donation to the BHA.