I just got this through from the British Humanist Association:
An amendment is being tabled to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill by Dr Evan Harris MP to abolish the offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel are abolished.
The British Humanist Association (BHA) has long campaigned for the blasphemy laws to be abolished, and we have been briefing MPs about the present amendment, as well as representing the case for abolition to Government, and you can help to support it too!
We need to demonstrate to MPs that their constituents support this move and we have set up a facility whereby you can email your MP directly by going to http://tinyurl.com/2gkm7w
Please use the site today and help to abolish this antiquated law!
Reasons to abolish the blasphemy laws
There are a number of compelling reasons to abolish the blasphemy laws, which are listed below.
· The blasphemy law is contrary to the principle of free speech and is probably contrary to human rights laws adopted by the UK, which protect freedom of expression. The law fundamentally protects certain, Christian, beliefs and makes it illegal to question them or deny them.
· There is considerable evidence that the blasphemy law restricts free speech even in the absence of recent prosecutions. It undoubtedly influences the behaviour not only of individuals and the media, but also of bodies exercising official functions.
· The blasphemy law protects beliefs, not people. It is right, subject to safeguards, for society through its laws to protect individuals and groups within it from hatred and attack. It is quite wrong to extend the protection of the law to propositions, creeds and truth-claims.
· In a free society we must be allowed to criticise religious doctrines and practices, even if that offends some people. While it may be offensive to some Christian believers to hear their beliefs mocked or denied that is equally true of people of other faiths, and of unbelievers, who repeatedly hear atheism equated with a lack of values or immorality. In an open and pluralist society there should be no inhibition to free speech without the very strongest justification, and robust debate should be expected and accepted in religious as in political and other spheres.
· The blasphemy law is uncertain. As common law, with a very limited number of cases, it is impossible to predict how the courts might interpret the law in any putative case. This is contrary to the principles of good law, and unacceptable in practice.
· The blasphemy law lacks credibility. Although no one has been imprisoned for blasphemy since 1921, and private prosecutions are no longer possible, the possibility of a prison sentence remains, and a law that is only enforced at intervals of many years is an indefensible lottery.
· The blasphemy law allows no defence of merit or lack of intent, which is contrary to the principles adopted in other areas, for example, obscenity.
· The blasphemy law defends only Christianity (and principally the doctrines of the Church of England), which is unacceptable in a society characterised by its diversity of beliefs. Such unequal treatment naturally arouses resentment and demands for the privilege to be extended to other groups.
· Rather than extend the blasphemy laws to other religious beliefs, which in practice would constitutes the severest restriction on discussion of fundamental matters of profound significance and interest, the most fair and most equal and equal solution would be to abolish the laws.