Blasphemy and the Beast as Britain debates church-state ties

January 11, 2008

British judges leave an annual service at Westminster Abbey in London, 3 Oct 2005/Stephen HirdAmong the idiosyncrasies of British life is the fact that this secularised open society has an established church and a law banning blasphemy against it. This anomaly was back in the headlines this week when a member of Parliament tried to abolish the blasphemy law with an amendment to a bill on crime and immigration. With the issue back on the table, another MP submitted a motion to disestablish the Church of England. By a coincidence some might see as a warning, it was listed as motion #666 — the number of the Beast in the Bible’s Book of Revelation, associated with Nero, the Antichrist and other opponents of Christianity.

Change is coming, but it won’t be apocalyptic. After heading off the amendment on the blasphemy ban, the government has pledged to scrap the outdated law against “scurrilous vilification” of the faith after consultation with the Church of England. Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has co-signed a letter to the Daily Telegraph advocating the abolition of a ban “in clear breach of human rights law.” The Church of England has signalled it could accept abolition if the government proceeds with caution.

(UPDATE Jan 12: Rowan Williams, the current Archbishop of Canterbury, later said the Church of England “is not going to resist the repeal of the blasphemy laws given their awkward and not very workable legacy at present.”)

Motion #666 probably won’t be debated, but it’s a sign. “Momentum for looser ties between Church and State is growing, as the support for the repeal of the blasphemy law illustrates,” writes Ruth Gledhill of The Times.

Ironically, the move to scrap the blasphemy law came after a Christian group tried to use it Christians protest outside BBC Television Centre in London, 7 Jan 2005/Stephen Hirdagainst the BBC for airing the musical” Jerry Springer – The Opera.”

There was an uproar in Britain recently when Sudan charged a British teacher with blasphemy for allowing her pupils to name a teddy bear Mohammad. Do you think London should sweep in front of its own door before criticising blasphemy laws elsewhere?

One comment

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For a thousand years people have abused the blasphemy law in order to incarcerate and eliminate enemies or rivals.

The law stinks and must be taken away and buried.

Thanks to common sense, this draconian law will be repealed.

Posted by Keith M Warwick | Report as abusive