Friday, January 11, 2008

Challenge to Blasphemy law

Update: vote not held; government promises to review the law. The vote on whether to abolish the blasphemy law did not take place as Evan Harris MP, who tabled the clause, withdrew it. He did this because the Government stated it would consult with the Church of England on the matter and would be bringing forward legislation in due course. Although this means that for the time being the blasphemy law remains in place, it seems the Government do intend to abolish the law in the near future, after consultation with the Church of England.

There is much disagreement, even within the church, about the best response to the blasphemy laws. We believe it should be kept because Christianity has historically and constitutionally been the basis and bedrock of our nation and our laws. In respecting Christian principles this nation has been a society of freedom, fairness and true tolerance and justice. Freedom of speech is preserved in that the law does not prevent strident criticism or even attack of Christianity, but it does set in place certain standards of decency and respectful discourse with regard to how we talk about and portray God and Jesus. We believe that if the UK purposefully renounces God in this way there may be spiritual repercussions for society, with a further slip away from moral principle.

Briefing 09/01/08: we received this too late for action, but it is of interest. It is important to note, as Stephen Green does below, that the existing, traditional blasphemy laws do not purport to protect the sensitivities of human beings but to maintain respect for God, Our Lord, and the Bible. This is an idea that the secularists simply cannot understand.

From Christian Voice: Dr Evan Harris MP, an 'Honorary Associate' of the National Secular Society, is moving an amendment to the Criminal Justce and Immigration Bill tomorrow to abolish the laws against blasphemy and blasphemous libel. It is Amendment 143 to the Bill. We published all MP's email addresses in the November Christian Voice newsletter. If you cannot find it a poor imitation is on the Parliament website here.

Today a letter was published in the Daily Telegraph from more than a dozen campaigning atheists and, depressingly, two retired bishops, supporting Dr Harris. Richard Harries, the pro-gay, pro-divorce ex-bishop of Oxford I can understand, but *George Carey's *support of
the blasphemers is inexplicable. If I found myself in the company of those who detest everything I hold dear, I should ask if I was in the right club. See here.

*My Petition *to the House of Lords to appeal against the decision of the Divisional Court not to allow a prosecution in respect of Jerry Springer the Opera was lodged at the House last week, on 3rd January. This email gives me the opportunity to ask you to *pray for us to find
favour with the Appeals Committee*, who will decide whether or not we can appeal to the highest court in our land. May it please God to allow that appeal to go ahead.

Unsurprisingly, the author and director of Jerry Springer the Opera was
among the signatories of the Telegraph letter as were Philip Pullman and
Richard Dawkins. The attachment discloses the 'credentials' of the

*Firstly*, you may like to tell your MP that it is wrong to say, as
the Telegraph letter does, that the blasphemy law 'purports to protect
beliefs'. 'His Dark Materials' and 'The God Delusion' have been
published, both criticising Christian beliefs, without falling foul
of it. In fact, the blasphemy law seeks primarily to maintain simple
respect for Almighty God, Jesus Christ and the Bible.

It is always the person of the Lord Jesus Christ who is the target of
blaspheming poets, playwrights and artists. This was true in the Gay
News poem (the most recent successful prosecution for blasphemy) it was
true in Jerry Springer the Opera, which is still in the courts, and it
is true in the latest case, Terence Koh's statue currently on display in

*Secondly*, it is not the law against blasphemy which damages social
cohesion as the signatories contend, it is the lack of any civilised
standards of decency, restraint, respect and consideration in the world
of the arts. What the Telegraph's correspondents call 'freedom of
expression' the rest of us too often have to describe as obscene,
blasphemous, offensive, inhuman, pornographic, degrading or just plain

*Thirdly, *it is true that the law against blasphemy discriminates in
favour of Christianity. That is because historically, culturally and
constitutionally, the United Kingdom is a Christian country, as
Professor Dawkins himself conceded only last month.
( - but he's wrong to
say the pressure to de-Christianise is coming from other faiths not
secularists. The truth is the precise opposite.) There can be no
expectation from the followers of other faiths that their religions will
be protected. The attempt to prosecute Salman Rushdie under the
blasphemy laws failed, inevitably and rightly so.

That being said, the existence of the blasphemy law should engender a
proper *respect for the sacred *and so provide an umbrella of protection
for the deeply-held religious beliefs of others. Respect for others
comes, as Jesus Christ (Luke 18:2) said in His parable of the unjust
judge, from respect for God. God may not need the protection of such a
law, but the social fabric of our society clearly does. And the
recognition that God 'can take care of Himself' should fill us with holy
fear, not the desire to humiliate His name.

*Lastly*, the Law Commission cited by the correspondents is not an
impartial commentator, and nor is the blasphemy law in breach of human
rights law. The European Court of Human Rights has actually held the
complete opposite in the Wingrove and Preminger cases. As to whether
anyone will be convicted, I suggest we wait and see.

As the *Bishop of Rochester *said at the weekend, we need to affirm the
Christian roots of British society. It is precisely the spiritual
weakness of secularism with its multiculturalist (for which read
anti-Christian) philosophy which has opened the door to Muslim ambition
to turn this country, slowly but relentlessly, into an Islamic state.
Only Christianity has the spiritual muscle to resist such a force, but
we need to start standing up for Christianity, for God, Jesus Christ and
the Bible, before it becomes illegal to do so.

Yours in His mighty name*,*

*Stephen Green, *National Director, Christian Voice

No comments:

Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen