Friday, 4 October 2013

Blasphemy Laws still stand in Northern Ireland

Blasphemy was abolished in England and Wales in 2008 through the action of Liberal Democrat MP Dr Evan Harris who described the law as, "ancient, discriminatory, unnecessary, illiberal and non-human rights compliant."

Because the law applied only to Christians and in fact the Church of England representing Anglican views. So that was born out of events from 1989 when someone tried to get permission to have a summons presented against Salmon Rushdie in respect of his novel, The Satanic Verses. That wasn't allowed because Islam was not protected by the blasphemy laws.

The last time a case was brought was by the state against an individual in 1922 who compared Jesus with a circus clown and they were sentenced to hard labour. After that there was nothing until the case of Mary Whitehouse which was brought in the 1977 when the art teacher used the law to try and prosecute the editor of Gay News. The ground for her action was on the basis that the publication has published an explicit poem about Jesus. They were found guilty by a majority of 10-2 and every court in the land upheld it.

Chris Ledgard said of Northern Ireland: "So, thinking about Northern Ireland, if I wanted to read out the poem on this programme, it probably wouldn't be a very good idea?"

Nicola Cain said: "Not if we're broadcasting to Northern Ireland but I also think we'd probably be in breach of our guidelines as well."

The law that was abolished in England and Wales in 2008 still stands in Northern Ireland. The law was so old in Scotland that it fell into non-use and became unusable in modern times.

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