Ye olde scales o’ justice: This gilded statue stands before the Central Criminal Court, or the Old Bailey, in London.
Following a heated debate, the British House of Lords approved an amendment that does away with the UK’s long-standing common law against blasphemy—a watershed moment that some believe was too long in coming.
National Secular Society:
Evan Harris said that this debate had been going on for 21 years, since the Law Commission had recommended abolition of the law, and for the Church it would never be the right time.
Lord Avebury also introduced other amendments to the Bill that would clear out some other ancient Church privileges, such as Section 2 of the Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act of 1860, under which Peter Tatchell was charged when he interrupted a sermon by the-then Archbishop of Canterbury in Canterbury Cathedral. Lord Avebury’s amendments were rejected by the Government and opposed by the bishops.
Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the National Secular Society, attended the debate and welcomed the Lords decision. He said: “The National Secular Society has been campaigning to abolish the blasphemy laws for 140 years. They have an iniquitous history of persecution, and because it is a common law offence with no limit on punishment, they have resulted in executions and imprisonments with hard labour for people who wrote and said things that would, in the modern day, be considered trivial. It is disgraceful that such a relic of religious savagery has survived into the 21st century.”