BLASPHEMY AND THE NEGOTIATION OF RELIGIOUS PLURALISM IN BRITAIN
This paper examines the May 2008 abolition of the British law against blasphemy. The blasphemy law had been the subject of debate since the 1970’s, which began a series of high profile attempts to invoke the law against perceived offenders. No action was taken until after September 11th, when the Labour government sought to institute a law criminalising Incitement to Religious Hatred. It was not until that law came into statute (2006), that the Houses of Commons and Lords seriously debated abolishing the blasphemy law. Against those who argued that changing the legislation amounted to ‘the death of Christian Britain’, I argue that this case offers evidence that the meta-narrative of secularization is neither helpful nor accurate; it fails to account for the reasons why the law was eliminated, or for its relation to ongoing efforts to accommodate religious diversity. The elimination of the blasphemy law and enactment of the Incitement to Religious Hatred legislation should be situated as part of ongoing efforts to negotiate diversity in Britain, and serves as an illustration that a more thoughtful analysis of religion should be a major part of the debate on cultural pluralism.
Beckford, Martin. 2008. Christians Open to Ridicule as Blasphemy Laws Lifted, The Daily Telegraph. May 10, p.8.
Boyarin, Daniel. 2004. Border Lines: The Partition of Judeao-Christianity, University of Pennsylvania Press, Pennsylvania.
Brahm Levy, Geoffrey and Tariq Modood (eds). 2009. Secularism, Religion and Multicultural Citizenship, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Bruce, Steve. 2002. God is Dead: Secularization in the West. Blackwell Publishers, Oxford.
Casanova, José. 1994. Public Religions in the Modern World, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
Casanova, José. 2006. Religion, European Secular Identities and European Integration, in Timothy Byrnes and Peter Katzenstein (eds.), Religion in an Expanding Europe, 65-91, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Casanova, José. 2007. Rethinking Secularization: A Global Comparative Perspective, in Peter Beyer and Lori Beaman (eds.) Religion, Globalization and Culture, 101-120, Brill, Leiden.
Choudry v United Kingdom. 2001. 12 Human Rights Law 172 (Application 17439/90).
Christian Institute. 2008. The Blasphemy Laws. Briefing Paper. Archived at: http://www.christian.org.uk/briefingpapers/blasphemy.htm (accessed 06/02/2010).
Commission for Racial Equality and the Inter-Faith Network of the United Kingdom.
2001. Law, Blasphemy and the Multi-Faith Society: Report of a Seminar organised by the Commission for Racial Equality and the Inter-Faith Network of the United Kingdom.
Commission for Racial Equality. 2005. Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill Incitement to Religious Hatred Provisions, Commission for Racial Equality Briefing. Archived at: http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/documents/CRE/Doc/socp_briefing.doc (accessed 5/29/2008).
Davie, Grace. 2000. Religion in Modern Europe: A Memory Mutates, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Davie, Grace. 2006. Religion in Europe in the 21st century: The Factors to take Into Account, European Journal of Sociology, 47 (2): 271-96.
Evangelical Alliance. 2008. Wider Debate Sought on Abolition of Law of Blasphemy. Policy Statement, 10 January. Archived at:
http://www.eauk.org/media/blasphemy-law-abolition.cfm (accessed 06/02/2010).
Gooding, Kay. 2007. Incitement to Religious Hatred. All Talk and No Substance? Modern Law Review 70 (1): 89-113.
Haewood, Jonathan. 2008. When Blasphemy Bit the Dust, The Guardian, Friday 7th March, p. 7.
House of Commons. 2005. Racial and Religious Hatred Bill (Bill 11) (9th June). Archived at: http://ww.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ldbills/031/2006031.htm. (accessed 04/05/08).
Hurst, Greg. 2005. Religious Hatred Bill Hits Buffers After Lord Defeat, The Times, October 26, p.2.
Institute of Community Cohesion. 2006. Review of Community Cohesion in Oldham: Challenging Local Communities to Change Oldham (The Cantle Report), Coventry University,
England. Archived at: http://www.oldham.gov.uk/cantle-review-final-report.pdf, (accessed 11/20/2009).
Jeremy, Anthony. 2007. Practical Implications of the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006, The Ecclesiastical Law Society, 9: 187-201.
Jones, Peter. 1990. Respecting Beliefs and Rebuking Rushdie, British Journal of Political Science, 20 (4): 415-437.
The Labour Party. 1995. Forward Not Back. General Election Manifesto.
Law Commission. 1985. Criminal Law Offences against Religion and Public Worship (Law Commission no. 145).
Law Commission. 1985. Working Paper No. 79, Offences Against Religion and Public Worship.
Lee, Simon. 1989. Law, Blasphemy and the Multi-Faith Society, Report of a Seminar Organised by the Commission for Racial Equality and the Inter-Faith Network of the United Kingdom, Commission for Racial Equality, London.
Marsh, Joss. 1998. Word Crimes: Blasphemy, Culture and Literature in Nineteenth Century England. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
McSmith, Ian 2005. Comics, MPs and Writers Unite to Fend off Religious Hatred Bill, The Independent, 19th June, p.27.
Modood, Tariq, 2008. Is Multiculturalism Dead?, Public Policy Research, 15 (2): 84-88.
Modood, Tariq. 2009. Muslims, Religious Equality and Secularism, in Geoffrey
Morris, Nigel. 2001. Religious Hatred Offence Scrapped to Save Terror Bill, The Independent, December 14, p.4
Nash, David. 1999. Blasphemy in Modern Britain, 1789 to the Present. Ashgate, Oxford.
Nash, David. 2007. Blasphemy in the Christian World: A History. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Parekh, Bikhu. 1990. The Rushdie Affair: Research Agenda for Political Philosophy, Political Studies, XXXVIII: 695-709.
Parekh Report. 2000. The Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain, London, Profile Books, 2000.
Philip Pullman et al. 2008. Repeal of Blasphemy Law, The Daily Telegraph, Letters Section, (January 8th). Archived at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2008/01/08/nosplit/(accessed 06/05/08).
R. v. Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, ex p Choudry. 1991. 1 QB 429.
R. v. Gott. 1922.16 Cr APP R 87.
R. v. Lemon. 1985. AC 617, HL.
Sacks, Jonathan. 2007. The Home We Build Together: Recreating Society, Continuum International Publishing Group, London.
Sandberg, Russell and Norman Doe. 2008. The Strange Death of Blasphemy, The Modern Law Review, 71 (6): 971-986.
Select Committee on Religious Offences. 2003. Report of the Select Committee on Religious Offences, House of Lords Paper 95-I. Published 10th June.
Simpson, Rick. 1993. Blasphemy and the Law in a Plural Society. Grove Ethical Studies No. 90. Nottingham.
Sugden, Joanna. 2008. Church Will not Oppose Abolition of Blasphemy Laws, The Times, Online Edition, January 11. Archived at: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article3173408.ece, (accessed 27/06/08).
The Times. 2005. Sleepwalking to Segregation, The Times, September 23, p.2.
Unsworth, Clive. 1995. Blasphemy, Cultural Divergence and Legal Relativism, Modern Law Review, 8 (5): 658-677.
Whitehouse v. Lemon 1979. 2 WLR 281. 2 WLR 281.
Copyright (c) 2017 Laura Tomes
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.