Springer blasphemy prosecution denied

The BBC reports that Stephen Green has lost the battle to prosecute the director general and the producers of Jerry Springer: the Opera for blasphemy.

This is not such good news as it may first appear. A prosecution would have exonerated all those involved with JS:TO, and effectively killed the archaic and inequitable blasphemy law. As it stands, the two judges concluded that the play could not be considered blasphemous “in context”, and

as a whole was not and could not reasonably be regarded as aimed at, or an attack on, Christianity or what Christians held sacred.

This leaves open the possibility that if some other work could be considered as being – in context – an attack on “Christianity or what Christians held sacred”, then its creators might still be prosecuted under this stupid law.

It is bad news for Stephen Green – and that is cause for a minor celebration – but here at MWW we are keeping our champagne bottles on ice for now.

UPDATE: (6 Dec) The decision will be appealed. In the latest CV press release, Stephen Green makes a reasonable point:

The law as the Court has interpreted it now gives carte blanche to broadcasters and theatre companies to blaspheme, while the press still may not. That cannot be logical, let alone right.

Do not be fooled by this brief flash of lucidity. Green had earlier told The Guardian,

I’m really sympathetic to the freedom of speech argument. But blasphemy is not a matter of free speech, it’s people going out of their way to offend almighty God.

The fact that some people get their kicks out of insulting Jesus Christ does not mean the rest of us or the law should put up with this.

The Freethinker reports that Keith Porteus Wood of the National Secular Society is disappointed at the verdict:

We had hoped that Mr Green would have been given permission to bring this case because we strongly suspect that the courts would have done what parliament seems unwilling to do – declare the blasphemy law a dead duck once and for all.

The British Humanist Association is more upbeat:

We welcome the sensible decision by the High Court not to allow this case to go forward. The blasphemy laws in the UK – which protect Christian beliefs – are clearly contrary to the principle of free speech and probably contrary to human rights laws which protect freedom of expression, and that must include the right to criticise beliefs, religious or otherwise. The blasphemy laws are anomalies in the context of our increasingly diverse and increasingly non-religious society. The UK ’s law seeks to protect people and their rights to their beliefs, but not to protect the beliefs themselves.
In a free society we must be allowed to criticise religious doctrines and practices, even if that offends some people. Hopefully today’s ruling will bring back to public debate the need to abolish the outdated blasphemy laws that clearly have no place in Britain today.

We’ll see.

13 Responses to “Springer blasphemy prosecution denied”

  1. Feòrag says:

    IANAL, but I think the blasphemy law in England is very specific, and is defined as denying the divinity of Jesus Christ. Of course, as there’s no such thing as God, it isn’t actually possible for some mad Jewish preacher from 2000 years ago to be God…

  2. Robert says:

    I’d like to know why they didn’t consider it in relation to Article 10 of the ECHR. Did they decide that Article 10 allows an exemption for blasphemy or that it’s one of those ‘margins of appreciation’ that take account of the legal situation/culture of individual countries?

  3. Dave says:

    I know I thought this was a cop out myself. What about Liberty’s input? Just ignored.

  4. Stuart says:

    Anyone any idea how much this has cost Mr Green?

  5. marc says:

    Good point Stuart – the horrid thought is that he might be getting it on Legal Aid. They seem keen to fund barmy causes and screw people with real problems.

  6. Stuart W says:

    The fact that it has even been dragged out this long – nearly three years – is beyond sanity. Why doesn’t Green just grow thicker skin or turn the other cheek, or is there no money and fame in that?

  7. Scaryduck says:

    Anyone any idea how much this has cost Mr Green?

    It’s cost rather more in terms of public money, I should imagine, something the Beeb’s not best pleased about.

  8. Paul Sturdee says:

    If you visit the Christian Voice website they’re still asking for donations to their campaign fund -they must already have spent a great deal. The Legal Aid rules do no, so far as I’m aware, permit the use of public money to fund libel cases, and this case asserts ‘blasphemous libel’, so I think it’s unlikely public money is involved.
    The amusing thing about all this is that the case itself has caused far more ridicule to be heaped upon the conceit and self-deceiving nature of dogmatic religiosity than Jerry Springer: The Opera ever achieved.

    If you want to read more about why organised religions are incapable of restraining their more megalomaniac and insecure adherents visit PGSBooks.co.uk

    Thank you for reading.

  9. T.Hall says:

    Just watch the brown stuff hit the fan when someone insults Islam or some aspect of it – like feeding Mohammed to the pigs!!

  10. marvin says:

    “I’m really sympathetic to the freedom of speech argument. But..”


  11. Robert says:

    Well, if he’s going to build up a war chest to appeal he has three more opportunities if he keeps losing at each stage: Court of Appeal, House of Lords and European Court of Human Rights. How each/any of those would decide remains to be seen but I’m broadly positive. As Christianity is both diminished in the UK and capable of holding its own anyway, I would be surprised if any of those courts feels it still needs special protection.

  12. Dave says:

    Usually, I can find something sensible or worthwhile to add to a debate, but today is going to be an exception:

    Fuck Stephen Green and all fuck all religious mentalfundalists. In fact, just fuck religion full stop, you fucking religious cunts. Stick your fairytales up your pompous arses, fuck off and don’t come back.

    That’s my exact feeling at this point in time, and for once I’m just going to express exactly how I feel, rather than try to dress it up in polite language.