The Blasphemy law is back

The guilty verdict against cartoon leafleter Harry Taylor has prompted a strong response from the National Secular Society.

The offence of “Religiously aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress” has now effectively taken the place of the abolished Blasphemy law and, with a maximum sentence of 7 years, is much worse.

NSS President, Terry Sanderson:

This is a disgraceful verdict, but an inevitable one under this pernicious law. It seems incredible in the 21st century that you might be sent to prison because someone is ‘offended’ by your views on their religion. The blasphemy law was abolished three years ago, but it lives on under the guise of religiously aggravated offences and is several times more dangerous.

Sanderson reveals that Taylor had shown the cartoons to the NSS:

The cuttings were all from publications that could be bought from any mainstream newsagent: cartoons from Private Eye and scraps of paper cut from various newspapers that were mildly anti-religious in nature. There was nothing obscene or threatening about them. I can see how a religious person could be offended, but not “alarmed”. Offending someone should not justify a prison sentence, far less one of seven years. The chaplain could simply have thrown the material in the bin.

But if Nicky Lees had simply thrown the material in the bin, she would have also thrown away the opportunity to display her religious sensitivity to the nation. Her success is an example to all others who feel their metaphysical sentiments have been hurt.

This verdict will open the floodgates for religious zealots to secure prosecutions over the most trivial matters. Expressing atheist views should be no more against the law than expressing Christian or Islamic views and freedom of expression should be cherished, not penalised harshly as this law does. The maximum sentence for religiously aggravated offences is draconian.
Mr Taylor struck me as slightly eccentric and he acted in a provocative way, challenging the necessity for the prayer room. He didn’t cause any damage and he didn’t harm anything, nor was he threatening or abusive. Yet he might still end up behind bars because some Christian has decided they are offended. In a multicultural society, none of us should have the legal right not to be offended. This law needs to be re-examined urgently.

No damage, no harm, no threats, no abuse – but a potential 7 years in prison because some pious sky-pilot claimed to be “alarmed” by a few drawings.

Gabriel blow that horn.

13 Responses to “The Blasphemy law is back”

  1. Stuart says:

    I’m sorry that this has happened. I can’t believe he was found guilty of this imaginary crime. This will backfire on the Christian community, she should have just chucked the crap in the bin, like any normal rational human would have done.

  2. barriejohn says:

    I wonder whether George Carey et al are still bleating about Christians being “persecuted” in this country!

  3. barriejohn says:

    I know Christians who believe quite fanatically that Islam is of the Devil (quite literally), and that Mohammed was demon-possessed and thoroughly evil. What happens if they start praying in this vein in one of these “prayer rooms”? Is that going to “offend and alarm” people? They already distribute religious tracts bearing the same message!

  4. barriejohn says:

    I love this comment on the Liverpool Daily News site:

    “Imagine no blasphemy laws”! LMAO!!

  5. Alfster says:

    Considering the amount of offensive, violent and sexually violent material in the Bible surely we could prosecute ‘the Church’ for leaving material that could ‘Religiously aggravate, and cause intentional harassment, alarm or distress’. Stuff in the Bible certainly alarms me when I see people believing in the stuff.

  6. […] U.K. atheist convicted of religious harassment for leaving cartoon leaflets in prayer room [Media Watch Watch and earlier via Secular […]

  7. […] 10:37 AM     The recent guilty verdict for the so-called ‘militant atheist’ Harry Taylor is deeply troubling. Mr Taylor was convicted of the offence of ‘Religiously aggravated […]

  8. Bill Corr says:

    Remember the ‘Gay News’ conviction all those years ago?


  9. barriejohn says:

    @Alfster: If you are an atheist then you are “not fully human”, so are incapable of being offended by all this religious bunkum about going to hell, and engaging in “deviant” and “unnatural” behaviour if you happen to be gay. It’s another case of one rule for us and another for them!

  10. […] led the National Secular Society to suggest that the offence of blasphemy is back – see this report on the mediawatchwatch […]

  11. Stonyground says:

    Barriejohn, you beat me to it, I was about to draw attention to Carey’s bleating about being persecuted, adding that no one in history has ever persecuted Christians as viciously as they have persecuted each other.

    Alfster, at the time when these laws were making their way through parliament, I sent a Bible to the relevant people with a letter pointing out that it contained threatening and hate-mongering material. The Bible was bookmarked and the passages highlighted and it was pointed out to them that pretty much no one is left out, God hates just about everybody and in most cases he wants those people killed. Needless to say I did not receive any kind of reply.

  12. Stonyground says:

    I have just learned from an unrelated thread on the Freethinker website that this guy acted deliberately to provoke a court case in order to test this law. The NSS have offered him their support but at present he is declining their offer of help. I did wonder how the offender in this case had been identified, it would seem that he must have deliberately turned himself in. It also makes me wonder if the hysterical chaplain is also in on it rather than being a useful idiot.

  13. valdemar says:

    All credit to the guy for putting his freedom on the line to try and win more freedom for the rest of us.