The Blasphemy law is back
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.