The Church of England “might be open to the blasphemy law being abolished”, a spokesman said yesterday. But he urged “real caution” in proceeding without careful thought. He said that the Church would agree only when there had been time to assess “the consequences of the new incitement to hatred legislation, which continues to expand”.
As MPs on Wednesday debated a repeal of blasphemy law as part of the Criminal Justice Bill, the Justice Minister, Maria Eagle, said that the Government had “every sympathy” with abolishing blasphemy offences, and would review the law. An amendment which would abolish the law against “scurrilous vilification” of Christianity fell after Labour MPs were ordered to vote against it.
Downing Street confirmed that ministers are now in talks with Churches. A spokesman for the Prime Minister said that it was necessary to consult “particularly the Anglican Church”, before coming to a final decision. He said that the Government would move amendments in the House of Lords after consultation.
The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, and the former Bishop of Oxford, Lord Harries, were among signatories of a letter to The Daily Telegraph urging all MPs to support Wednesday’s cross-party amendment to the current Criminal Justice Bill.
The common law of blasphemous libel protects Christian (mainly Anglican) beliefs, but not people or communities, says the letter. “Most religious commentators are of the view that the Almighty does not need the ‘protection’ of such a law.”
• Full story at the Church Times.