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Tuesday, November 20, 2007 

Blasphemy, Liberty and crucifix-shaped dildos.

It's good to see that Liberty are intervening in the ridiculous private prosecution brought by Christian Voice against Jerry Springer: The Opera, with a view to finally getting the 1698(!) law on blasphemy repealed. Only thing is that I'm by no means certain that the argument Liberty will be making will stand up to scrutiny. From their press release:

Liberty will argue that the offence of blasphemy violates Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights which protects free speech and that blasphemy should be decriminalised in English law because of its lack of legal certainty (as has been held by the Irish Supreme Court in Corway v Independent Newspapers [2000]).

If Stephen Green of Christian Voice has decent lawyers, they will most likely already know about the case of Nigel Wingrove vs the UK, where Wingrove took the BBFC to the European Court of Human Rights over their rejecting of his short film, Visions of Ecstasy, for a certificate. A short feature in which a nun mounts and caresses the crucified body of Christ, the ECHR ruling was that

“Freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society. As paragraph 2 of Article 10 expressly recognises, however, the exercise of that freedom carries with it duties and responsibilities. Amongst them, in the context of religious beliefs, may legitimately be included a duty to avoid as far as possible an expression that is, in regard to objects of veneration, gratuitously offensive to others and profanatory”.

which upheld the BBFC's ban. This was in 1996, two years before the Human Rights Act, the insertion of the ECHR into British law, was introduced. A British court, if a similar case were to be brought before it now, might quite reasonably come to another conclusion. The ECHR ruling though will certainly be known to the judges in this case, and it could potentially rule out Article 10 as being the main basis for any such throwing out of a private prosecution, or of the blasphemy law itself.

Of course, this might not have any bearing on the case at all, as the BBFC passed Jerry Springer the Opera uncut at 18, which would mitigate against any such similar parallel being drawn between the two cases. The BBFC themselves though have as recently as two years ago used the blasphemy laws to cut a film, although not one likely to get the Grauniad or Liberty up in arms. Belladonna: My Ass is Haunted was cut by a whopping 28 minutes and 46 seconds with the following justification:

Cuts required to abusive and potentially harmful activity (in this case aggressive forcing of an oversized butt plug into woman's mouth and anus); a reference to underage sex; and to blasphemous activity (in this case insertion of crucifix-shaped dildos into anus and vagina of women role-playing as nuns). Cuts made in accordance with BBFC policy and Guidelines and the common law of Blasphemy.

You can get away then with Jesus saying that he's a bit gay; dildos shaped like crucifixes are however beyond the pale.

The easy answer to all of this would be to repeal the blasphemy laws, something that has been mooted before. With this government however ever more inclined to add to the legislation which limits freedom of speech rather than strengthens it, we might be waiting for a very long time, leaving the likes of Stephen Green and a reincarnated Mary Whitehouse to continue their own struggles through the courts.

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You assholes, how could you make such things? Don't you fear God???

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