Britain says it will scrap blasphemy laws eventually

Posted: Friday, October 22, 2004

LONDON (AP) Britain plans eventually to drop 17th century laws on blasphemy and blasphemous libel, but change isn't imminent, the government said Monday.

The Home Office denied a newspaper report that the government hoped to scrap the laws soon in a package of new laws concerning incitements to religious hatred.

''At some point the blasphemy laws will be changed so that they basically become extinct. But that is not seen as a priority now and will not result in imminent legislation,'' a spokeswoman said.

The laws, which penalize anyone who challenges the truth of Christian doctrine or the Bible, were last used successfully in 1979, when activist Mary Whitehouse won a civil libel case against the Gay News over a professor's poem about a homosexual centurion's love for Christ at the Crucifixion.

The last successful criminal case occurred in 1922, when a court upheld as blasphemous a publication that described Jesus entering Jerusalem ''like a circus clown on the back of two donkeys.''

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