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Laws of Blasphemy and Human Rights Is there a modern connection - Essay Example

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Laws of Blasphemy and Human Rights Is there a modern connection

At a point when legal developments have come to focus on the excitement created by renewed controversy, the social and cultural significance of the offence and the legal strategies have been questioned. In the course of this paper, I have attempted to examine the law of blasphemy in uncertainties surrounding the impact of secularization and cultural pluralism, which invest it with considerable symbolic consequence. This brings to the fore the recent revival of blasphemy laws through an assessment of the paradoxical nature of its effects, with particular emphasis on those difficulties that have been posed for liberalism as a political philosophy that tries to steer through an era of plurality and harmonious co - existence.
In this way, the significance of blasphemy is related to the question of the status of religion in contemporary western societies in context of the appropriate response of the legal machinery of various countries, as well as the conflict that exists between the desire to rationalize the offence and the desire to equalize the protection it affords.
Further, in recent times, there have been numerous accounts of the parameters of the law which has sparked a critical analysis of its relationship to laws dealing with the adjacent areas of sedition, obscenity, outrage to public decency and offences against public order. Therefore, dissension over the future of the blasphemy law arises at the intersection of a cluster of intractable debates which have rendered the topic as extremely sensitive and hard to judge.

It is now imperative to chart a brief history and evolution of blasphemy to understand the journey of its evolution and how it has come about to be associated with Human Rights in the present day. Having originally been a part of canon law, in the 17th century the offence of blasphemy was declared a common law offence by the Court of King's Bench, punishable by the common law courts.

From the 16th century to the mid-19th century, blasphemy against Christianity was held as an offence against common law, apart from being used a legal instrument to persecute atheists, Unitarians, and others.

All contumelious reproaches of Jesus Christ, all profane scoffing at the Holy Scriptures, and exposing any part thereof to contempt or ridicule, and finally all blasphemies against God, including denying His being or providence, were punishable by the temporal courts with fine, imprisonment, and corporal punishment. In 1656, the Quaker James Naylor suffered flogging, branding and the piercing of his tongue by a red-hot poker.

An act of Edward VI (repealed 1553 and revived 1558) set a punishment of imprisonment for reviling the sacrament of the Last Supper.

Further, it was in the 1676 case of Rex v Taylor, when the Lord Chief Justice Sir Matthew Hale stated that "Such kinds of blasphemous words were not only an offence to God and religion, but a crime against the laws, State and Government, and therefore punishable in that Court.... Christianity is parcel of the laws of England and therefore to reproach the Christian religion is to speak in subversion of the law." (

Those denying the Trinity were deprived of the benefit of the Act of Toleration by an act of 1688. Commonly called the Blasphemy Act, an act of 1697-1698, stated that if any person, educated in or having ...Show more


Blasphemy can be described as the breach of the sentiments that hold closely a religion, group or community in its beliefs, traditions and basic lifestyle. Until the 1970s, the offence of blasphemy was found to be typically dismissed as archaism that existed at the margins of criminal law…
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