The leader of a Christian prayer and lobby group has written to the Daily Telegraph in answer to a letter by more than a dozen campaigning secularists and two retired bishops, published today, calling for abolition of the blasphemy law.
TEXT OF PUBLISHED LETTER AND SIGNATORIES
Stephen Green, National Director of Christian Voice, is seeking to bring a private prosecution for blasphemy in the case of Jerry Springer the Opera against the Director General of the BBC and the show's producer. Unsurprisingly, the author and director of Jerry Springer the Opera was among the signatories of the Telegraph letter as were Philip Pullman and Richard Dawkins.
The letter was published on the eve of a debate on an amendment to abolish the law against blasphemy to be moved tomorrow Wednesday 9th January in the House of Commons by Evan Harris MP, an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society - as were no fewer than eight signatories of the Telegraph letter.
LIST OF NSS HONORARY ASSOCIATES
Stephen Green said today:
"The correspondents are wrong to say the blasphemy law 'purports to protect beliefs'. 'His Dark Materials' and 'The God Delusion' have been published, both criticising Christian beliefs, without falling foul of it. No, the blasphemy law seeks primarily to maintain simple respect for Almighty God, Jesus Christ and the Bible.
"Curiously, it is always the person of the Lord Jesus Christ who is the target of blaspheming poets, playwrights and artists. This was true in the Gay News poem (the most recent successful prosecution for blasphemy) it was true in Jerry Springer the Opera, which is still in the courts, and it is true in the latest case, Terence Koh's statue currently on display in Gateshead.
"It is not the law against blasphemy which damages social cohesion, it is the lack of any civilised standards of decency, restraint, respect and consideration in the world of the arts. What the Telegraph's correspondents call 'freedom of expression' the rest of us too often have to describe as obscene, blasphemous, offensive, inhuman, pornographic, degrading or just plain crass.
"Of course the law against blasphemy discriminates in favour of Christianity. That is because historically, culturally and constitutionally, the United Kingdom is a Christian country, as Professor Dawkins himself conceded only last month. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7136682.stm There can be no expectation from the followers of other faiths that their religions will be protected. The attempt to prosecute Salman Rushdie under the blasphemy laws failed, inevitably and rightly so.
"That being said, the existence of the blasphemy law should engender a proper respect for the sacred and so provide an umbrella of protection for the deeply-held religious beliefs of others. Respect for others comes, as Jesus Christ said in His parable of the unjust judge, from respect for God. God may not need the protection of such a law, but the social fabric of our society clearly does. And the recognition that God 'can take care of Himself' should fill us with holy fear, not the desire to humiliate His name.
"Dragging up the partisan Law Commission in support hardly helps the atheist case, nor does the illogicality of saying that no-one will be convicted under the blasphemy law, but that its existence is in breach of human rights law. On the latter point, that is the opposite of what the European Court of Human Rights has actually held (in Wingrove and Preminger), and as to whether anyone will be convicted, let's wait and see, shall we?
"As the Bishop of Rochester said at the weekend, we need to affirm the Christian roots of British society. It is precisely the spiritual weakness of secularism with its multiculturalist (for which read anti-Christian) philosophy which has opened the door to Muslim ambition to turn this country, slowly but relentlessly, into an Islamic state. Only Christianity has the spiritual muscle to resist such a force, but we need to start standing up for Christianity, for God, Jesus Christ and the Bible, before it becomes illegal to do so."