Immediate: 3rd March 2008 15.00 hrs.
In an ignoble move, the House of Lords' Appeal Committee has rejected the petition for appeal from Stephen Green, National Director of Christian Voice, in the Jerry Springer the Opera case.
Lords Bingham of Cornhill, Hoffman and Hope of Craighead said:
'Permission is refused because the petition does not raise an arguable point of law of general public importance which ought to be considered by the House at this time, bearing in mind that the cause has already been the subject of judicial decision and reviewed on appeal.'
The 'judicial decision' to which the Law Lords refer was that of Westminster Magistrates, who refused to issue a summons for a private prosecution against Mark Thompson of the BBC and the show's producer Jonathan Thoday. The High Court (Divisional Court) rejected an request for judicial review in December 2007. The House of Lords was the next and final court of appeal in the England and Wales jurisdiction.
Michael Phillips, Stephen Green's solicitor in the case, said today:
'This ruling is a great shame. The High Court's decision was bad law - indeed one independent commentator described it as "without legal merit".
The decision of the House of Lords, in conceding that there was a point of law at issue - that of whether theatres and broadcasters have a legal loophole to blaspheme - but declining to hear it on a pretext, brings the Jerry Springer the Opera case to an end. It means there is no redress in British law against those who portrayed Jesus Christ on stage and on the BBC as an infantile coprophiliac, told by the character of Jerry Springer in the show to 'Grow up for Christ's sake and put some f***ing clothes on.' Apparently Jesus Christ, Mary the mother of the Lord and Almighty God may now be ridiculed and insulted on stage and by broadcasters free from the sanctions of the law.
Stephen Green said, 'Contrary to the finding of these Law Lords, it is indeed a matter of great general public importance at this very time that the Almighty Creator of the universe and the Saviour of mankind have been insulted and vilified in this United Kingdom. It brings down the judgment of God on us all. I love my neighbour and I do not want that to happen.
'Christians will now have to take matters into their own hands when Christ is insulted on stage and on screen. As it happens, our campaign against the theatre tour of Jerry Springer the Opera was highly successful, by the grace of God. The producers and theatres lost a fortune and Stewart Lee himself said it was 'ruined'. Blasphemy isn't going to happen on stage in the United Kingdom, it's just that unless and until this loophole is closed, Christians will have to find avenues other than those of the law.
'To be frank, the decision of their Lordships Bingham, Hoffman and Hope is a blatant, shameless political manoeuvre by a God-defying elite intent on looking after their own. Lord Hoffman in particular has voted in the House of Lords for no-fault divorce and for gay rights. A judge like that would always be prejudiced against those seeking to uphold righteousness. Furthermore, and in retrospect, it seems there was no way the Establishment could countenance the Director of General of the BBC appearing in the dock accused of blasphemy. So first the Divisional Court, then the House of Lords, jumped through hoops to get him off.
'In doing so, they have conveniently forgotten a first Biblical principle of the law, not to show partiality: 'Thou shalt hear the small as well as the great.' The cases of the Bishop of Hereford and Andrew McLintock, and now this one, show that Christians cannot expect justice any more. There will be rare exceptions, but in general, the playing field is now on quite a slant.'
The House of Lords is due to debate the abolition of the offence of blasphemy on Wednesday this week. Christian Voice is praying that the law will be strengthened rather than abolished.
Stephen Green concluded: 'If this is to remain a Christian country, with the Archbishop of Canterbury crowning the future king, Parliament needs to legislate quickly to protect the honour of Jesus Christ, who is always the blasphemer's target, in whichever medium he is insulted. It is ridiculous for theatres and broadcasters to be exempt from the blasphemy law. This loophole must be closed.'
Michael Phillips added:
'Recently there has been another blasphemy which we believe has fallen foul of the law, namely the grotesque statue of the Lord Jesus Christ with an attached phallus in the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead. Many Christians from all backgrounds demonstrated against this, and the strength of feeling ran high. Many expressed a desire to take direct action against the statue, but desisted. Those same people are willing to assist in a private prosecution for blasphemy. Were this law to be abolished where would their redress be? The police showed no interest in dealing with these people's grievances and the art centre kept the statue in place until the end of the exhibition.'
The exhibition ran until 20th January, when the pornographic statue was returned to Anita Zabludowicz, wife of Poju Zabludowicz, the high-profile chairman of the Britain Israel Communications and Research Council (BICOM) and a member of the Jewish Leadership Council. There have been calls from within both the Christian and Jewish community for the blasphemous and offensive statue, which has soured relations between pro-Israel evangelicals and Jews, to be destroyed by its owners.