Blasphemy Laws

Blasphemy

Although much of the world has taken for granted their ability to speak freely, the same is not true in other countries. No matter how objective a writer tries to be, there’s no getting around the subjective opinion about laws against blasphemy. There are several, in many different countries, although some laws are stricter, and some punishments more harsh than others. Many people don’t also realize that although the United States is a “free” country, there are still blasphemy laws on the books from the founding days. These also weren’t believed to be conflicting with the First Amendment. Many countries have begun repealing blasphemy laws, but others remain firm. In Massachusetts, there is a law against blasphemy, found in Chapter 272 of the Massachusetts General Laws, that states:

“Whoever willfully blasphemes the holy name of God by denying, cursing or contumeliously reproaching God, His creation, government or final judging of the world, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching Jesus Christ or the Holy Ghost, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching or exposing to contempt and ridicule, the holy word of God contained in the holy scriptures shall be punished by imprisonment in jail for not more than one year or by a fine of not more than three hundred dollars, and may also be bound to good behaviour.”

The strictest laws against blasphemy can be found within Pakistan, and other Muslim oriented countries. Up until the early 1990’s, blasphemy was punishable by either death, or life imprisonment. Eventually, however, in 2004, more reforms were passed in Pakistan that protected Christians living in the country, since over 650 Christians had been wrongfully imprisoned, and over 20 had been executed as a result of being accused of blasphemy. Now, they have to investigate first.

There are also many laws against blasphemy in the United Kingdom. Surprisingly enough, the last prosecution of these laws was actually as late as 2007. A Christian fundamentalist organization tried to sue the BBC for broadcasting Jerry Springer: The Opera, because it depicted a scene where Jesus, dressed as a baby, professed to be “a bit gay.” The case was rejected by the High Court. However, as late as 1977, there was a successful prosecution against blasphemy. A poem called The Love that Dares to Speak its Name, by James Kirkup was published in Gay News by the editor, Denis Lemon, that supposedly vilified Jesus. He was found guilty and fined £500 and given a suspended sentence of nine months in prison.