House of Lords vote to repeal blasphemy laws

The House of Lords has voted 148 to 87 in favour of repealing the blasphemy laws, although several Peers spoke strongly against the move.

Baroness O’Cathain presented Peers with strong arguments for keeping the laws, urging them “…to pause and consider that the freedom we have today was nurtured by Christian principles and continues to be maintained and guarded by them.”

Lord Kingsland QC added: “Christianity has been absolutely fundamental to the development of our constitutional freedoms and I worry a little that this is no longer understood in our society.”

However, arguing in favour of repealing the laws Government minister, Baroness Andrews, said: “To all intents and purposes the law is unworkable, as evidenced by the fact that very few prosecutions have been brought. It is a law which serves to protect neither the divine nor the individual believer.”

There have been no successful prosecutions for blasphemy since 1977, when the editor of the Gay News received a £500 fine for publishing a highly offensive pornographic poem about Christ. By contrast, the Government wants to outlaw ‘incitement to homophobic hatred’ punishable by up to seven years in prison.

Repeal of blasphemy has yet to be voted on by the House of Commons.

To read the full Lords debate click here.