England Finally Abolishes Centuries-Old Blasphemy Law

Blasphemy is no longer a criminal offense in England, thanks to legislation approved last month.

The provision repealing the centuries-old blasphemy law was part of a large measure overhauling a number of issues dealing with criminal justice and immigration. Much of the debate focused on a separate provision toughening penalties for inciting hatred against gays.

The House of Commons approved the measure, but the House of Lords amended it to allow a free speech defense in such cases. There was some debate over the blasphemy provision as well, but in the end, the language abolishing it was retained.

Other sections of the law update provisions against prostitution, ban the possession of violent pornography and reform laws dealing with criminal sentencing.