Government moves to scrap blasphemy laws

 The British government is considering the abolition of the blasphemy laws, after it has consulted with the Church of England and other churches. MPs debated the measure in the Commons yesterday and Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris tabled his own amendment to scrap the ancient law designed to protect Christianity and the Church of England from attack. Mr Brown's spokesman said: "We do believe it is necessary to consult with the churches, particularly the Anglican church, before coming to a final decision, and that's what we are doing. Subject to that, we will consider moving amendments in the House of Lords." During the debate in parliament, Dr Harris described the laws as "ancient, discriminatory, unnecessary, illiberal and non-human rights compliant". He said the last conviction under the law was 1979 and the last successful public prosecution was in 1922. "So it's not needed any more, old-fashioned, ancient and out of time," he said. "The Almighty does not really need the protection of these ridiculous laws and that's why large numbers of people of a religious perspective share the view that these offences need to be abolished," he said. The move comes after leading figures, including the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, wrote to The Daily Telegraph urging that the blasphemy law should be repealed. The letter argued that the law is discriminatory in that it only covers attacks on Christianity and Church of England tenets. They said the law "serves no useful purpose" and offers Christian activists a means to intimidate broadcasters, publishers and performers. The campaign follows the diplomatic row over the jailing of British teacher Gillian Gibbons for blasphemy in Sudan over naming a teddy bear Mohammed. She was later pardoned after diplomatic protests from Britain.

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