With Chief Executive Officer of the British Humanist Association Andrew Copson.
Although they still remained on the statute books, Britain’s antiquated blasphemy laws were widely believed to have been abandoned prior to their surprising revival for 1979’s high profile Gay News trial. And in 1991, Muslim efforts to ban Salman Rushdie’s ‘The Satanic Verses’ highlighted that our anachronistic laws only protected Christian beliefs, and consequently had no place in a modern multi-cultural society.
In 2002, veteran human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell stated “The blasphemy law gives the Christian religion privileged protection against criticism and dissent. No other institution enjoys such sweeping powers to suppress the expression of opinions and ideas”.
In the ensuing years, it became increasingly clear that freedom of speech was a more important principle than protecting religious beliefs, and our blasphemy laws were finally repealed in 2008, but are we truly free to criticise religious sensibilities?
In this lively talk, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association (BHA) Andrew Copson will be considering how various rules and regulations still privilege religions in the public space and lead to opposing voices being silenced. Beginning with a number of banned adverts, Andrew will provide examples of the often arbitrary ways in which the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) carries out its duty to take down any adverts "likely to cause serious and widespread offense". Among the many other relevant examples of ‘blasphemy by the backdoor’ he will be discussing, we expect the various hurdles that were placed in the way of the BHA’s efforts to get the Atheist Bus Campaign underway will also get a special mention.
“Join us for an entertaining and alarming exploration of Britain’s de facto blasphemy laws!”
Free entry (donations appreciated). Everyone welcome!
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