Ex-church officials decry blasphemy laws

Jan. 8, 2008 at 3:01 PM
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LONDON, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- The former archbishop of Canterbury and the former bishop of Oxford have expressed support for a measure that would abolish Britain's blasphemy laws.

George Carey, the former archbishop of Canterbury, Richard Douglas Harries, the former bishop of Oxford, said in a letter to The Daily Telegraph that the blasphemy laws, which provide legal protections for Anglican Christianity, are outdated and should be abolished, The Daily Telegraph reported.

The letter, which was also signed by a number of writers, academics, entertainers and others, comes as a cross-party group of British parliamentarians are proposing an amendment to the current Criminal Justice Bill that would do away with all existing blasphemy laws.

"Far from protecting public order -- for which other laws are more suited -- it actually damages social cohesion," the authors wrote of the blasphemy laws. "It is discriminatory in that it only covers attacks on Christianity and Church of England tenets and thus engenders an expectation among other religions that their sensibilities should be also protected by the criminal law and a sense of grievance among minority religions that they do not benefit from their own version of such a law."

Other signatories to the letter include Richard Dawkins, an Oxford academic and prominent atheist; Philip Pullman, author of the "His Dark Materials" trilogy; and Ricky Gervais, comedian and creator of BBC comedy "The Office."

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