Blasphemous libel

Blasphemous libel was originally an offence under the common law of England. Today, it is an offence under the common law of Northern Ireland, but has been abolished in England and Wales, and repealed in Canada and New Zealand. It consists of the publication of material which exposes the Christian religion to scurrility, vilification, ridicule, and contempt, with material that must have the tendency to shock and outrage the feelings of Christians. It is a form of criminal libel.

Historically, the common law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel were adopted from the common law of England as common law offences in British colonies and territories. From the late 19th century, several colonies and countries replaced the common law offences with adopted versions of the draft code called "the Stephen Code" written by Sir James Fitzjames Stephen as part of a Royal Commission in England in 1879. The Stephen Code included the offence of blasphemous libel but omitted blasphemy. The common law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel were abolished in England and Wales with the passage of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008[1] but the offences remain as part of the common law, criminal code, or criminal statute in various countries, states, territories, and legal jurisdictions.


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