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Monday, 19 August 2013

Religious Freedom and Blasphemy

I am speaking this week at the “Religious Freedom and Responsibility for Planet and People” conference in Horsham convened by the International Association for Religious Freedom, World Congress of Faiths and Horsham Interfaith Forum. It takes place from 20th to 22nd August 2013. 

My topic is "None legally, daring to make them afraid" - Religious Freedom and the Challenge of Blasphemy. You can get a preview of the full conference presentation here.

As a body concerned with religious freedom the IARF has always sought to appropriately balance rights and responsibilities in this important area of human culture. The presentation seeks to draw upon the history of British Unitarianism and the commemoration in 2013 of the 200th anniversary of the achievement of legal religious freedom to lead us into exploring the concept of Blasphemy and the challenges it presents to religions and law-makers.  In seeking to examine the issue of blasphemy I have found the definition used by the Pew Research Centre is value, namely “remarks or actions considered to be contemptuous of God or the divine”. State imposed sanctions for blasphemy remains a major issue in many parts of the world.

The quote I use in the title is from William Smith MP, the main promoter of the Unitarian Relief Act in 1813. The principles underlying this legislation remain as valid today as they did then.