Attempt To Reintroduce Blasphemy Law By Stealth Must Not Be Allowed To Succeed

PRESS RELEASE 03 September 2008

Fundamentalist Christians are trying to reintroduce the blasphemy law by stealth, says the National Secular Society.

The NSS is drawing attention to a continuing attempt to bring a prosecution against the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art because of its inclusion in an exhibition last year of a statue by the Chinese artist Terence Koh, which portrays Jesus with an erection.

The prosecution was brought by Emily Mapfuwa, who is supported by the Christian Legal Centre.

Several complaints were made to the Northumbria Police at the time of the exhibition, but they concluded there was no case.

The Christian Legal Centre is continuing to support Mrs Mapfuwa as she pursues a private prosecution. She will argue that the statue of Christ outraged public decency and that people who saw it were likely to be harassed, alarmed, or distressed.

Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, said: “This is a blatant attempt to reintroduce blasphemy into English law only months after Parliament abolished it. Given that the Gallery put up warning signs about the statue, it would mean that Mrs Mapfuwa couldn’t have accidentally come across the artwork. She must have made a deliberate effort to see it.”

Mr Sanderson said that the case had little prospect of success, but was an indication of the determination of some religious groups to constrain artistic expression when they consider it ‘blasphemous’.

He said: “This case is yet another example of the newly-invigorated religious Right in this country making every effort to impose its values and views on the rest of us – by law if necessary.”

4 September 2008