(redirected from Blasphemous libel)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Wikipedia.


in religion, words or actions that display irreverence toward or contempt for God or that which is held sacred. Blasphemy is regarded as an offense against the community to varying degrees, depending on the extent of the identification of a religion with the society at large or the government. Seditionsedition
, in law, acts or words tending to upset the authority of a government. The scope of the offense was broad in early common law, which even permitted prosecution for a remark insulting to the king.
..... Click the link for more information.
, an attack on the sovereign, is thus analogous; both it and blasphemy can be seen as subversive of order and authority. Heresyheresy,
in religion, especially in Christianity, beliefs or views held by a member of a church that contradict its orthodoxy, or core doctrines. It is distinguished from apostasy, which is a complete abandonment of faith that makes the apostate a deserter, or former member.
..... Click the link for more information.
, on the other hand, is a matter of competing claims for doctrinal correctness; the dominant (orthodox) faction, however, often defines the heretic as blasphemous.

Blasphemy has been a crime in many religions and cultures, wherever there is something sacred to protect. SocratesSocrates
, 469–399 B.C., Greek philosopher of Athens. Famous for his view of philosophy as a pursuit proper and necessary to all intelligent men, he is one of the great examples of a man who lived by his principles even though they ultimately cost him his life.
..... Click the link for more information.
 was prosecuted for blasphemy, and Mosaic law prescribed death for cursing the name of God. JesusJesus
or Jesus Christ
, 1st-century Jewish teacher and prophet in whom Christians have traditionally seen the Messiah [Heb.,=annointed one, whence Christ from the Greek] and whom they have characterized as Son of God and as Word or Wisdom of God incarnate.
..... Click the link for more information.
 was tried for blasphemy, while Christians regarded the action of the Jews in trying him as itself blasphemous.

Secular modern states often retain blasphemy laws, but they are infrequently enforced. In the United States, state blasphemy laws remain on the books, but the Supreme Court's expansive interpretation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution makes it likely that any blasphemy prosecution would now be regarded as an impermissible establishment of religion. In countries governed under Islamic law, the concept of blasphemy is broad, embracing many kinds of disrespect or denial of religion; the condemnation (1988) of the author Salman RushdieRushdie, Sir Salman
, 1947–, British novelist, b. Bombay (now Mumbai, India). He is known for the allusive richness of his language and the wide variety of Eastern and Western characters and cultures he explores.
..... Click the link for more information.
 by Iranian clerics is a recent example of theocratic action.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


Law the crime committed if a person insults, offends, or vilifies the deity, Christ, or the Christian religion
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Since the Criminal Code of Canada was first enacted in 1892 there has been a section banning blasphemous libel. Over 123 years later, this law has remained despite multiple substantial revisions of the Criminal Code and the enactment of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
attempted to mount a prosecution for blasphemous libel against Salman Rushdie for his book, The Satanic Verses ...
The crime of blasphemous libel (written as opposed to verbal) was first introduced into the Criminal Code in 1892.
half of the twentieth century all involved blasphemous libel in the
Blasphemous libel is akin to the ecclesiastical charge of heresy - once punishable by death - and in the UK is an offence under common law and the 1697 Blasphemy Act.
Debate has erupted in Ireland over a proposal to penalize "blasphemous libel."
In 1977 she took umbrage at a Kirkup poem in The Gay News and took out a private prosecution on the grounds of blasphemous libel. It was the first such case for 56 years.
Her organisation brought a successful private prosecution in 1977 for blasphemous libel against the homosexual paper Gay News, after they published a poem about a Roman centurion's homosexual love for Jesus at the crucifixion.
The human rights pressure group Liberty welcomed the groundbreaking ruling, saying that "the first test case in nearly 30 years" had "critically weakened outdated blasphemous libel laws".
The fundamental concept of Mens rea (whereby an individual intends the consequences of their action) has been absent from the English Common Law of blasphemous libel for significant portions of its history, as it has from French Statutes and elsewhere.
Gay News Ltd., the House of Lords held that it was not necessary for the prosecution to prove a specific intent to blaspheme if a publication is in fact blasphemous, thus attesting to the continued vitality of Blackstone's eighteenth-century commentary on blasphemous libel.