Article Title

Law of Blasphemy


Is Christianity part of the Law of England? It would seem that if it ever was so, it is so no longer. Such at least is the conclusion which Austin's "simple-minded layman" will undoubtedly draw from the recent decision of the House of Lords in Bowman v. The Secular Society, Limited, [1917] A. C. 4o6. The lawyer who recognizes that such phrases as the above can have little or no value in legal science will be more concerned to note the unanimous determination of the final court of appeal in Great Britain in favor of the view of the law of blasphemy expressed by Lord CoLmRGa, L. C. J., in Reg. v. Ramsay and Foote, 15 Cox C. C. 231, against the contrary doctrine of the late Sir James Fitzjames STEPHEi, and the overruling by general consent (Lord FINLAY, L. C., alone dissenting) of the well-known case of Cowan v. Milbourn, L. R. 2 Ex. 230. In the British constitution a judgment of the House of Lords has the same finality as an Act of Parliament, and so we may take it as settled for all time (in the absence of intervention of Parliament) that in English law "the crime of blasphemy is not constituted by a temperate attack on religion in which the decencies of controversy are maintained". (Lord FINLAY, L. C., at p. 423.)