Canadian Blasphemy Law

With the escalation of fury we are witnessing over the publication (and re-publication) of the Danish cartoons my curiosity over Canadian blasphemy laws was aroused and I did a quick search of the CED on Westlaw. This is what results: “At common law, blasphemy and blasphemous libel consisted of the publication of contemptuous, reviling, scurrilous or ludicrous matter relating to God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, or the formularies of the Church of England. It was not blasphemy at common law to attack any religion except Christianity, and an attack on the Christian religion had to be such as tended to lead to a breach of the peace. While it is blasphemy to publish attacks upon God, it may no longer be blasphemous to publish attacks upon the doctrines of Christianity or upon Christian clergy. The publisher must intend to publish, but need not intend that the publication amount to blasphemy. The blasphemous words may be spoken or written.” [Footnotes omitted]. Well it doesn’t seem to have been applied to attacks on Christianity within my memory and I haven’t noticed that God, anyone’s God, has had his, or her, day in court of late. [Illustrations omitted]. By the way – a “formulary” is defined as “A book or other collection of stated and fixed forms, such as prayers”.


  1. Don’t you remember Whitehouse v. Lemon, the gay Christ poem case?
    And for recent commentary see,6109,753268,00.html
    Today it wouldn’t survive a Canadian Charter challenge but interestingly Blair has had problems in this area recently. See Rowan Atkinson and the defeated amendments to the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill,,,17129-2020243,00.html

  2. You can see one of the cartoons that have caused the fuss on the SFGate site, a web site for the San Francisco Chronicle.

  3. Well if you’re giving links, the whole enchillada is at

  4. Does anyone else feel like we are living through a Monty Python skit with this?

  5. I was intrigued by these posting. Like Simon, I use the Oxford Companion to Law for intitial research in these kinds of areas. The entry under blasphemy gives a leading UK case of Bowman v. Seculary Society [1917] AC 406 and a text by Nokes, “History of the Crime of Blasphmeny”. Nick is only partially right, I think, about current controversy over Christianity in court, at least in the US, as witness recent cases on “intelligent design”. See Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District 400 F. Supp. 2d 707 (December 2005)

  6. If that Canadian law is still in affect, I’m in big doo doo.