‘We Don’t Have Blasphemy Laws in England’ what does this mean for RE?

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


Blasphemy laws have been a topic of much debate in the United Kingdom (UK) in recent years. While blasphemy laws were abolished in England and Wales in 2008, they still exist in Northern Ireland and Scotland. The aim of this paper is to explore the link between blasphemy laws and RE in the UK. Blasphemy laws are intended to protect religious beliefs and prevent their desecration or insult. However, their implementation can often be subjective and inconsistent, leading to accusations of censorship and curtailment of free speech.

The recent announcement by the Home Secretary agreeing to issue new blasphemy guidance in schools is highly relevant to our subject. The guidance will propose a focus on promoting freedom of speech and expression while also respecting religious beliefs. This development underscores the importance of striking a balance between protecting religious beliefs and promoting free speech, which is a central theme of this paper. The new guidance could have a bearing on how RE is taught in a way that is respectful of religious beliefs, while also promoting critical thinking and open dialogue. This guidance has been offered in response to concerns raised by secular and humanist groups about the potential for blasphemy laws to be used to curtail free speech.

This highlights the need for ongoing scrutiny of blasphemy laws and their impact on free speech and religious education in the UK. Considering this development, this paper will explore the potential implications of the new blasphemy guidance for religious education in the UK and whether it represents a step towards a more balanced and nuanced approach to teaching about religion in schools. This will also reflect on the role of secular and humanist groups in shaping policy around blasphemy laws and religious education, as well as the potential for ongoing collaboration between different stakeholders in this area.
Period18 May 202319 May 2023
Event titleAULRE Annual Conference 2023: “Theory, Policy and Practice in RE – Is this a time of divergence?”
Event typeConference
LocationBirmingham, United KingdomShow on map