Submission from the Manchester Buddhist
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on
the religious offences and blasphemy laws. I would like to comment
specifically on the blasphemy laws.
It is well known that the notion of a personal
God, the creator and ruler of the universe, has no place in the
Buddha's teaching, and that throughout its history Buddhism has
in fact rejected the notion as detrimental to the moral and spiritual
development of mankind. Under the present interpretation of the
law any Buddhist bearing public witness to the truth of this fundamental
tenet of Buddhism, whether in speech or writing, therefore runs
the risk of committing the crime of blasphemy and being punished
accordingly. Not only that. Any Buddhist publishing those sections
of the Buddhist scriptures in which the notion of an omniscient
and omnipotent Supreme Being is actually ridiculed by the Buddha
in terms which some would regard as being; "indecent and
offensive" in the extreme (eg Kevaddhu Sutta, Digha Nikaya
No. 11) also runs the risk of committing the crime of blasphemyeven
though the offending words were spoken 500 hundred years before
Christianity was born.
For Buddhism there is no such thing as blasphemy;
in fact Buddhism does not even have a proper term for blasphemy.
So long as blasphemy remains a criminal offence Buddhists, like
other non-Christians, do not enjoy complete freedom of expression
in religious matters and are, in effect, penalised for their beliefs.
For Buddhists in Britain, whether Eastern or Western in origin,
it therefore follows that the law of blasphemy should be abolished
altogether. It should not be extended to cover other religions.
26 June 2002