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Blasphemy Act 1697

The Blasphemy Act 1697[1][2]
Long title An Act for the more effectual suppressing of Blasphemy and Profaneness.[3]
Citation 9 Will 3 c 35
Territorial extent England and Wales
Repealed 21 July 1967[4]
Other legislation
Repealed by The Criminal Law Act 1967, section 13(2) and Part I of Schedule 4
Status: Repealed
Text of statute as originally enacted

The Blasphemy Act 1697 (9 Will 3 c 35) was an Act of the Parliament of England. It made it an offence for any person, educated in or having made profession of the Christian religion, by writing, preaching, teaching or advised speaking, to deny the Holy Trinity, to claim there is more than one god, to deny the truth of Christianity and to deny the Bible as divine authority.

The first offence resulted in being rendered incapable of holding any office or place of trust. The second offence resulted in being rendered incapable of bringing any action, of being guardian or executor, or of taking a legacy or deed of gift, and three years imprisonment without bail.

The Act was directed against apostates at the beginning of the deist movement in England, particularly after the 1696 publication of John Toland's book Christianity Not Mysterious.

It was rarely applied: the legislation allowed only four days after the offence for a formal complaint to be lodged and the trial itself was required to be held within three months.[5] As a result, existing common law process continued to be the first line against heterodoxy in England and Wales.

The Trinitarian provision was amended by the Doctrine of the Trinity Act 1813 to remove the penalties from Unitarians.

The Law Commission said that they were not aware of any prosecutions that had taken place under this Act.[6]

On 24 May 1966, the Law Commission said that the offence created by this statute was obsolete and recommended that the whole Act be repealed.[7] Their recommendation was implemented by section 13(2) of, and Part I of Schedule 4 to, the Criminal Law Act 1967.[8]

For the effect of this Act on the common law offences, see Blasphemy law in the United Kingdom#Relationship between the common law and statutory offences.

See also


  1. ^ The citation of this Act by this short title was authorised by section 5 of, and Schedule 2 to, the Statute Law Revision Act 1948. Due to the repeal of those provisions, it is now authorised by section 19(2) of the Interpretation Act 1978.
  2. ^ This Act might be referred to as the Blasphemy Act 1698 in some sources due to the situation that existed before the passing of the Acts of Parliament (Commencement) Act 1793.
  3. ^ These words are printed against this Act in the second column of Schedule 2 to the Statute Law Revision Act 1948, which is headed "Title".
  4. ^ The relevant provisions of the Criminal Law Act 1967 came into force on the date that that Act received royal assent because no other date was specified: The Acts of Parliament (Commencement) Act 1793.
  5. ^
  6. ^ The Law Commission. Offences against and public worship. Working paper no. 79. para. 2.24 at p. 28: "there had been few if any prosecutions under it"
  7. ^ The Law Commission. Proposals to Abolish Certain Ancient Criminal Offences. Law Com 3. 24 May 1966. para. 6(c) and 7 and draft clause at p. 4, 5 and 7.
  8. ^ The Law Commission. Offences against religion and public worship. Working paper no. 79. para. 2.24 at p. 28


  • Webb, R.K. "From Toleration to Religious Liberty" Liberty Secured? Britain before and after 1688 Edited by J.R. Jones (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992) p 162 ISBN 0-8047-1988-8
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