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Wingrove v. UK , (Application no. 17419/90) Judgment of 25.11.96, RJD 1996-V; 24 EHRR  

Facts: the applicant challenged the refusal of British authorities to grant a distribution certificate for a videotape. The authorities determined that the videotape, which portrayed the crucified Christ in acts of a sexual nature with a nun,violated blasphemy laws.

Holding: the Court found no violation of article 10 of the Convention.

Reasoning: blasphemy laws can be necessary in a democratic society and compatible with the Convention only if there is a balance of proportionality between the manner in which the antireligious sentiment is expressed and the state's penalties. National authorities must therefore be afforded a degree of flexibility in assessing whether the facts of a particular case fall within the accepted definition of the offence. It is not blasphemous to speak or publish opinions hostile to the Christian religion' if the publication is 'decent and temperate'. As regards Article 9, the court observed that freedom of expression incorporates duties as well as responsibilities which, 'in the context of religious belief, may legitimately be included a duty to avoid as far as possible an expression that is, in regard to objects of veneration, gratuitously offensive to others and profanatory.'


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