It's worth noting that under English law it's impossible to libel a dead person. You simply cannot bring a case for libel if the person alleged to have been libelled is now dead, because the dead have no reputation.

What does this say about the verdict of blasphemous libel in the case of James Kirkup's poem? Well, even if you accept that it's libel to say that someone has had gay sex when it hasn't been proven that they have, it can only matter if Jesus, or the centurion, are still alive.

Well, they lived 2000 years ago. They're not alive in the usual way of things. But it is the belief of Christianity that Jesus was resurrected to eternal life. So, if you accept a Christian viewpoint, he's still alive.

Which brings me to the other bit of the charge against Denis Lemon and Gay News, that of blasphemy. The only church protected under English blasphemy law is the Church of England. So the poem has to have blasphemed against that church in particular. I'm not aware that they specifically say that Jesus wasn't gay, but, what the hell, they were upset, and they're the established church.

In making that conviction for blasphemous libel, the court upheld the discriminatory blasphemy laws, and accepted as plain fact the Christian doctrine on the resurrection.

The poem was the subject of the first conviction for blasphemous libel for 50 years, in 1977. There haven't been any convictions since. Draw your own conclusions.

The poem is also available online: