Wingrove v. United Kingdom

App. No. 17419/90, 1996-V Eur. Ct. Hum. Rts. (1996)

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Wingrove v. United Kingdom

European Court of Human Rights
App. No. 17419/90, 1996-V Eur. Ct. Hum. Rts. (1996)

Facts

Nigel Wingrove (plaintiff) created an erotic video depicting the crucified body of Christ. The British Board of Film Classification (the board) denied Wingrove a certificate needed to enable distribution of the video. The United Kingdom (defendant) had a law against blasphemy, which related to the Christian faith only. The board determined that the depictions in the film violated this law. The European Commission on Human Rights (the commission) determined that the refusal to grant Wingrove a certificate violated Article 10(2) of the European Convention on Human Rights (the convention), which recognized the duties and responsibilities associated with the exercise of freedom of expression and permitted restrictions that were legally prescribed and necessary to protect things, such as public safety, morals, and the rights of other people. The commission referred the case to the European Court of Human Rights (the court). The board’s aim for the interference was to guard against the presentation of a religious subject in a manner that was bound to outrage persons with an affinity for the Christian story due to the video’s scurrilous, reviling, and insulting style and spirit. National authorities determined that the manner of the images depicted was not about expressing the erotic feelings of the characters but of the audience, as with pornography. The blasphemy law did not prohibit the expression of views that were antagonistic to Christianity or offensive to Christians. Rather, the law sought to control the manner in which views were expressed, not the views themselves. The law was concerned with the level of insult to religious sensibilities that rose to the level of contemptuous and reviling. The law required a high level of profanation, which guarded against its arbitrary application, as was evidenced by the fact that Britain had only brought prosecutions under the law twice in the past 70 years. The court viewed the video before rendering its opinion.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

Dissent (Lohmus, J.)

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