Page last updated at 13:38 GMT, Sunday, 8 February 2009

Oxford MP is given secular award

Dr Evan Harris, MP for Oxford West and Abingdon
Dr Harris thinks that religion should be separate from state legislation

Evan Harris, MP for Abingdon and Oxford West, has won the Secularist of the Year Award 2009.

The Liberal Democrat was named joint winner, with Lord Avebury, for their work in abolishing the blasphemy libel law in England and Wales.

Dr Harris called the law "ancient, discriminatory and illiberal" as well as not compliant with human rights and against free speech.

The offences of blasphemous libel and blasphemy were abolished last summer.

Springer opera

The last high profile use of the law came when a Christian group tried to prosecute the BBC's director general over the screening of Jerry Springer - The Opera in 2005.

Christian Voice said it "clearly crossed the blasphemy threshold".

The case was thrown out by the High Court in 2007.

Dr Harris has also campaigned to separate religion and the state claiming the current system has a number of anomalies, including which faith schools children are admitted to.

He said religion should not be a factor in determining choice - children should just go to their local school.

The prize was handed over by Oxford professor and atheist Richard Dawkins at an awards ceremony in London on Saturday.



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