Interesting 1818 Blasphemy Case:

I haven't seen it published anywhere, or cited in any articles or books on blasphemy, so I thought I'd pass it along, since it seems to be one of the few available early decisions on blasphemy. I should note that I'm passing this along solely in case people are curious about it, and in case it helps people in their research -- I'm not trying to make any statement about what the law ought to be, or even about the original meaning of the First Amendment or related state constitutional provisions.

The report is from Law Intelligence, Franklin Gazette, p. 2, Nov. 17, 1818, but it's also reprinted in much the same form in a contemporaneous newspaper article that's available here:

Mr. Bache,

The following paragraph is extracted from the Democratic Press of Saturday last --

"At a meeting of the friends of ROBERT C. MURRAY, held at the Rialto Tavern, No. 130, South Sixth Street, November 13, it was resolved that this meeting highly disaprove of the prosecution of Robert C. Murray for the expression of opinions on the subject of RELIGION, which were the opinions of Franklin and Jefferson, two of the greatest and best men, that ever lived in any age or country -- and that we now adjourn to meet again at this place, on MONDAY EVENING NEXT, at 7 o'clock, and that all enemies of Religious Persecution be invited to attend at that meeting.

JOSEPH AILES, chairman.

"John Syng, secretary."

There is in our code, an unrepealed Act of Assembly, of the year 1700, which punishes with a fine of ten pounds, for the use of the poor, or an imprisonment at hard labour for three months, whomsoever "shall willfully, premeditatedly, and despitefully, blaspheme, or speak loosely and profanely of Almighty God, Christ Jesus, the Holy Spirit or Scriptures of Truth." 1 Smith's State Laws, page 6.

Under this act, Robert C. Murray was indicted at the last Mayor's Court, for Blasphemy. His counsel entered the plea of "Not Guilty" on his behalf; and the case was, in the ordinary way, submitted to a jury of his country.

The evidence for the prosecution was brief, distinct, and forcible. Two witnesses swore that they had heard the defendant, at various times and places, utter the following language -- "That Christ was a bastard -- his mother a w---- and the bible a pack of lies."