Blasphemy is Illegal?

Do you know what blasphemy is? I thought I did…but then I heard that it was illegal in Michigan. I think I knew that, actually, based on a case that made national news a few years back over someone cursing while on a canoe trip.

So, I decided to go look it up.


noun, plural blas·phe·mies.

1. impious utterance or action concerning God or sacred things.

2. Judaism.

a. an act of cursing or reviling God.

b. pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton (YHVH) in the original, now forbidden manner instead of using a substitute pronunciation such as Adonai.

3. Theology. the crime of assuming to oneself the rights or qualities of God.

4. irreverent behavior toward anything held sacred, priceless, etc.: He uttered blasphemies against life itself.

Now, that seems interesting, because while it references Judaism specifically, the rest of this is pretty generic in terms of what religions are referenced.

So what does the law say?

Act 328 of 1931
750.102 Blasphemy; punishment.
Sec. 102.
Punishment—Any person who shall wilfully blaspheme the holy name of God, by cursing or contumeliously reproaching God, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
History: 1931, Act 328, Eff. Sept. 18, 1931 ;– CL 1948, 750.102
Former Law: See section 17 of Ch. 158 of R.S. 1846, being CL 1857, § 5872; CL 1871, § 7707; How., § 9293; CL 1897, § 11706; CL 1915, § 15480; and CL 1929, § 16832.

Somewhat relatedly, the next section is the law I was remembering about the canoe:

Act 328 of 1931
750.103 Cursing and swearing
Sec. 103.
Cursing and swearing—Any person who has arrived at the age of discretion, who shall profanely curse or damn or swear by the name of God, Jesus Christ or the Holy Ghost, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. No such prosecution shall be sustained unless it shall be commenced within 5 days after the commission of such offense.
History: 1931, Act 328, Eff. Sept. 18, 1931 ;– CL 1948, 750.103
Former Law: See section 18 of Ch. 158 of R.S. 1846, being CL 1857, § 5873; CL 1871, § 7708; How., § 9294; CL 1897, § 11707; CL 1915, § 15481; and CL 1929, § 16833.

So…that’s all really specific to Christians. And that feels pretty discriminatory. We can’t use their deity’s name as a curse word, and even joking about their deity or practices is suspect.

While many people will point out that this law isn’t actively enforced, the problem with laws like this is that they can be easily added on to other charges for those who are suspected of any other crime. Get arrested for something and cuss out the cops? Now you’ve got an additional charge.

The US government has complained about other countries having laws like this, but of course, they’re still on the books in numerous US states.

What can we do about laws like this? The first thing, as always, is to contact your state representatives in both the house and the senate, along with the governor.

Contact your senators.

Contact your representatives.

Contact the governor.

Tell them that you find these laws to be discriminatory against non-Christians, and that as a voting constituent you think they should have these laws repealed. In most cases, you can do that right from the find-your-elected-official links above, without outing yourself as Pagan if you choose not to.

Published by JanetCallahan

Rev. Janet Callahan is a practicing witch, with nearly 30 years of experience. She has trained in multiple traditions and currently lives in Troy with her family.

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