Britain is no haven for free speech (see under: libel laws). But in the LA Times, Michael McGough skewers Blair's recent proposal to effectively ban criticism of religions or their beliefs.
Best bit is a quote from gay columnist and erstwhile MP Matthew Parris, to the effect that the law might prevent him from criticizing the pope for excluding homosexuals from the priesthood. "To what kind of philosophical shambles can our Government have been reduced, when it promotes laws to criminalize me if I encourage hatred of such a Pope, yet looks away when such a Pope encourages hatred of me?"
The idea that jokes about "a priest, a rabbi and a minister" would be banned is Orwellian, but not utterly implausible. Especially if you throw in an imam, since -- reading between the lines -- the real bottom line here is the increasing danger (and ease) of pissing off unemployed, riot-and-assassination prone Muslims. Insult Roman Catholics, and you get a lecture from Bill Donohue at the Catholic League. Insult a Muslim in Europe these days, and you get the Theo van Gogh treatment. (Meanwhile, insult an Anglican, and he laughs along uncomfortably, to show you what a good sport he is. Poor buggers.)
McGough is less convincing when he addresses America's present confusion about public displays of religiosity. Oh, we're confused alright -- and badly. But our confusion isn't like the English kind. And to say any more about it would take a loooong post.