The Doctrine of the Trinity Act 1813 (53 Geo. III c. 160. sometimes called the Trinitarian Act 1812) was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It amended the Blasphemy Act 1697 in respect of its Trinitarian provisions.
The Blasphemy Act 1697 (9 Will 3 c 35) was an Act of the Parliament of England. It made it an offense for any person, educated in or having made profession of the Christian religion, by writing, preaching, teaching, or advised speaking, to deny the Holy Trinity, to claim there is more than one god, to deny “the truth” of Christianity and to deny the Bible as divine authority.
The first offense resulted in being rendered incapable of holding any office or place of trust. The second offense resulted in being rendered incapable of bringing any action, of being guardian or executor, or of taking a legacy or deed of gift, and three years imprisonment without bail.
The Act was directed against apostates at the beginning of the deist movement in England, particularly after the 1696 publication of John Toland’s book Christianity Not Mysterious.
It was rarely applied: the legislation allowed only four days after the offense for a formal complaint to be lodged, and the trial itself was required to be held within three months. As a result, existing common law process continued to be the first line against heterodoxy in England and Wales.
The Trinitarian provision was amended by the Doctrine of the Trinity Act 1813 to remove the penalties from Unitarians.
The Law Commission said that they were not aware of any prosecutions that had taken place under this Act.
The Doctrine of the Trinity Act, passed July 21, was also variously known as the Unitarian Relief Act (Trinity Act), The Unitarian Toleration Bill, and Mr William Smith’s Bill, after Whig politician William Smith.
The Act granted toleration for Unitarian worship, as previously the Act of Toleration 1689 had only granted toleration to those Protestant dissenters who accepted the Trinity.
Before the Act it was against the law to be a Muslim in Britain. The Act has been regarded as legalizing the practice of Islam, which does not have a Trinitarian doctrine; however as the Blasphemy Act applied only to those educated in or having made profession of the Christian religion, the amending Act would in theory have applied to converts only to Islam and even then would not have allowed them to refuse to accept the Christian religion.
On 24 May 1966, the Law Commission said that the offense created by this statute was obsolete and recommended that the whole Act be repealed. Their recommendation was implemented by section 13(2) of, and Part I of Schedule 4 to, the Criminal Law Act 1967. The Blasphemy Act was repealed in 1967, implicitly taking the Doctrine of the Trinity Act with it.