Blasphemy in Europe news

Three pieces of blasphemy news from Europe today, and they are all good.

Firstly, the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission, the body’s constitutional law experts, advised that “blasphemy” should not be a criminal offence. They affirmed that blasphemy is part of a person’s freedom of expression, and was thus protected speech. “Incitement to religious hatred” on the other hand, should be illegal.

Secondly, the Norwegian parliament voted overwhelmingly to remove the “blasphemy paragraph” from a raft of new legislation. It was replaced with an additional paragraph on racism. Only the Christian People’s Party wanted blasphemy to be formally criminalised, as a “symbolic law.”

Finally, the counter-intuitively good news from the Netherlands is that the cabinet has dropped plans to scrap the current blasphemy law. Why is this good news? Because, as we reported back in November 2008, the blasphemy law was set to be replaced by something much worse.

The intention is to introduce the concept of “indirect insult” and expand an existing law which protects people on the basis of race, age, disability, and sexual orientation to include protection on the basis of religion or “conviction”. This means that remarks directed at Islam, Christianity, Buddism or – depending on your interpretation of “conviction” – even homeopathy and astrology, could be interpreted as indirect insults to people, and prosecuted as such.

The new law would have carried a far stiffer sentence, too.

Ultimately, the Dutch blasphemy law has to be repealed. But in the meantime, the status quo is preferable to the free-speech disaster that could have replaced it.

5 Responses to “Blasphemy in Europe news”

  1. barriejohn says:

    Wow! So much “good news” in one day? I can hardly cope! (However, being a natural-born sceptic, I`m still looking at the small print!!)

  2. Huzzah!

    One in the eye of Blasphemy from rationalists – is there any news on the Irish Blasphemy Law as yet?

    BTW The Dutch Law sounds like a complete non starter – everyone can be offended by anything it seems so not legislating and letting people get on with it insulted or not is the best way. Religion offends me on a daily basis and I am not sueing.


  3. Good up to a point, I would say the news is. The ‘incitement to religious hatred’ bit is not so good. I get that it is possible to use religion as a proxy for more gut-level kinds of other-hatred and group-hatred, but I also get that it’s difficult if not impossible to craft laws against it without threatening the necessary freedom to criticize religion. In short there’s too much overlap between a blasphemy law and an incitement to religious hatred law.

    • Monitor says:

      You are right, Ophelia. Incitement to religious hatred laws are very problematic. I was perhaps putting an overly-optimistic spin on the news.

      • barriejohn says:

        Yes, as soon as you post a comment critical of Islam on these blogs some arrogant Mohammedan pops up and accuses us of “racism”! They have no idea what the term really means, and with their very thin skins I see nothing but trouble ahead there, I`m afraid!!