New study of Blasphemy law around the world

National Secular Society 6 December 2012

According to a Pew Forum study released last week, eight out of 45 European countries have blasphemy laws on their books while 35 of them have laws against the defamation of religion in general or hate speech against members of a faith.

The eight countries with blasphemy laws are Denmark, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands and Poland. A blasphemy law in England and Wales was scrapped in 2008.

The Netherlands and Ireland are actively considering abolition of their blasphemy laws, while Denmark's fifty year old law has never been used.

In Malta, the Constitutional Court last week upheld a censorship board decision to ban a play called Stitching for blasphemy. Ironically, the censorship board was abolished after the case was brought, but before the court decision was reached.

This led to the bizarre situation that while 'Stitching' can no longer be banned outright, its producers could be arrested for blasphemy if they went ahead and staged the play.

In Greece blasphemy cases are being actively pursued. It seems the economic crisis in which the country finds itself has led to a resurgence of power for the Greek Orthodox Church and a desire to pursue blasphemy cases.

The Pew study said blasphemy laws were more common in the Muslim world, where 13 of 20 countries in the Middle East and North Africa had them as well as nine Asian states that are mostly Muslim or, in the case of India, have a large Muslim minority.

Some 20 countries, all majority Muslim states in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, also outlaw apostasy or conversion to another religion, the Pew study said. (continue reading...)