Sunday, December 15, 2013

Netherlands to outlaw serious insult to religion

The Irish Constitutional Convention recently voted to recommend the offence of blasphemy in the Constitution be replaced with a "general provision to include incitement to religious hatred" and for the introduction of a "new set of detailed legislative provisions to include incitement to religious hatred."

Secular groups and supporters of free speech expressed concern, arguing incitement to religious hatred is already covered by existing laws and new legislation may prevent the criticism of religious organizations. My earlier post on the subject is here :
Ireland to review constitutional blasphemy clause.

The Netherlands is facing a similar battle to overturn their blasphemy laws with the dutch government reliant upon the votes of small Christian parties. A compromise was recently reached, but much like Ireland, it may serve to hamper criticism of religion instead of promoting free speech:

As a compromise, another parliamentary decision was approved that will permit an amendment to another statute in order to outlaw "serious insult to religion".
Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: "The blasphemy law in the Netherlands was more or less a dead duck anyway and hasn't been used for decades. Courts regarded it as unusable. Introducing something else in its place could be very much worse. Protecting religion from 'insult' gives the green light to every extremist in the country to start using the law to try to restrict free speech."
National Secular Society - Netherlands scraps blasphemy law

Most people recognize blasphemy laws are archaic and largely unenforceable in Western countries. But why risk replacing an unenforceable law with an enforceable equivalent? How is that progress? Why is religion so special that it must be protected from insult?

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