An attempt to repeal the outdated “blasphemy” law in New Zealand has been derailed.
The existence of the laws was apparently only made known to some parliamentary and government officials earlier this month, following the publicity over an investigation into British celebrity Stephen Fry in the Republic of Ireland.
A plan to add the “blasphemy” law to a list of statutes to be repealed was quickly brought forward, but collapsed yesterday when the National Party and the Maori Party together voted it down.
Chris Hipkins, the MP who tabled a Supplementary Order Paper to add New Zealand’s blasphemy law to the Statutes Repeal Bill currently making its way through Parliament, posted on his Facebook profile saying that it was a “sad day for freedom of speech, tolerance, and leadership”, adding: “What moral authority does NZ have condemning other countries for draconian blasphemy laws when we have one of our own that we refuse to repeal?”
In a statement the Humanist Society of New Zealand (HSNZ) called the law and its retention “embarassing”. HSNZ president, Sara Passmore, said:
“This is a clear vote against human rights in New Zealand. It shows we have an illusion of a secular government, with politicians choosing personal beliefs over freedom and tolerance.
“By refusing to remove the blasphemy law from our Crimes Act, the Government is saying we are not free to criticise and challenge all ideas. This decision was backwards, and not in line with international trends. We think people, not ideas, should be protected”.
The Humanist Society of New Zealand, which represents the 41% of people in the country who are not religious, says that even blasphemy laws such as New Zealand’s that are not used can cause harm, because they legitimise human rights abuses in countries that use their blasphemy laws to persecute citizens.