Blasphemy restricted in lawWhile the constitution and other laws and policies generally protect freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as freedom of expression, there are nevertheless restrictions on speech that might offend religious feelings.

Section 188 of the Austrian Criminal Code, called ‘Vilification of Religious Teachings’, criminalizes:

“Anyone who publicly disparages a person or thing that is the object of worship of a domestic church or religious society, or a doctrine, [or other] behavior is likely to attract legitimate offense…”

This de facto ‘blasphemy’ law has been used in practice to prosecute and fine individuals.

On Dec. 11, 2009, Catholic clerics in Vienna sued the cartoonist Manfred Deix for two drawings on the website which depict God and the EU prohibition against crucifixes in schools, respectively.

On Jan. 22, 2009, the Austrian politician Susanne Winter was sentenced at a court in Graz to pay a $24,000 fine for “humiliating a religion” by saying, among other things, that Mohammed was a paedophile.

On Dec. 11, 2010, 63-year-old Helmut G. was convicted for offending his Muslim neighbor by yodeling while lawn mowing. The neighbor claimed Helmet was trying to mock and imitate the Muezzin, the Muslim call to prayer.

On Jan. 15, 2011, Elizabeth Sabaditsch-Wolf was convicted of offending religion because she exclaimed, about the Prophet Mohammed’s nine-year-old wife, “If that is not paedophilia, what is it?”