Germany

Blasphemy with prison sentencesAlthough the German constitution precludes a state church, some religious communities and the two official churches, benefit from a broad range of privileges and advantages. The law on “Defamation of religions” is potentially very broad in application and punishable with a prison sentence.

166 of the criminal code still contains a “blasphemy” law which shields special religious as well as other philosophical views from criticism or defamation:

Defamation of religions, religious and ideological associations

(1) Whosoever publicly or through dissemination of written materials (section 11(3)) defames the religion or ideology of others in a manner that is capable of disturbing the public peace, shall be liable to imprisonment not exceeding three years or a fine.

(2) Whosoever publicly or through dissemination of written materials (section 11(3)) defames a church or other religious or ideological association within Germany, or their institutions or customs in a manner that is capable of disturbing the public peace, shall incur the same penalty.

Though all cast in terms of “disturbing the public peace”, this is much broader than, for example “incitement to hatred or violence” and is in tension with the EU Guidelines on Freedom of Religion or Belief, which delineate expressions that are intentionally inciting violence against persons, from expressions which may happen to lead to violence because someone hearing those expressions responds violently. The former is legitimately restricted, but the latter, which could fall under the broad description “capable of disturbing the public peace”, means that the law can be used to suppress merely critical or ridiculing speech acts.

Humanists have been campaigning for the repeal of the “Defamation of religions” law. There is a petition at: https://epetitionen.bundestag.de/content/petitionen/_2015/_01/_08/Petition_56759.html