Campaign news

Canada repeals “blasphemy” law!

The Canadian Senate has voted to repeal the country’s “blasphemous libel”, as part of a bill intended to remove outdated legislation.

Pending “Royal Assent” this will mean the end of “blasphemy” law in Canada!

Under Section 296 of the Canadian Criminal Code, dating back to 1892 the crime of “blasphemous libel” was in principle punishable by a prison term up to two years. Despite a “good faith” provision protecting “opinion” delivered in “decent language”, the law had historically been used to prosecute satire and criticism. The last conviction as in 1927, though as late as 1979 an Anglican clergyman tried unsuccessfully to bring a prosecution against Monty Python’s The Life of Brian.

Ian Bushfield, Executive Director of the BC [British Columbia] Humanist Association, a partner in the End Blasphemy Laws campaign, comments:

The passage of this Bill is a clear recognition by Parliament that archaic restrictions on freedom of expression have no place in Canada. Further, it serves as a sign that Canada condemns those theocracies around the world that are willing to punish someone for disagreeing with religious orthodoxy.

Humanist and freethinking groups from across Canada ran a Parliamentary petition calling for the repeal of section 296, gaining 7400 signatures. In an official response to the petition from Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould, it was confirmed that the blasphemy law was being considered as part of a broader effort of justice reform. The Government then included the repeal of section 296 in a bill to modernize the criminal code. Known as Bill C-51, the act consolidates and repeals many provisions now considered archaic or unconstitutional.

As BC Humanists point out:

C-51 initially also proposed repealing section 176 of the Criminal Code. This section prohibits disrupting a religious service. Humanists argued at every stage that repealing this section would help protect the right of Canadians to dissent from religious orthodoxy. However, the Government ultimately chose to amend the section following a large and coordinated effort by religious groups to lobby the House of Commons committee that studied the bill.

The bill reached the Senate in December 2017 and passed third reading with amendments on October 30, 2018. The House of Commons considered those amendments on December 6 and 10, 2018 and ultimately rejected them. In a vote today the Senate agreed it “does not insist on its Amendments” clearing the way for its passage.

It now awaits Royal Assent by Governor General Julie Payette, at which point Canada’s blasphemy law will be officially repealed.

Congratulations to BC Humanists and all in Canada who campaigned for this change!

Blasphemy Law Abolished in Iceland!

Iceland’s parliament agreed today to abolish the blasphemy provision of the Criminal Code. The Pirate Party’s parliamentarians submitted the proposal in January, which received broad support from all other political parties in Parliament and the matter was unanimously supported by the committee examining the proposal. Icelanders have now taken an important step in guaranteeing human rights and joined other nations which respect freedom of speech and expression. Continue reading »

How our partners responded on Copenhagen

Flowers laid at the synagogue, after a gunman killed two people in two separate attacks in the Danish capital at the weekend

Flowers laid at the Great Synagogue in Copenhagen

Many of our partner organisations made statements in response to the tragic shootings in Copenhagen at the weekend.

A lone gunman targeted a cafe hosting a seminar on “Art, Blasphemy and Freedom of Expression”, then the Great Synagogue in Copenhagen, leaving two victims dead and five police and security officers injured. He was later killed by police. Continue reading »

Reaction to our new International Coalition

Our campaign was launched last Friday, by a brand new International Coalition Against Blasphemy Laws.

Initially a merger of two parallel efforts by humanist, atheist and other secular organizations, we’re pleased to announce today that in the first week we’ve been joined by several religious organizations speaking out against “blasphemy” laws; mostly these groups describe themselves as liberal Muslim groups or in similar terms; in addition we welcome various ex-Muslim, human rights, some Christian, and further secular and freethought groups. See our Partners page for the full and growing list of partners in this extraordinary coalition. Continue reading »

Let’s abolish all blasphemy laws, worldwide

A new international campaign launches today, Friday 30 January, aimed at abolishing “blasphemy laws” worldwide.

The End Blasphemy Laws campaign is thought to be the first campaign focusing solely on the issue of laws against “blasphemy” including “ridicule” and “insult” to religion or “hurting religious sentiments”. Continue reading »