“Blasphemy” law ended: 2015!

Norway’s “blasphemy” law had actually been voted down in 2009, but the change was not legally implemented. Following the Charlie Hebdo massacre in January 2015 there were renewed calls to formalize the abolition. The law was finally abolished in May 2015.

The “blasphemy” law was already in disuse by the time it was abolished. The writer and social activist Arnulf Øverland was the last person to be tried under the law, in 1933, for giving a speech entitled “Christianity – the tenth plague”, but was acquitted. The last successful prosecution was against Arnfred Olsen in 1912, who was fined.

The Norwegian Parliament, the Stortinget, voted down the “blasphemy” law (section 142 of the penal code) in 2009. However, due to technical difficulties, computer systems used by police and prosecutors had still not been updated in 2015.

In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, in Paris on 7 January 2015, a proposal to force the change through was brought by the MPs Anders B. Werp (Conservative ) and Jan Arild Ellingsen (Progress Party). They argued that the law “underpins a perception that religious expressions and symbols are entitled to a special protection… This is very unfortunate signal to send, and it is time that society clearly stands up for freedom of speech.”

There was opposition from some Christian lawmakers; a spokesperson for the Christian Democrat party reportedly said the abolition “…is a symbol of the cultural suicide… Today we have no value basis. Although the Constitution states that Christianity and humanism constitute the foundation of the state, its sense has been lost.”