Sunday, January 11, 2015

Tackling blasphemy

In Defense of Blasphemy - The Daily Beast

Michael Tomasky here makes a well reasoned case for the world's governments to get serious about removing (rarely used) blasphemy laws from their own legislation, and then to put pressure on those countries where it's use really is a major issue.

From the Pew Research article that he links to:
Nine of the 50 countries in the Asia-Pacific region (18%) had blasphemy laws in 2012, and in Europe such laws were found in seven out of 45 nations (16%). In November 2012, the Dutch parliament dissolved its blasphemy law, which was drafted in the 1930s and had not been used for half a century.

In the Americas, 11 out of 35 countries (31%) had blasphemy laws, including the Bahamas, where the publication or sale of blasphemous material can be punished with up to two years imprisonment. The U.S. does not have any federal blasphemy laws, but as of 2012, several U.S. states – including Massachusetts and Michigan – still had anti-blasphemy laws on the books. However, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution would almost certainly prevent the enforcement of any such law.

In South America, Peru’s federal law does not formally prohibit blasphemy, but local government authorities have enforced penalties for it. In October 2012, a district mayor in Lima closed a public art exhibit that featured a naked statue of Christ after religious groups condemned it as blasphemy. According to the U.S. State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report, representatives of the local art community “expressed concern over censorship and freedom of speech” after the incident.

Blasphemy laws are least common in sub-Saharan Africa (three of 48 countries), according to 2012 data. In April of 2012, anti-slavery activists in Mauritania were charged and imprisoned for blasphemy after publicly burning religious texts to denounce what the activists viewed as support for slavery in Islamic commentary and jurisprudence.

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