Is blasphemy coming back?

As Reverend Mother would say ‘when the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window’. Not long after the UK has removed the crime of Blasphemy from its lawbooks, the UN has passed a draft resolution on ‘Defamation of Religion’. The draft resolution was passed on the 24th of November 2008 and calls on member states to amend laws and constitutions to prevent ‘Defamation of Religion’. This would conflict with the rights to freedom of opinion and expression (article 19) and freedom of thought, conscience and religion (article 18) as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

At the risk of repeating myself, I should state once more that blasphemy laws are a bad idea. In the luxury of a mostly democratic and tolerant society, blasphemy laws are mostly impractical and silly, but in other countries holding the ‘wrong’ beliefs religious or otherwise can lead to persecution and even death. People and society need to discuss, criticise, mock and examine the beliefs that they hold and which others proport they should hold. No idea should be immune from discussion and criticism, be it scientific, political or religious. Equally, individuals should not be persecuted because of their beliefs, religious or otherwise. The way forward is a secular world where all worldviews are treated equally and none are privileged. There is already provision in criminal law for those who bring others to harm, we do not need extra legislation which is vaguely worded and open to interpretation which may include the persecution of people with beliefs other than those preferred by a given institution, regime or ruler.

Some coverage of the resolution can be found here, here and here. You can read impassioned criticism of the ‘Defamation of Religion’ from the Not-Quite-So-Friendly Humanist and others. Recent reactions from the International Humanist and Ethical Union to the progress of the draft through the UN can be found here and here.

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