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Iceland scraps its blasphemy law

Iceland scraps its blasphemy law

Churches in Iceland – with the exception of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland headed by Agnes M Sigurðardóttir, above – have reacted with outrage to the news that the country is to repeal its blasphemy law.

According to this report, the Lutherans, Iceland’s national church, was supportive of the Pirate Party’s campaign to scrap the 75-year-old law. It said that:

Any legislative power limiting freedom of expression … is at variance with modern-day attitudes towards human rights and the view that freedom of expression is one of the most important cornerstones of democracy and freedom.

It added that it thought it was:

Fundamental to a free society that people should be able to express themselves without fear of punishment.

But the Catholic church of Iceland, the Pentecostal church and a section of the  Evangelical Lutheran Church in Iceland’s eastern province all opposed the plan to repeal the law.

The Catholics said:

For people of faith, religion and the image of God are important aspects of their existence, identity and dignity, and this should be protected by law.

Should freedom of expression go so far as to mean that the identity of a person of faith can be freely insulted, then the personal freedom – as individuals or groups – is also undermined.

It added:

Unlimited and unrestricted freedom of expression, without any sense of responsibility or natural social constraints, may lead to psychological abuse of individuals or groups. The Catholic church in Iceland cannot and will not accept this new possibility of inflicting psychological abuse on individuals or groups.

The “Fíladelfía” Pentecostal church asked:

Does a person’s human rights include the right to mock the beliefs of others? Do people really need the right openly to incite contempt for a given group of people on the grounds of their faith?

It continued:

Repealing existing legislation on blasphemy is tantamount to legalising hate speech. Current legislation does not ban freedom of expression or criticism of religion – it bans parody, irony and prejudice-inciting expression.

But according to the Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association, the new law passed to repeal the blasphemy legislation contained provisions prohibiting hate speech.

The bill that introduced the repeal read:

Freedom of expression is one of the cornerstones of democracy. It is fundamental to a free society that people should be able to express themselves without fear of punishment, whether from the authorities or from other people.

For the record, Icelanders are a pretty godless bunch. A 2011 Gallup Poll found it to be one of the world’s most irreligious nations, with 60 per cent of the population saying religion was unimportant in their daily lives.

And Sigurðardóttir is a liberal who declared in 2013 that the Icelandic church had dropped its moral and theological objections to homosexual conduct in 2010 and now is a whole-hearted supporter of gay rights.

She was speaking after a row erupted when it became known the the church planned to participate in a Reykjavík Festival of Hope rally led by the anti-gay US evangelist Franklin Graham, who recently switched his account from one gay-friendly bank to another.

Go figure.

Hat tip: Marcus Robinson, BarrieJohn, Paul & Trevor Blake.

13 responses to “Iceland scraps its blasphemy law”

  1. barriejohn says:

    Jesus Christ Almighty, that’s good news.

    And Agnes’s outfit’s a bit ruff!

  2. Laura Roberts says:

    “Does a person’s human rights include the right to mock the beliefs of others? Do people really need the right openly to incite contempt for a given group of people on the grounds of their faith?”

    (1) Absolutely, yes.
    (2) Absolutely, yes. You do it all the time, so why shouldn’t others?

    Next stupid question?

  3. Angela_K says:

    If people are daft enough to cling to silly superstitious beliefs, we are going to point and laugh – and draw cartoons.

    @Barriejohn “…..look like a bird that has swallowed a plate Lord Percy”

  4. barriejohn says:

    Angela: Hahaha – yes! Even the protestants have a desire to wear a silly uniform, for some strange reason.

  5. Vanity Unfair says:

    To Angela K and barriejohn:
    My first thought was Miranda Hart as a bishop. Must watch that.

    “The Catholics said:
    For people of faith, religion and the image of God are important aspects of their existence, identity and dignity, and this should be protected by law.”
    They could always try to take out trade mark protection on the “image of God.” That means that first they will have to define the image in order to protect it or make multiple applications for variant images. Then they will have to remember to renew the registration. What the other denominations will make of this is open to question.
    In the UK the Authorized Version (King James Version) of the Bible has perpetual copyright protection for the Crown, administered by the Cambridge University Press.
    The infallible word of God belongs to Queen Elizabeth (sort of).

  6. Broga says:

    OT but worth the divergence. I recommend Bart Stanek’s “From Cradle to Coffin the church owns you” in Reviews and Opinion. Not to be missed.

  7. barriejohn says:

    Vanity Unfair: “Bear with! Bear with!”

    Should freedom of expression go so far as to mean that the identity of a person of faith can be freely insulted, then the personal freedom – as individuals or groups – is also undermined.

    Absolute gobbledygook. Everybody’s beliefs, opinions, attitudes, etc, in every sphere of life are open to challenge and ridicule. It’s called freedom of expression, and it is how the human race advances intellectually (with difficulty).

  8. […] news that Iceland has scrapped its blasphemy law, it is reported here that Brazilian authorities are contemplating legislation that would ban […]

  9. 1859 says:

    ‘Does a person’s human rights include the right to mock the beliefs of others? Do people really need the right openly to incite contempt for a given group of people on the grounds of their faith?’

    Yes! Yes! Yes!
    I gladly give to those who wish to mock me the right to do so. I will protect and endorse anyone’s right to incite contempt for me because I’m an atheist!

    Well done Iceland!

  10. Newspaniard says:

    Following this example would be for our parliament to abolish the new draconian legislation which “replaced” UK blasphemy laws.

  11. barriejohn says:

    1859 et al: Because believers would never ridicule those with differing views to their own, would they?

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2015/06/15/ken-ham-atheism-is-harmful-superstition/

  12. It is odd that Christians want blasphemy banned when their own religion blasphemes decency? Consider the violence commanded by God in the Old Testament and which was justified by Jesus in the New? Jesus even told the Jews off for not killing people who cursed their parents anymore. He pointed out that God wanted them murdered.

    Believers in the Bible are taking responsibility for its contents and what it asks people to do. They are also taking responsibility for the attempts made by theologians, clergy and others who attempt to condone and excuse and make light of the evil commanded by the God whom the Bible claims is its ultimate author. If you really understand suffering and how terrible and intolerable it is, you will not lightly say, “It is God’s plan.” You would need to be willing to fix all that suffering if possible before you would have the right to say such a thing. The comfort some (not all!) get or say they get from people telling them God has a plan is misplaced.
    Leave those religions of the Bible – they have no moral authority to call you a member or require that you should be one. To honour them is to honour their holy books indirectly. And those books are evil rather than holy.

    The Bible is full of violence, nonsense and hate. No wonder believers pick out the nice bits and pretend the evil commands are not there. If you really believe the Bible properly you will not treat it like that! There is something vulgar about cherry-picking a book that is supposedly from God like that. It is like saying, “This book is my authority. It is more important and sacred than any other book. Yet I will pick and choose from it.” It is accepting the Bible as inspired but with a “but”. The Bible deserves no honour not even this begrudging hypocritical honour. You drop bad scriptures like they are burning coals put into your hands.
    When a holy book commands murder or violence, it should be dismissed as unholy – no ifs or buts. It should be discarded immediately. There are certain evils you must not look for excuses or reasons for. And holy books that honour a God who commands violence are top of the list.

  13. dennis says:

    @Patrick Gormely ” well said.
    sunday school ” Ms Evans why do we not read verse 6. we missed it?”
    ” Dennis that verse is not important.”
    well old dennis went back and read it and he read others that were not important. yes, they were more than important than the convoluted cherry picking I was getting. thank you Ms Evans