Stephen Fry case sounds death knell for blasphemy law in NZ

Stephen Fry case sounds death knell for blasphemy law in NZ

The foolish police investigation of Stephen Fry for allegedly blaspheming on TV in Ireland has prompted New Zealand to scrap its blasphemy law.

According to this report,  David Seymour, above, leader of ACT, a minor opposition party, instigated the move, saying lawmakers of all stripes wanted to end what they saw as an archaic curb on freedom of speech.

New Zealanders cherish the fact that we have strong separation between church and state. So when people discovered that there was a law that meant you could spend a year in jail for offending someone of a religious persuasion there was widespread condemnation.

Seymour, an enthusiastic supporter of gay rights and an assisted dying advocate, will notify parliament today (Thursday)  that he intends to include blasphemy on a list of laws that are scheduled to be scrapped.

He added that the government had agreed to the move and the repeal should be complete by the end of the month.

Seymour said his bid to repeal the law was prompted by the Irish police probe into whether Fry blasphemed in a 2015 television interview when he denounced God as “utterly evil, capricious and monstrous”.

While the Irish investigation was dropped this week, it led to New Zealanders reviewing their laws and finding blasphemy was still on the statute books.

The news came as a surprise to many, including devout Catholic Prime Minister Bill English, who said:

It’s basically an accident of history … I can’t imagine a use for it.  I think laws that over-reach on addressing robust speech are not a good idea … frankly, I didn’t think we had it, I thought it had gone.

Lawmakers from the majority of political parties, including opposition Labour leader Andrew Little, all voiced support for repealing the law.

Anglican Archbishop Philip Richardson also backed the move:

My view is, God’s bigger than needing to be defended by the Crimes Act.

Blasphemy has been an offence since 1840, when New Zealand became a British colony, and was included in a revamp of the criminal code in 1961. But no one has ever been convicted of the crime.

13 responses to “Stephen Fry case sounds death knell for blasphemy law in NZ”

  1. Robster says:

    That’s good then.

  2. 1859 says:

    And you can be legally married in NZ in a Flying Spaghetti Monster ceremony performed by a ‘Pasta’.
    As an NZ citizen myself , I’m proud that we have 40 million sheep and 4.5 million people which thus makes a vast movement of 44.5 million atheists. Tremendous!

  3. Paul says:

    No! No! No!
    NZ has 29.5 million sheep of which 4.6 million think they’re people.
    (Ozzie joke).
    Govt statistics

  4. Club Secretary says:

    I am always suspicious when politicians and the church agree on something.

    There is going to be a catch in the repeal.

  5. barriejohn says:

    Club Sec: Yes. They’ll replace it with “hate speech” laws, where anyone making a statement which someone else THINKS might offend a mythical third person can be prosecuted (the sort of thing that the Nazis would have had wet dreams about).

  6. 1859 says:

    @barriejohn: Sheep do not understand ‘hate’. Therefore there will be no laws against ‘hate speech’. But I’ll keep my ear to the ground and let you know what happens.

  7. barriejohn says:

    Where did I mention sheep?

  8. 1859 says:

    @barriejohn et al: I’ve just been informed that all our NZ sheep have PhD s in astrophysics, and sordid human emotions such as hate, intolerance and fundamentalism etc., have long ago been discarded by them as belonging to a subspecies. As I drive through our beautiful green, sunny hills, I often see our sheep debating the inevitability of sexual pluralism, the origins of the cosmos and the implications it has on string theory and the ultimate singularity.But if I lean over the fence and mention the topic of a ‘deity’, they lie down, roll over and laugh – clearly regarding me as an evolutionary dead end. They are militant atheists to a sheep. I’m in such good company.

  9. barriejohn says:

    The news sites are full of this story (well – they do love anything to do with animals):

    (Is that what might be termed “trans-speciesism”?)

  10. […] week we reported that New Zealand was on the brink of scrapping its blasphemy laws, but today, to the anger of many, politicians voted to keep them. At least for a while […]