Laws Penalizing Blasphemy, Apostasy and Defamation of Religion are Widespread - Pew Forum Report

Laws Penalizing Blasphemy, Apostasy and Defamation of Religion are Widespread - Pew Forum Report

The Pew Forum On Religion and Public life released a study last week CLICK HERE FOR LINK  finding that as of 2011, half of the countries and territories in the world, have laws or policies that penalize blasphemy, apostasy (abandoning one’s faith) or defamation (disparagement or criticism of particular religions or religion in general). Of the 198 countries studied, 32 (16%) have anti-blasphemy laws, 20 (10%) have laws penalizing apostasy and 87 (44%) have laws against the defamation of religion, including hate speech against members of religious groups.

Blasphemy laws in the UK were scrapped, but replaced with laws protecting religion using legislation, such as, section 5 of the public order act.

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if he:
(a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or
(b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,
within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.
This offence has the following statutory defences:
(a) The defendant had no reason to believe that there was any person within hearing or sight who was likely to be alarmed or distressed by his action.
(b) The defendant was in a dwelling and had no reason to believe that his behaviour would be seen or heard by any person outside any dwelling.
(c) The conduct was reasonable.

This has led to ridiculous applications of the law, including a man arrested for calling a police horse gay, whilst Peter Tatchell, a gay rights campaigner was arrested for insulting Islam; protesting Muslim extremists calling for the death of homosexuals. Another person, foundthemselves arrested for calling Scientology a dangerous cult.

Germany, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands and Poland. Denmark has never used its fifty year old law, and Ireland and the Netherlands are discussing the abolition of their laws. Beware, the replacement for the blasphemy law may well be more restrictive than that in place today.

The Pew report shows  blasphemy laws are more common in Muslim countries with 13 out of 20 countries in the Middle East and North Africa having them,  as well as nine Asian states, mostly Muslim or, as with India, has a large Muslim minority.

States within the Middle East, Africa and Asia, with a Muslim majority also outlaw apostasy or changing religion.

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