The European Humanist Federation (EHF) and the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) together with several national partners call to abolish blasphemy laws worldwide.
In the European Union, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Spain, France (in Alsace Moselle), Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal and Slovakia still have laws relating to blasphemy, or to the similar offence of ‘religious insult’.
These laws are not just ancient, harmless laws however; they can produce very real attacks on the right to freedom of speech and expression in the modern-day, as demonstrated by the many cases reported on the campaign’s website: http://end-blasphemy-laws.org/
Outside Europe, blasphemy laws can lead to imprisonment, torture and death, as recent cases of Mauritanian Cheikh Ould M’Kheitir and Saudi Arabian Raif Badawi have shown.
Abolish All Blasphemy Laws worldwide
The End Blasphemy Laws campaign is thought to be the first campaign focusing solely on the issue of laws against “blasphemy” including “ridicule” and “insult” to religion or “hurting religious sentiments”.
The coalition behind the campaign, led by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) and the European Humanist Federation (EHF) and various national partners, represents around 200 Humanist and secular organizations globally.
Sonja Eggerickx, President of the IHEU, said “In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings there have been renewed calls to abolish ‘blasphemy’ and related laws in almost every country where they still exist. Our organizations have worked for many years to protect this important right: to question, criticise, and yes even ridicule religion. Given this new impetus to challenge these anachronistic laws, we believe that we can work together across national boundaries to support local voices calling for the repeal of all such laws.”
Eggerickx added that:
The idea that it is wrong to satirize religion, lends false legitimacy to those who murder in the name of being offended. The idea that it is taboo to question or to criticise religious authorities is one reason why sexual abuse in the Catholic Church persisted so long. The idea that “insult” to religion is a crime, is why humanists like Asif Mohiuddin are jailed in Bangladesh, is why secularists like Raif Badawi are being lashed in Saudi Arabia, is why atheists and religious minorities are persecuted in places like Afghanistan, Egypt, Pakistan, Iran, Sudan, and the list goes on!
Pierre Galand, EHF President, explained:
Our campaign does not target laws against incitement to hatred, which are legitimate. What we are concerned about is laws which restrict freedom of expression about religion. As a first step, we want to see the remaining laws against blasphemy and religious insult in Europe repealed. There is an obvious double standard issue as the EU has taken a clear stand against blasphemy laws in the world. Now it must encourage its Members States to abolish existing blasphemy laws, as recommended by the Council of Europe.
The campaign calls on transnational bodies and world leaders to look on “blasphemy” laws as they might look on law restricting press freedom: as a restriction on free expression and indicator of social harm.
EHF (European Humanist Federation)
Pierre-Arnaud Perrouty (Executive Director): T +32 4 84 18 35 35, p-a.perrouty(at)laicite.net
IHEU (International Humanist and Ethical Union)
Bob Churchill (Director of Communications): T +44 7743971937, bob.churchill(at)iheu.org