Dutch Senate votes to repeal blasphemy law from 1932

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The Netherlands has formally repealed its 80-year-old law of blasphemy nearly half a century after it was last enforced in practice.

Members of the Dutch Senate approved a motion to abolish the offence, which was passed by the Lower House in March despite resistance from the confessional Christian parties.

The law forbidding “abusive blasphemy” has been on the statue book since 1932, when a communist magazine caused a public outcry by publishing articles and cartoons that mocked religion.

It has been effectively dormant since 1968, when novelist Gerard Reve was prosecuted and acquitted of the offence, but blasphemers could still theoretically be fined or sent to prison.

One Liberal (VVD) politician told NRC: “The abolition of this law is just as symbolic as its existence.”

The Senate vote was the end of a long campaign to abolish the ban which was held back by political sensitivity. It gained momentum in the wake of the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who was stabbed to death by an Islamist fanatic in 2003.

 

Written By: Amsterdam Herald
continue to source article at amsterdamherald.com

18 COMMENTS

  1. So 34 years after it was released, I guess it’s now o.k. to screen “Monty Python’s Life Of Brian” in the Netherlands. Can a stage production of “The Book Of Mormon” be far behind?

    • In reply to #1 by IDLERACER:

      So 34 years after it was released, I guess it’s now o.k. to screen “Monty Python’s Life Of Brian” in the Netherlands. Can a stage production of “The Book Of Mormon” be far behind?

      Is it also okay to draw cartoons of Muhammed now?

    • In reply to #1 by IDLERACER:

      So 34 years after it was released, I guess it’s now o.k. to screen “Monty Python’s Life Of Brian” in the Netherlands.

      What a silly, uninformed comment! The Netherlands has been a thoroughly atheist country for decades and a front runner in rationality for centuries.

    • In reply to #1 by IDLERACER:

      So 34 years after it was released, I guess it’s now o.k. to screen “Monty Python’s Life Of Brian” in the Netherlands. Can a stage production of “The Book Of Mormon” be far behind?

      From the article:

      It has been effectively dormant since 1968, when novelist Gerard Reve was prosecuted and acquitted of the offence, but blasphemers could still theoretically be fined or sent to prison.

  2. In reply to #3 by Tahoe Blue:

    What other countries have this law, still on the books?

    Some states of Australia. Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Austria, Denmark, Canada, New Zealand, Finland, Germany, Greece, and so it goes, on and on! Unbelievable! Blasphemy, the crime against no one.

    • In reply to #4 by ArloNo:

      In reply to #3 by Tahoe Blue:

      What other countries have this law, still on the books?

      Some states of Australia. Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Austria, Denmark, Canada, New Zealand, Finland, Germany, Greece, and so it goes, on and on! Unbelievable! Blasphemy, the crime against no one.

      A few months back I sent a letter to an MP here in Finland asking her to work for repealing our blasphemy law. She belongs to the leftmost party “The Left Alliance”, which has traditionally been strongly against religions. She is a former judge, which means she has had a long career in law, she understands it very well, and the issues closest to her heart have to do with human rights and freedom of speech. I considered her the person who would be the most interested to repeal the law. A few weeks after I sent my letter she responded: “this issue is not topical at the moment”. Sigh…

  3. From the OP:

    Senators put forward a motion calling for the cabinet to extend the provisions of another law to give “adequate protection” to religious groups.

    You would think having an omnipotent deity on your side was adequate protection, wouldn’t you? I guess not.

    The religious should get no more and no less protection from the state than the rest of us do. That’s fairness.

    Anywho — talking of BLASphemy! (Sorry, someone had to :)

  4. While I am entirely in favour of getting rid of ridiculous laws such as the blasphemy laws I do believe minorities such as christians, muslims and flat-earthers should have some protection from hate speech. Such laws should of course cover non-delusional minorities as well.

    • In reply to #10 by SomersetJohn:

      While I am entirely in favour of getting rid of ridiculous laws such as the blasphemy laws I do believe minorities such as christians, muslims and flat-earthers should have some protection from hate speech. Such laws should of course cover non-delusional minorities as well.

      The Netherlands has very broad freedom of speech laws but there is a limit to what can be said in the public domain. Unlike the United States (correct me if I’m wrong) Holland has tough laws on hate speech and inciting violence. But, although the faithful always try to play that card, hate speech does not include disrespecting, criticizing or ridiculing religion, or expressing disbelief in fairy tales.

      Incidentally, the Dutch Lower House has now decided to study (again) whether the feelings of the religious are sufficiently protected by the current freedom of speech laws. It makes you mad, but this was only done to appease those who have submitted to Allah!

    • In reply to #10 by SomersetJohn:

      While I am entirely in favour of getting rid of ridiculous laws such as the blasphemy laws I do believe minorities such as christians, muslims and flat-earthers should have some protection from hate speech.

      Hate speech is a terrible concept to try and legislate for. Hate is in the ear of the beholder.

      Hate speech laws are readily and inappropriately exploitable. Far better to have an incitement to violence as the test. I am happy this is interpreted liberally by the courts such that hateful speech can be seen as incitement for individuals to take the law into their own hands. The difference being that so long as the speakers of hate always issue a sufficient caveat that they advocate only law abiding behaviour lest they be misapprehended and prosecuted, they can have their say.

      Incitement to violence as the law, liberally interpreted will force haters, to speak peace along side their hate and remove any justification of being denied free speech.

  5. On one hand religion should have no more protection than a political party against a stand-up comic ripping the piss.

    On the other hand the news in the UK and USA has seen a steady trickle of sad stories of teenagers committing suicide after being (cyber) bullied.

    I hope the difference is between a personally directed insult (bullying), and a group directed “insult” (blasphemy), and therefore they are very distinct entities, but has the science been done on how “insulting” a group is felt at the individual level? Certain vulnerable people can’t take the emotional strain of being verbally picked on.

    It will take a far better mind than mine to come up with psychology and laws that get the balance absolutely right, but they certainly shouldn’t be about giving religious belief any special privilege.

  6. In honest debate and in political campaigns, we should all be able to ridicule the ridiculous – and especially the arrogant, posturing, pompous, ridiculous:- without them having the option of calling for legal reprisals implemented and paid for by the state on their behalf!

  7. The life of Brian was released when the blasphemy laws still existed in the Uk. They were only abolished a handfull of years ago in the uk. Amazing how people are so quick to criticise others as if they were living in the dark ages when their own country has only just emerged from them.

  8. In reply to #4 by ArloNo:

    In reply to #3 by Tahoe Blue:

    What other countries have this law, still on the books?

    Some states of Australia. Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Austria, Denmark, Canada, New Zealand, Finland, Germany, Greece, and so it goes, on and on! Unbelievable! Blasphemy, the crime against no one.

    A few months back I sent a letter to an MP here in Finland asking her to work for repealing our blasphemy law. She belongs to the leftmost party “The Left Alliance”, which has traditionally been strongly against religions. She is a former judge, which means she has had a long career in law, she understands it very well, and the issues closest to her heart have to do with human rights and freedom of speech. I considered her the person who would be the most interested to repeal the law. A few weeks after I sent my letter she responded: “this issue is not topical at the moment”. Sigh…

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