Blasphemy law scrapping SNP policy

March 27, 2018

Humanist Society Scotland has welcomed news that SNP National Council have passed a motion calling on Scotland’s common law on blasphemy to be scrapped.

The motion submitted by the SNP’s Leith Branch focused on how Blasphemy laws are used around the world to persecute religious minorities and non-religious people. While Scotland’s blasphemy law has not been used for a prosecution in hundreds of years is continued existence is used by other countries to defend their own persecution.

Humanist Society Scotland has been campaigning to scrap Scotland’s common law offence of blasphemy as part of a global campaign to end these laws around the world.

If the Scottish Government were to enact the new SNP policy it would see the country join England and Wales, Denmark, Malta and Iceland as countries who have scrapped outdated and unused Blasphemy laws. In similar moves the New Zealand government have just announced their intention to scrap the Blasphemy laws there.

Fraser Sutherland, Campaign Manager of Humanist Society Scotland, said,

“Humanist Society Scotland welcomes the news that the SNP support scrapping Scotland’s outdated blasphemy laws. We look forward to the Scottish Government considering how this can be enacted in future legislation and send a message internationally that persecution of individuals using such laws is not acceptable.”

The Campaign So Far

February 2016Religion in Scots Law report by academics at University of Glasgow, funded by Humanist Society Scotland, reveals the legal detail and history of the Scottish common law offence of Blasphemy

December 2016 – Humanist Society Scotland call on the Scottish Government to show ‘moral leadership’ and scrap Scotland’s Blasphemy law in light of IHEU’s international report on persecution of Humanists around the world through Blasphemy laws

July 2017 – The Scottish Government’s Justice Secretary responds to correspondence from a Humanist Society Scotland member saying they have “no plans” to scrap the law.

August 2017 – Humanist Society Scotland gather public support through a petition calling on politicians to scrap the outdated laws.

September 2017Humanist Society Scotland submit evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee of how Blasphemy laws are used around the world to persecute Humanists and minority faith groups. The Committee agree to write to the Scottish Government to ask them to consider scrapping the law.

December 2018 – Humanist Society Scotland implore MSPs to scrap Scotland’s Blasphemy law at the annual Humanist Yuletide event in the Scottish Parliament.

January 2018 – The Edinburgh Group of Humanist Society Scotland arrange a protest against Blasphemy laws around the world on the sport where student Thomas Aikenhead was hanged for blasphemy in Edinburgh 321 years previously.

March 2018 – UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of Religion and Belief calls for the scrapping of blasphemy laws and states they are not compatible with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, signed by the UK in 1968.

European flags overlaid with the year in which blasphemy laws were scrapped in that country

Blasphemy laws were scrapped in Denmark in 2017, Malta in 2016, Iceland in 2015, and Norway in 2015.

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