48 hours to End Scotland’s Blasphemy Law

A Scottish Government Consultation on Hate Crime will close on the 24th February and Humanist Society Scotland is encouraging supporters to respond and call for an end to Scotland’s Blasphemy law.

You can access the consultation by clicking here. There is no requirement to fill in all the questions but you can complete as many as you like/feel able to.

Scrapping Scotland’s Blasphemy Law

Humanist Society is encouraging our members to raise the need to scrap Scotland’s outdated Blasphemy law in Question 35 (under section 5):

35. What else do you think the Scottish Government could include in its proposals to update Scottish hate crime legislation?

You can use your own words or if you prefer use the below suggestion:

“The Scottish Government should remove the common law offence of Blasphemy.

A country that wishes to have a positive approach to Human Rights and Freedom of religion, belief and expression should not have a Blasphemy law.

By maintaining this historical Blasphemy law cover is being given to other states internationally that actively persecute religious minorities, atheists, freethinkers and others using their own Blasphemy laws.

Many other European nations, including England and Wales, have taken the same step and scrapped their Blasphemy law. Scotland is falling behind with this shameful stain on it’s Human Rights record.

By ending the Blasphemy law, Scotland would send a message that we stand side by side with campaigners in other countries and give them hope.”


You can read our Q&A on Scottish Blasphemy Laws and a blog post on the same subject to help craft your response. You might also find the information from our international partners at Humanists International campaign site useful: www.end-blasphemy-laws.org

Apostates and other freethinkers

Question 20 (Part 2) asks if the definition of religious aggravation should change in criminal law. We have concerns about the way the current law is defined. If you wish to read a longer explanation of why, we cover it in this blog post. In short summary currently for a person to be considered a victim of a religious motivated attack they must belong to a “defined religious group.” This means apostates (people who leave a religious group), atheists, Humanists and other freethinkers fall outside this definition. We are particularly concerned about apostates who are often targeted with violence for leaving a religious group.

We would ask that if you respond to question 20 to raise concern about the narrow restriction of the law to “defined religious groups”. Attacks on apostates should be considered an “aggravating factor” if that is why the individual has been targeted.

Freedom of Expression

Some parts of the consultation cover religiously motivated hate crimes and sectarianism. Humanists work for freedom of religion and belief both in Scotland and across the world. Discriminatory actions, incitement to violence, or hatred based upon a person’s race or religion or belief should not be tolerated. However, all measures to address prejudice and discrimination must be line with human rights principles, specifically the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, or belief (including the right to change your religion or belief), and the right to freedom of speech and expression.

Freedom of speech is not a luxury that is being abused nor a weapon against the oppressed, but a fundamental right that belongs to all persons in society, whether or not you agree with or like what others might have to say. It is not an optional or secondary consideration. Every person has the human right right to criticise religion or the ideas, beliefs, and practises of those professing it (or non-religious belief systems). This freedom is protected by law through Article 10 of the Human Rights Act and internationally by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is within this human rights framework that any definition of religious hate crime must be considered.

Attempts to restrict what individuals can question, criticise or debate with regard to religious (or non-religious) beliefs would be introducing a new form of Blasphemy restriction.

If you would like more help or any questions on the consultation please get in touch with our Campaigns Manager: fraser@humanism.scot


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