Scottish Government must show moral leadership and repeal Scottish blasphemy law

Scottish Government must show moral leadership and repeal Scottish blasphemy law  – says Scottish Humanists as new report shows blasphemy and apostasy remains illegal in 59 countries across the world.

Humanist Society Scotland has called upon the Scottish Government to show moral leadership by repealing Scotland’s blasphemy law. The call comes in response to a new international report on discrimination and persecution against the non-religious by the International Humanist and Ethical Union.

The report records discrimination and persecution against humanists, atheists, and the non-religious, with a country-by-country assessment. The report finds that “blasphemy” is outlawed in at least 59 countries where it is punishable with a prison term or in some cases by death. There are laws against apostasy in 22 countries. At least 13 countries provide for the use of the death penalty for blasphemy or apostasy.

In a foreword by Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations’ recently appointed  Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief,  laws against blasphemy and ‘apostasy’ (converting or leaving religion) are shown to be exploited as political tools often used against non-religious people.

Mr Shaheed wrote:

“While anyone can run afoul of these laws, and often there are allegations of the use of such laws for political purposes, these laws potentially automatically criminalize dissent and free-thinking, and victimize “non-believers”, humanists and atheists. What is even more shocking is the cruelty with which those who are accused of violating these laws are often punished– by state agents or by non-state actors, including neighbours and relatives.”

Gordon MacRae, HSS Chief Executive

Gordon MacRae, HSS Chief Executive

Commenting on the release of the Freedom of Thought Report, Humanist Society Scotland Chief Executive Gordon MacRae said:

“This year’s Freedom of Thought Report demonstrates the danger experienced by people who express a non-religious world view across the globe.

“Here in Scotland, Humanists, atheists, agnostics and free-thinkers enjoy freedoms and respect that would be denied elsewhere. However, as our Religion in Scots Law report highlighted earlier this year, Scotland remains a nation with a law against blasphemy still on the books. That should be a badge of shame for any progressive nation. That is why we are calling on the Scottish Government to show moral leadership and to take a stand as citizens of the world by repealing that law and calling for all other nations to put equality, human rights and liberty first.”

President of the International Humanist Ethical Union, Andrew Copson, said:

“Making this report accessible online all round the world comes at a crucial juncture in world affairs. … the rights and equality of the non-religious are under threat and there is an upsurge in the suppression of humanist values more broadly. Serious damage is being done to the brand of democracy, to secularism, and there are new threats to all our liberties.”

ENDS

Notes to editors
1.   Humanist Society Scotland is the national charity for people in Scotland aiming to lead a fulfilling live based on ethical, rational and secular values. HSS has more than 14,000 members and our 110 HSS Registered Celebrant conduct more than 3,500 weddings and funerals every year. To find out more about our work visit www.humanism.scot
2. HSS funded Religion in Scots Law Report – https://www.humanism.scot/what-we-do/research/religion-in-scots-law/
3. The Freedom of Thought Report 2016, produced by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), records discrimination and persecution against humanists, atheists, and the non-religious, with a country-by-country assessment. The report finds that “blasphemy” is outlawed in at least 59 countries where it is punishable with a prison term or in some cases by death. There are laws against apostasy in 22 countries. At least 13 countries provide for the use of the death penalty for blasphemy or apostasy.

Now in its fifth annual edition, the Freedom of Thought Report is now hosted online (at freethoughtreport.com from 6 December 2016), with interactive pages for every country in the world.

The report also examines the rise of populist parties and leaders, and how in some cases they are giving rise to a new breed of “traditionalist and religious authoritarianism”. With examples from recent presidential elections in Bulgaria, Moldova, the United States, and current governments including Poland and Hungary, the report’s editor Bob Churchill draws attention to “the very real risk in some countries that under nationalistic populism the rights of the liberal religious and the non-religious to manifest certain humanist values may be degraded or even lost.”

The Freedom of Thought Report is published at http://freethoughtreport.com.
For further infomation or comment about the report’s impact in Scotland call Gary McLelland on 07813060713 or gary@humanism.scot.
For further information, advance copies, graphics, interview or comment please email: report@iheu.org or call +44 207 490 8468 (UK office hours)

OPEN DATA Data from the Report is freely available under Creative Commons license. See: freethoughtreport.com/data

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