Jul 7 2015
Iceland has abolished its blasphemy law, on the books since the 1940s, after a bill proposed by the Pirate Party passed in the national legislature. According to the Iceland Monitor, all three Pirate Party MPs stood in the Parliament (Althing) during the vote and said “Je suis Charlie,” expressing solidarity with the Charlie Hebdo massacre victims.
IB Times The bill, which passed with one MP voting against and three abstaining, is the first bill by the Pirate Party to pass in the Althing. The party later celebrated the passing with a blog post stating: “The Icelandic Parliament has issued the important message that freedom will not bow to bloody attacks.”
Iceland’s blasphemy law punished offenders with a fine or three months imprisonment. The party first proposed the bill in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. The bill faced opposition from numerous groups, including the Pentecostal Church and the Catholic Church of Iceland. “Jyllandsposten and Charlie Hebdo should have thought twice before before publish material insulting Islam,” the eastern province of the Church of Iceland said.
Not all religious groups were opposed, however. The Bishop’s office of the Church of Iceland, commenting on the bill, said: “It is fundamental to a free society that people should be able to express themselves without fear of punishment.”
Provisions are included in the Icelandic Criminal Code to prosecute proponents of hate speech, and today’s law has not undermined this right. The Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association, in a statementon today’s ruling, has said that an important result of today’s ruling is the message it sends to other countries.
“Often, countries where there is a lack of democracy and freedom are criticized for punishing people for blasphemy even with death sentences,” the group said. “When those countries are criticized, their spokespeople frequently point out, correctly, that similar laws are in force in ‘Western’ democracies. Therefore, it sends a vital message to the rest of the world if Iceland has repealed its blasphemy law.”
A June poll showed the Pirate Party as Iceland’s most popular political party with 32.4 percent surveyed expressing support, 0.5 percent ahead of the governing coalition. The party also placed 9.1 percent ahead of the second most popular party, center-right coalition partner the Independence Party.