Denmark Repeals Blasphemy Law After 334 Years
Denmark has finally repealed its 334-year-old blasphemy law despite warnings that such an act could lead to an increase in hate crimes and terror attacks.
The law that has just been revoked criminalized blasphemous acts such as burning the Bible or Quran. Paragraph number 140 in Denmark's criminal code stated that "persons carrying out public insults or denigrating, in this country, lawful religious teachings or worships, may be punished with fines or imprisonment up to four months."
But since only a few blasphemy trials had been held for the past 80 years, Danish lawmakers decided their nation would be better off without the law, reported The Guardian.
Denmark is actually the only Scandinavian country with a blasphemy law. Back in 1683, politicians who wanted to repeal the law already stated that they "do not believe that there should be special rules protecting religions against expressions," according to the Danish parliament website.
"Religion should not dictate what is allowed and what is forbidden to say publicly," said Bruno Jerup, an MP who proposed to repeal the law. "It gives religion a totally unfair priority in society."
The country had tried to abolish the measure before, but it is only now that action was taken by the governing Liberal Party.
The last time someone was convicted of the blasphemy law was 71 years ago when a man dressed up as a priest and conducted a fake baptism of a doll at a masquerade event. The latest case involved a Danish man named John Salvesen, 42, who posted a Facebook video showing the burning of the Quran in his backyard.
"I used my democratic right: freedom of speech," Salvesen said ahead of his one-day trial. "I was deeply surprised when they told me I had been charged with blasphemy."
Moves to abolish the blasphemy law came after the Liberal Party questioned its necessity, according to The Local. The EU and Council of Europe recommended the scrapping of the law since several other countries had already done so without facing serious consequences.
"Some of what has pulled us in the other direction is whether it is necessary for us always to be able to say anything to each other, regardless of whether we tread on each other's feelings. Do we feel that is necessary at the moment? Do we think the tone of public debate is too nice? Do we need a degradation of that? These are many of the things we have discussed," said the party's political spokesperson Jakob Ellemann-Jensen.