The Scottish Government has today announced it will abolish the common law offence of blasphemy in Scotland as part of a new bill to modernise hate crime law. It follows a long campaign led by Humanists UK’s sister charity Humanist Society Scotland.
Humanists UK, which co-founded the End Blasphemy Laws campaign to abolish blasphemy laws worldwide, said the move would have a positive impact internationally. Humanists UK has regularly challenged the continued existence of blasphemy laws in Scotland as well as Northern Ireland in its statements at the UN Human Rights Council.
The Scottish Government said that blasphemy ‘had not been prosecuted in Scotland for more than 175 years’ and its continued criminalisation ‘no longer reflects the kind of society in which we live.’
Scotland stands to become the latest in a series of counties to repeal blasphemy laws around the world since the End Blasphemy Law campaign was founded five years ago, following Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Malta, France, New Zealand, Canada, Greece, and Ireland since 2015. Humanists UK also successfully campaigned for the repeal of blasphemy laws in England and Wales in 2008.
Other than repealing blasphemy laws in Scotland, the new bill will update the wording on hate crime in existing law against transgender and intersex people, and add new protections against harassment on the basis of age.
Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented: ‘This is an extremely welcome reform. Humanists have been calling on governments everywhere to repeal laws like these in solidarity with the victims of oppressive blasphemy laws around the world. No longer will human rights-abusing regimes be able to point to the continued existence of laws like these in Scotland to defend their brutality.’
In Northern Ireland, the campaign to repeal blasphemy laws has also been making headway, with a high-profile Northern Ireland Humanists campaign winning support for repealing blasphemy laws from all political parties bar the DUP in 2019.
Northern Ireland Humanists chair Iain DeBoys commented: ‘Blasphemy laws are used around the world to oppress, suppress, and brutalise religious and non-religious minorities. With Scotland’s decision to repeal its blasphemy law, Northern Ireland will stand alone in these islands in supporting their continued existence. MLAs must address this source of shame by repealing our blasphemy laws at the earliest opportunity.’
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Read more about Humanists UK’s international campaign to end blasphemy laws.
Read our news item on the global persecution of the non-religious.
Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.
Northern Ireland Humanists is a part of Humanists UK, working with the Humanist Association of Ireland.