The Injustice of Secular Blasphemy Laws

Eugene Volokh, one of the top experts on free speech in the country, has been using the term “secular blasphemy” to describe laws that prohibit free speech on the basis of some social or cultural taboo that is not explicitly religious. Here’s a great example.

A teenager arrested on Remembrance Sunday on suspicion of posting a picture of a burning poppy on Facebook is being questioned by police.

The 19-year-old was held after the image of a poppy being set ablaze by a lighter was reportedly posted online with the caption: “How about that you squadey cunts”.

Police said the man, from Canterbury, Kent, was detained on suspicion of an offence under the Malicious Communications Act after officers were contacted at about 4pm on Sunday.

What is this all about? Well, poppies are used on Remembrance Day in Commonwealth nations to commemorate soldiers who died in World War I. And this isn’t the first time this has happened:

In March last year, Emdadur Choudhury, a member of Muslims Against Crusades, was fined £50 after burning replica poppies on the anniversary of Armistice Day.

Choudhury had denied a charge under Section 5 of the Public Order Act of burning the poppies in a way that was likely to cause “harassment, harm or distress” to those who witnessed it. But he was guilty of a “calculated and deliberate” insult to the dead and those who mourn them when he burned two large plastic poppies during a two-minute silence on 11 November, a judge at Belmarsh magistrates court said.

This is every bit as absurd and unjust as blasphemy laws. It’s absolutely ridiculous.

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