It’s hard to say there’s a silver lining after yesterday’s massacre at Charlie Hebdo, because we’d surely be better off if it didn’t happen at all, but I’m glad there’s a renewed push in Canada for the Department of Justice to eliminate its blasphemy law:
Section 296 of the Criminal Code makes “blasphemous libel” punishable by up to two years in jail in Canada.
No one been prosecuted under the law since 1935. As late as 1980, the law was used to charge the Canadian distributor of Monty Python’s film Life of Brian; the charges were later dropped.
Only last month, the heads of Humanist Canada and the Centre for Inquiry, a national organization that promotes “skeptical, secular rational and humanistic inquiry,” met with Ambassador Andrew Bennett, head of the federal government’s Office of Religious Freedom, to note the law’s inconsistency with Canada’s policy of supporting religious freedom abroad.
On Mr. Bennett’s advice, said Eric Adriaans, national executive director of the Centre for Inquiry, the two organizations will lobby the Department of Justice to remove the law.
All over the Internet yesterday, I saw people posting cartoons of Muhammad and covers of Charlie Hebdo just to spread them as far and wide as possible, no matter who took offense to it. It was beautiful to watch. More importantly, it sent the message that critics of religion will not be silenced.
For the same reason, these blasphemy laws have to go. Even if they’re unenforced, they suggest that certain ideas are too dangerous to criticize. By getting those laws off the books in countries that profess to be free, it would be a fine way to honor the cartoonists whose lives were cut short for the victimless crime of satirizing religious ideas.
(via Canadian Atheist)