Don’t Penalize Blasphemy in Denmark

danish-flag-by-alicedice

Target: Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Prime Minister of Denmark

Goal: Ensure that blasphemy is not criminally penalized in Denmark.

In Denmark, one of the most progressive countries in the world, there is a law in the penal code that makes it a crime to “mock legal religions and faiths.” In theory, Danish citizens can be penalized with a fine, or even a prison sentence of up to four months if found guilty of blasphemy. According to BBC News, the law has not been used since World War II, when a Nazi group was convicted for disseminating anti-Semitic propaganda. At the same time, however, the continued existence of this law poses a danger to freedom of speech in Denmark.

Although this law reflects a perfectly reasonable desire for inter-religious respect, criminal penalties are not an appropriate way of evoking that respect. As we’ve seen in countries that have blasphemy laws on the books, there are often corrupt practices surrounding these laws. For instance, in Saudi Arabia, a blogger named Raif Badawi has been detained since 2012 for the simple act of advocating secularism. Prospects for his release seem pretty grim; in fact, a lot of people want to see him beheaded. Although Denmark is a progressive country that is in no danger of ever falling to such a level, examples from other countries still demonstrate that blasphemy laws are highly dangerous, since they have the potential to restrict free speech and enable tyranny.

Rather than imprisoning people who mock or disrespect religious beliefs, we should encourage open and civil debate. Sign this petition to ask Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Prime Minister of Denmark to speak out against this law.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mrs. Helle Thorning-Schmidt,

I am writing to express my concern regarding a Danish law that penalizes blasphemy. Although it has been a long time since this law was ever used, I worry that it poses a threat to freedom of speech in Denmark. Religion is of course a volatile subject that should be treated with the utmost discretion. Although I think that people of all beliefs should strive to treat each other with respect, I don’t think that this should be made into a criminal issue. People should have the right to speak their minds about religion, however distasteful or offensive those views might be to others.

Since religion is such a powerful social force in the world, I would argue that it’s more important than ever that we have open and honest discussions on the subject. While people of all religious affiliations should always treat each other with respect, those who express their ideas in a way that may be insensitive or obnoxious should not be subject to criminal penalties. This is a dangerous path that could lead to greater suppression of free thought.

I would like to ask that you think about this law and consider speaking out against it.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: alicedice

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