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Stephen Fry Irish blasphemy investigation dropped as New Zealand prompted to repeal its own law

Stephen Fry. Image via IAB UK.

The police service in the Republic of Ireland has decided to drop its investigation into Stephen Fry, over allegations he blasphemed in an interview on Irish channel RTE over two years ago, after it said that it failed to find ‘enough outraged people’ in order to proceed. The news comes as the kerfuffle over the investigation into Fry has prompted all major parties in New Zealand to commit to repealing its own blasphemy law, with an amendment to a bill to do it expected perhaps as soon as next week. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has welcomed both pieces of news.

Blasphemy laws in England and Wales were repealed in 2008, but nonetheless remain on the books in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Neither law has been used in some time, but that was also true in Denmark, until its ‘dead’ blasphemy law was resurrected a couple of months ago, to bring charges against someone for the first time in 46 years. Other European countries such as Greece, Poland, Russia, Italy, Austria, and Finland also have such laws in active use, while places like Germany, Canada, and parts of Australia have laws that haven’t recently been used.

More seriously, 13 states, all Islamic, have blasphemy laws that come with the death penalty, with citizens in Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Mauritania actively facing persecution, while in recent days and weeks there have been extrajudicial killings of humanist activists for blasphemy in Pakistan, India, and the Maldives, as well as a spate of ongoing killings in Bangladesh.

The BHA is part of the global End Blasphemy Laws campaign, which has successfully seen blasphemy laws repealed since it was founded two years ago in France, Norway, Iceland, and Malta. New Zealand now seems likely to be rapidly added to that list, with the renewed debate around Ireland leading to hopes that the current Government’s existing commitment to hold a referendum on the matter meaning that it will soon follow.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘We are delighted that the investigation against Stephen Fry has been dropped, and what is more that the furore has prompted New Zealand to pledge to scrap its own blasphemy laws. It is urgent that Ireland soon follows, as well as Northern Ireland, Scotland, and other countries that have apparently “dead” blasphemy laws. This is important not only to ensure they are never resurrected, as almost happened in Ireland, but also to send a clear message to the rest of the world that blasphemy laws are unacceptable and that the fact that people are still dying over them in many countries must come to an end.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact BHA Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson on richy@humanism.org.uk or 0781 55 89 636.

Read Andrew Copson’s comment piece in The Independent, published yesterday: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/stephen-fry-blasphemy-ireland-getting-worse-around-the-world-a7723631.html

Listen to an interview Richy Thompson gave with New Zealand’s Newstalk ZB on Sunday: http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/on-air/mike-hosking-breakfast/audio/richy-thompson-stephen-fry-investigated-for-blasphemy-after-labeling-god-a-maniac/

Read more about the End Blasphemy Laws campaign: http://end-blasphemy-laws.org/

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

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