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NZ Association of Rationalists and Humanists

17th September 2004

NZ Association of Rationalists and Humanists

New Zealand's Blasphemy law will be the subject of a talk at the NZ Association of Rationalists and Humanists on Sunday 19th September 2004. Kathy Sunderland, a NZARH member who has recently completed an academic study of the subject, will be discussing the history and implications of the legislation prohibiting Blasphemy.

Most New Zealanders will be unaware that Blasphemy is an offence in this country. There has been only one prosecution for "blasphemous libel" in 1922. The Labour newspaper, The Maoriland Worker published a poem by English poet Siegfried Sassoon in 1921, which included a line that offended the Attorney-General. The paper's publisher was prosecuted but the jury returned a Not Guilty verdict.

Since then there have been no prosecutions, but Blasphemy was included in the Crimes Act of 1961, which remains in force. In 1998, National MP John Banks attempted to prosecute Te Papa for displaying an artwork called "Virgin in a Condom", but was denied permission by the Solicitor-General. In 2001, the NZARH asked Minister of Justice Phil Goff to remove the Blasphemy provision of the Crimes Act but we were told that "...this offence still fulfils a function in our law in terms of respecting the beliefs of the various religious communities that exist in New Zealand...".

Blasphemy remains an issue for non-believers and is potentially an impediment to free speech. Kathy Sunderland will be discussing these issues at 7pm on Sunday 19th September, at Rationalist House, 64 Symonds Street, Auckland. Entry is free of charge and all are welcome.

ENDS

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