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Shameful new blasphemy law introduced “by the back door”

New Zealand introduces shameful new blasphemy law “by the back door”

“An embarrassing step backwards and a severe blow to free speech” is what the New Zealand Humanist Society today called our newest de facto blasphemy law, which received Royal assent on 2 July.

The Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015 has come under international scrutiny from human rights organisations for allowing individuals to bring proceedings if they allege that a digital communication has denigrated their religion, causing them to “suffer serious emotional distress”. And the punishments are some of the most severe in the world – if charged, individuals could face up to two years imprisonment or a fine of up to $50,000.

The President of the New Zealand Humanist Society, Mark Honeychurch, said “This legislation not only flies in the face of human rights, but the introduction of yet another law that gives special privileges to religions is unfair, unpopular and unrepresentative of our society, where over 40% of New Zealanders identify as not religious, making this our country’s largest single belief group.”

Honeychurch said “It is ironic that on the same day that the parliament in Iceland voted unanimously to abolish their blasphemy law, in New Zealand we adopt a new one, taking a great step backwards from being a progressive society and breaching both International Law and our obligations under international agreements.”

“We want to increase social cohesion and understanding, and by awarding privileges and protecting groups from critique we are closing the door on free speech, free inquiry and public debate. New Zealand has to abolish its blasphemy laws before they are used to censor, suppress, and silence public debate.”

ends

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