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Humanist Society welcomes the repeal of NZ’s Blasphemy law

Yesterday New Zealand's outdated blasphemy law was officially struck from the lawbooks after receiving Royal Assent earlier this week.

Humanist New Zealand congratulates members of the New Zealand parliament on their unanimous vote last week to repeal Section 123 of the Crimes Act 1961, the law against Blasphemous Libel.

Humanist NZ has long called on the government to scrap our outdated blasphemy law. This landmark decision is a clear sign of our country's commitment to human rights, freedom of expression, and freedom of religion or belief.

Jolene Phipps, President of Humanists NZ, states “Blasphemy laws have never served a useful or justifiable purpose. Instead they have been used to limit freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief”.

“Where they exist, blasphemy laws often incite violence rather than prevent it. Charges of blasphemy are regularly used to persecute political or business rivals or to suppress minority groups. People accused of blasphemy have been stoned or hacked to death, and lawyers and judges intimidated with death threats or killed. We know a number of humanists accused of blasphemy who have sought refuge in New Zealand to escape persecution.”

Iain Middleton, blasphemy campaigner for Humanist NZ, states, “It was wonderful to see all members of parliament unite in support of freedom of expression and freedom of religion and belief and repeal this archaic and pernicious law. In repealing this law, New Zealand follows a clear trend with France, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Iceland, Malta, Denmark, and Canada all scrapping similar laws in the last few years.”

“Now New Zealand can speak on the world stage about human rights, freedom of expression, and freedom of religion and belief, without being seen as hypocritical.”

In the 2018 edition of the Freedom of Thought Report produced by Humanists International, New Zealand was rated as a country with “severe discrimination” against non-religious people in New Zealand, in part because of the severity of our blasphemy law.

Humanist New Zealand now calls on other territories in the Pacific to follow suit and abolish or repeal all blasphemy laws.

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