Denmark Restores Blasphemy Prosecutions

In 2017, Denmark took a historic step in favor of free speech by rescinding its blasphemy law after 334 years. For those of us in the free speech community, it was an important moment in Europe where free speech is being rapidly reduced. Now, however, the liberal government is moving to reinstate the blasphemy crime with a new law barring the burning of the Qur’an, the Bible, and other religous texts.

The country already has an abusive law criminalizing offenses against foreign nations by publicly insulting them, including flag burnings. That law will be extended to religious books.

Minister of Justice Peter Hummelgaard adopted the same thread-worn rationalizations to curtail free speech. He simply dismissed that burning such books is free speech, dismissing such protests as “meaningless insults which have no other purpose than to create discord and hatred.”  Speech crimes are often pushed by those who disagree with the content of opposing speech as “meaningless.”

Despite the growing anti-free speech movement in the United States, the Constitution still protects such protests, including the burning of the American flag.

In Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989), the Supreme Court voted 5-4 that flag burning was protected speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. It is considered one of the core cases defining free speech in the United States. Brennan was joined by Marshall, Blackmun, Scalia, and Kennedy (Kennedy wrote a concurrence). I agree with the decision as did conservatives like Scalia. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote a powerful concurrence where he famously stated:

Justice Kennedy
Justice Kennedy

“For we are presented with a clear and simple statute to be judged against a pure command of the Constitution. The outcome can be laid at no door but ours. The hard fact is that sometimes we must make decisions we do not like. We make them because they are right, right in the sense that the law and the Constitution, as we see them, compel the result. And so great is our commitment to the process that, except in the rare case, we do not pause to express distaste for the result, perhaps for fear of undermining a valued principle that dictates the decision. This is one of those rare cases.

Though symbols often are what we ourselves make of them, the flag is constant in expressing beliefs Americans share, beliefs in law and peace and that freedom which sustains the human spirit. The case here today forces recognition of the costs to which those beliefs commit us. It is poignant but fundamental that the flag protects those who hold it in contempt.”

The same is true with the burning of religious or culture symbols.  I find such acts reprehensible, but they are clearly conveying a political or religious viewpoint.

Nevertheless, the left in Denmark is now embracing a new age of censorship and speeech criminalization.  The country will now create an amorphous crime for those who show “improper treatment of objects with religious significance.” The vagueness is by design. Citizens will not know what may be considered such improper treatment and thus a chilling effect will curtail future political speech.

The reversal in Denmark illustrates the dire situation for free speech in Europe and the growing danger here in the United States.

55 thoughts on “Denmark Restores Blasphemy Prosecutions”

  1. There is no stopping point.

    Cave to this and next you will face prison for criticizing Islam, or discussing it in a way another sect doesn’t like or risk murder by writing “The Satanic Verses”.

    Ultimately it isn’t just free speech at stake but any speech…and civilization.

  2. The same is true with the burning of religious or culture symbols. I find such acts reprehensible, but they are clearly conveying a political or religious viewpoint.

    Why do you find them reprehensible? Do you feel the same way about burning a literal nazi flag, or a KKK emblem? If someone believe the Koran, or the Bible, is just as evil as Mein Kampf, or just as useless as pornography, why ought they not to burn it?

    I find burning the US flag reprehensible, not because of the number of people it offends, but because it is an expression of a view I find reprehensible, i.e. that the USA is an evil country. Burning a country’s flag is an act of symbolic war against that country. The US constitution protects a person’s right to make symbolic war on the USA, by explicitly restricting treason to acts of actual war. I fully support that. But making symbolic war on the USA means that you hate the USA, that you are its enemy, and I find that morally reprehensible. If you make symbolic war on the USA, you are my enemy, and I will treat you as such. Not with violence, but with rejection and shunning.

    None of that is true about countries that deserve enmity. I think it’s laudable to burn the Chinese flag, or the flag of the Third Reich, or that of the USSR. I think it’s laudable to burn Mein Kampf, or Das Kapital. And I think the Koran belongs in the same category. I find burning it to be imprudent, but morally laudable. Others will, of course, disagree, and they’re perfectly entitled to do so.

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