Prior to its repeal, Denmark was the only Scandinavian nation with a law forbidding public insults of religion
Danish lawmakers on Friday repealed a centuries-old blasphemy law that forbid public insults of a religion, such as the burning of holy books, cementing the country’s attachment to freedom of expression.
Only a handful of blasphemy trials have taken place in the past 80 years, and several high-profile cases have been dropped, including the caricature of Islam’s Prophet published in the Jyllands-Posten newspaper in 2005.
Predominantly Lutheran but also fiercely secular, Denmark was the only Scandinavian nation with a blasphemy law, which called for up to four months in prison upon conviction, but also just fines in many cases. Lawmakers who wanted to repeal the law introduced in 1683 “do not believe that there should be special rules protecting religions against expressions,” the parliament said on its website. But remarks and acts that threaten or demean certain groups of people because of their religious beliefs will still be punishable.
“Religion should not dictate what is allowed and what is forbidden to say publicly,” Bruno Jerup, an M.P. who proposed to repeal the law, was quoted as saying by Jyllands-Posten. “It gives religion a totally unfair priority in society,” he said.
A Danish man who filmed himself burning the Quran and posted the video to Facebook in 2015 was to face a blasphemy trial next week, but the case was dropped after the law was revoked.
In 1938, four people were convicted for hanging posters with anti-Semitic writing. In 1946, two people were fined for conducting a baptism during a masked ball, and in 1971, two public radio officials were convicted for broadcasting a song about a woman’s sexuality and her refusal of any divine moral figure.