Where Freedoms Collide: Blasphemy Laws in the Twenty-First Century
Joseph G. Scone
Florida Coastal School of Law
May 26, 2012
Despite the general recognition of freedoms of religion and speech, nations of the world enforce a wide variety of restrictions where both freedoms overlap. Blasphemy laws in some nations can earn a death sentence and other nations refuse to recognize religions that differ from long-established institutions. Meanwhile, in the United States, the first line of offense in political conversations often is to attack the religious practices of another group. Public prayer, far from being protected, is attacked by the press as proselytizing and lacks government support for fear of excessive entanglement. International theories of modern blasphemy laws such as Defamation of Religions and Religious Vilification become very attractive to those who no longer wish to tolerate public assault on their core beliefs. This article examines the constitutional freedoms of religion and speech from several nations where restrictions on religious speech are enforced.
Blasphemy laws are generally enacted to protect religions. Unfortunately, the very nature of these blasphemy laws prevents the free discussion and exercise of religion. No blasphemy law could defend freedom of religion as effectively as the freedom of speech currently does in the United States. This article takes examples of 21st century blasphemy laws from across the globe and applies those underlying theories to events in the United States. The results range from the merely ridiculous to the ludicrously oppressive. The best and only effective tool to protect freedom of religion in the United States is freedom of speech.
Keywords: comparative, constitutional, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, blasphemy, religious vilification, defamation of religion, Australia, Bhutan, Cambodia, Germany, Pakistan, United Kingdom, United States, Zombie Mohammed, Koran toilet paper, Koran burn, Bible, Pastafarian
Date posted: May 16, 2012 ; Last revised: October 25, 2013