Austria's Law Against Defamation of Religion: A Case Study

Posted: 9 Oct 2015

See all articles by Greg Taylor

Greg Taylor

University of Adelaide - School of Law; University of Marburg; RMIT University - Graduate School of Business and Law

Date Written: October 5, 2014


Recently there have been calls from Islamic nations for the creation of a crime of “defamation of religion”. Austria already has such an offence : section 188 of the Criminal Code of 1974 prohibits giving 'justified offence' (berechtigtes Ärgernis) by 'publicly disparag[ing] or ridicul[ing] a person who, or an object which, is the subject of veneration of a domestically established church or religious community, or a dogma, a lawful custom or a lawful institution of such a church or religious community'. This has recently been applied to secure the conviction of an activist of the right-wing Freedom Party of Austria, who announced at a semi-public seminar attended by about thirty people, including one undercover journalist, that Mohammed was a pedophile. Drawing on the law of comparable jurisdictions, this article traces the history of the provision and considers how it is applied by the courts. In this article it is contended that this provision, while rarely used, unduly restricts public discussion. At the least, the provision needs both reinterpretation and amendment; international human rights sources suggest that repeal should be seriously considered given that the existing offense of sedition is available for serious cases.

Suggested Citation

Taylor, Greg, Austria's Law Against Defamation of Religion: A Case Study (October 5, 2014). Journal of Law and Religion, Vol. 30, No. 1, 2015, Available at SSRN:

Greg Taylor (Contact Author)

University of Adelaide - School of Law ( email )

Ligertwood Building
Adelaide 5005, South Australia SA 5005

University of Marburg ( email )

Universitätsstrasse 24
Marburg, D-35032

RMIT University - Graduate School of Business and Law ( email )


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