On 24 April 2020, the Scottish Government announced that the “blasphemy“ law in Scotland will be repealed, making Scotland the ninth country to abolish its blasphemy laws since the End Blasphemy Laws Now Campaign was launched in 2015.
While the UK Criminal and Justice and Immigration Act of 2008 abolished the blasphemy laws in England and Wales, it took another 12 years before the law was repealed in Scotland. Northern Ireland has yet to scrap its blasphemy laws.
Humanist Society Scotland – a member organisation of Humanists International – has been in the forefront of the campaign for repealing the Scottish blasphemy law. It successfully pushed for the Scottish parliament to remove the common law offense of blasphemy, by gathering public support through a petition, by submitting evidence to the Parliament on how blasphemy laws are used around the world to persecute Humanists and marginalized faith groups, and by arranging protests.
Humanists and other individuals accused of blasphemy around the world have spoken out previously on how important the repealing of these laws is, whatever the country. They have argued that such repeals ” send a clear signal to the global family of nations that “blasphemy” laws contravene the human rights to freedom of thought and freedom of expression and should be repealed.”
Reacting to the news, Fraser Sutherland, Chief Executive of Humanist Society Scotland commented:
“We are delighted that the Scottish Government is taking this important step. It is clear that the Cabinet Secretary has listened to the evidence and pleas from humanist campaigners and many others that blasphemy laws are incompatible with human rights. Even though Scotland’s law has not been used for some time the message this repeal sends to other leaders around the world is clear and unambiguous – blasphemy laws are wrong and have no place in the twenty-first century. Scotland now joins a growing list of countries who have taken this step to put pressure on other states around the world who continue to prosecute blasphemy charges.
This is a really important and welcome move in the global campaign to rid the world of unfair and unjust blasphemy laws that persecute individuals both religious and non-religious around the world. I want to thank our members and supporters who have been writing to politicians, lodging petitions and generally supporting the work of the society which has seen our campaign result in this success.”
Humanists International’s Chief Executive,Gary McLelland, said:
“Humanists International is delighted to hear that Scotland has repealed its ‘blasphemy’ laws. Criticism of religion is not, and should not, be a crime.
“Scotland now joins a number of countries to have repealed their blasphemy laws in recent years. Sadly however, 68 countries around the world still uphold such laws, with many using prison terms as punishment. We hope Scotland’s move will help encourage more countries to rethink their blasphemy laws and to better protect our fundamental human right to free expression and freedom of belief.
“Not only are blasphemy laws inherently wrong because they protect ideas over people, they unduly target humanists and atheists. I congratulate our Member Organisation, Humanist Society Scotland, for all the work they have put in to achieve this.”