Left, Right and Centre unite behind end to ban on blasphemy

6 November 2009

Left, Right and Centre unite behind end to ban on blasphemy

SP Member of Parliament Jan de Wit today joined colleagues from the centre-right VVD and centrist D66 in proposing that the ban on blasphemy be scrapped. The proposal stands an excellent chance of finding the backing of a parliamentary majority. "It's not that I think you should be able to go round insulting anyone and everyone," says De Wit, "that's not why we want this scrapped. The law provides sufficient protection against insult and discrimination. There is no reason why religious believers should enjoy more protection than others."

Jan de WitDe Wit hopes that the three parties' proposal will bring the long-running debate around the blasphemy ban, which has not been invoked since 1968, to an end. The fact that it has gone unused in over forty years shows that it's already a dead letter, one under which actual prosecution would be almost impossible. After all, who can determine whether God has been insulted?

Following the murder of Theo van Gogh, Justice Minister at the time Piet Hein Donner tried to breathe new life into the blasphemy law, but was prevented from taking any action by parliament's opposition. A year later his successor Hirsch Ballin proposed that the specific ban on blasphemy be scrapped, but that as a corollary the ban on insulting speech be broadened. Jan de Wit opposed any such move. “No extension of the ban is needed," he says. "It would stifle broad social debate and limit freedom of expression unnecessarily.”

Jan de Wit is confident that the proposal will be dealt with speedily in parliament. "The PvdA (Labour Party) has already expressed its support which, together with the three parties which have taken the initiative, gives us a majority. Even if the ban has little practical value, an essentially unjust provision has no place in the law."

You are here