Published July 3, 2015
At long last, a bill that did away with Iceland’s blasphemy laws has been passed by parliament.
RÚV reports that parliament struck down Article 125 of the General Penal Code, which forbade anyone from “mocking or insulting” a legally recognised religion in Iceland. The proposal to do away with the article was submitted by the Pirate Party in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. From this day forward, it is now legal to ridicule religions in Iceland.
As antiquated as the notion of a blasphemy law may seem, it was enforced in Iceland in recent history. As RÚV points out, in 1983 police tried to stop the distribution of an issue of the magazine Spegillinn, as it purportedly contained both pornographic content and blasphemy. The matter went all the way to the Supreme Court, who found the magazine liable on both counts.
In 1997, the television comedy troupe Spaugstofan ran afoul of the blasphemy law, due to a sketch involving Jesus in an Easter edition of the show. After a five month investigation, the State Prosecutor decided not to press charges.
In 2010, a beer called Heilagan papa (“Holy Pope”) was denied sale in the state-run alcohol store on the grounds that the name of the beer was blasphemous. The Ministry of Finance also cited the blasphemy law, but the Parliamentary Ombudsman came to the conclusion that there was no legal grounds by which to ban the sale of beer for being blasphemous.
Such cases will no longer be an issue, as Icelanders are now free to blaspheme to their hearts’ content. It should be pointed out, though, that Article 233(a) of the General Penal Code still forbids hate speech, with religious organisations amongst the groups protected by said law.