Pirate Party MP’s are preparing a bill to repeal an Icelandic law which bans blasphemy, reports RÚV.
According to article 125 of the general penal code, fines or prison sentences of up to three months can be given to those who “mock or belittle the religious doctrines or worship of legal religious associations” in the country.
The repeal bill, written by Helgi Hrafn Gunnarsson, Jón Þór Ólafsson and Birgitta Jónsdóttir, states that Icelandic law has in the past been criticised for its shortcomings by a number of international organisations but that this is one of the “most obvious oversights in the general penal code.”
The bill further argues that freedom of expression is one of the most important cornerstones in a democracy and a fundamental part of a free society is one where the people are able to express themselves without fear of legal retribution. Though it is worth noting here that freedom of expression does not cover hate speech, threats or violence.
Since Iceland was recognised as a sovereign state by Denmark in 1918 (full independence came later in 1944) two people have been convicted of blasphemy.
Brynjólfur Bjarnason was sentenced to 30 days in prison for blasphemy after writing a review in Alþýðublaðið in 1925 and Úlfur Þormóðsson, editor of the comedy/satirical magazine Spegillinn was convicted of blasphemy in 1983. To this day law prevents anyone from viewing that particular issue of the magazine in Iceland’s national archives, Tímarit.is.
The bill further stipulates that it is not enough that the law is considered obsolete and is therefore nothing to worry about, referencing the recent attacks on Charlie Hebdo where 12 journalists and cartoonists lost their lives.
“It is the responsibility of a democratic society to answer such attacks with the clear message that freedom of expression will never surrender to murder, violence, or threats,” the bill states.