In wake of Charlie Hebdo attacks, secularist groups to seek end of Canada's blasphemy law

Posted
January 8, 2015
Article Source
National Post

The heads of two Canadian organizations promoting secularism will ask the Department of Justice to abolish a section of the criminal code that makes blasphemy illegal, following Wednesday's attacks on Charlie Hebdo.

Section 296 of the Criminal Code makes "blasphemous libel" punishable by up to two years in jail in Canada.

No one been prosecuted under the law since 1935. As late as 1980, the law was used to charge the Canadian distributor of Monty Python's film Life of Brian; the charges were later dropped.

Only last month, the heads of Humanist Canada and the Centre for Inquiry, a national organization that promotes "skeptical, secular rational and humanistic inquiry," met with Ambassador Andrew Bennett, head of the federal government's Office of Religious Freedom, to note the law's inconsistency with Canada's policy of supporting religious freedom abroad.

On Mr. Bennett's advice, said Eric Adriaans, national executive director of the Centre for Inquiry, the two organizations will lobby the Department of Justice to remove the law. Mr. Bennett's office did not respond to calls for comment.

"These murders cause us so much grief but also further convince us that no remnants of these ancient attitudes can be allowed to continue," Mr. Adriaans said.

Read more: In wake of Charlie Hebdo attacks, secularist groups to seek end of Canada's blasphemy law