Repeal of Canada’s Blasphemy Law Applauded by National Secularist Organization

Toronto, Ontario, CANADA

TORONTO, Dec. 13, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Canadian Secular Alliance (CSA) applauds the repeal of Section 296 (blasphemous libel) from the Canadian Criminal Code.

Bill C-51 (An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Department of Justice Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act) received Royal Assent on Thursday, and modernized the Canadian Criminal Code by repealing or updating a variety of the unconstitutional, outdated or unused provisions.

Blasphemous libel had been a criminal offense that threatened prison sentences of up to 2 years. While it remained on the books until today, it had not resulted in a conviction since 1935 and was widely considered to be in violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The CSA lobbied the Government of Canada to repeal Section 296, beginning with a petition to the House of Commons in 2016.

“This is a great day for Canada,” said CSA President Greg Oliver. “Progress is best served when all ideas are subject to scrutiny and criticism. Ideas derived from religious belief neither deserve nor require exemption from this principle.”

Blasphemy laws are still active in 73 countries, carry the threat of imprisonment in 42 and the death penalty in at least six. By repealing Section 296, the  Government of Canada has sent a clear message that blasphemy laws have no place in any country that seeks to uphold the fundamental human rights of freedom of expression and conscience.

Greg Oliver