The growing menace of religion-based laws

Jonathan Turley has been diligently following the disturbing rise in anti-blasphemy laws in many Islamic nations and their attempts to get these restrictions on criticizing religion expanded globally under the guise of ‘religious tolerance’. They have been somewhat successful in getting the US and European countries to consider adopting an international standard that would prosecute anti-religious speech.

Pakistan is one such country where the anti-blasphemy movement has gone in a very dangerous direction and Turley reports on the murder of Rashid Rehman a human rights lawyer who was defending someone accused of violating the country’s anti-blasphemy laws.

Putting aside our earlier work on an international blasphemy standard, the question is why we continue to send billions to countries that aggressively fight the core civil liberties that defines not just this country but the rule of law.

Of course, blasphemy laws are just the tip of the iceberg for theocratic states. Their goal is to have religion determine almost everything. Darren Smith describes how in the case of Brunei, a small oil-rich country where the autocratic ruler the sultan has instituted Sharia law in all its malevolent glory.

Absolute monarch Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei announced in January a harsh form of sharia law will be enacted. Effective in three phases beginning now and spanning two years, the edict eventually allows for the stoning to death of homosexuals, adulterers, and apostates; for amputation of limbs for those convicted of theft; and flogging for abortions and the consumption of alcohol. The capital offense provisions of the law reportedly apply only to Muslims.

When there were protests about the harshness of the laws, the sultan said “Theory states that God’s law is harsh and unfair, but God himself has said that his law is indeed fair.” Well, that seems reasonable. If god says that his own law is fair, that should settle it.

No state that vows allegiance to any religion and gives it pride of place in its political and legal system can claim to be truly democratic. It seems to be an ironclad rule that the more a nation uses religion as a basis of its legal system, the more barbaric it becomes.


  1. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    There’s an interesting history of Pakistani blasphemy laws- from colonial-era public order offences to definite islamic privilege- here:
    The one advantage of blasphemy laws is that every religion is inherently blasphemous of every other religion. With luck, they would all sue each other into bankruptcy.

  2. mnb0 says

    “They have been somewhat successful in getting the US and European countries to consider adopting an international standard that would prosecute anti-religious speech.”
    How do you mean European countries? The Netherlands just have removed the anti-blasphemy law from 1932, which always has been a dead letter. Norway has abandoned Lutheran state religion in 2012 and Sweden in 2000. I haven’t noticed any other development and certainly not in the opposite direction.

  3. mental reservation says

    @mnb0 (2.):
    Mano may have the UN resolutions about “defamation of religion” in mind: I’m not aware that those had any impact on legislation in western countries, though.
    In Europe, the only new laws I’m aware of are the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 in the UK ( ) and the Defamation Act 2009 in Ireland ( ). The Defamation Act was just a replacement to the abolished blasphemy law that was deemed unconstitutional because it only covered Catholicism, though.
    In Germany, there was recently a minor media push for a law to protect innocent Catholics and Evangelicals from getting mocked by strident atheists for rightly critizing the evils of homosexuality, feminism and family planning. It went nowhere, though.

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