We need to repeal New Zealand’s blasphemy law

It is my belief that authoritarian countries have and enforce blasphemy laws so imagine my shock when I found out that New Zealand has a blasphemy law. So far it has only been used once to prosecute ?British poet Siegfried Sassoon in 1922 for these closing lines.

O Jesus, send me a wound to-day,

And I’ll believe in Your bread and wine,

And get my bloody old sins washed white!

Luckily for Sassoon the jury returned a verdict of not guilty with a rider: “That similar publications of such literature be discouraged”.

In 1998, the Crown decided not to prosecute Te Papa museum for displaying Tania Kovats’ Virgin in a Condom. In 2006, the Crown decided not to pursue blasphemy charges against CanWest, a broadcaster, for airing an episode of South Park featuring a menstruating Virgin Mary statue.?Usually, such cases must be referred to the New Zealand Attorney-General before they can proceed. However, the Attorney-General usually refuses to pursue blasphemy prosecutions on the basis of free speech objections, as the right to free speech is protected within New Zealand’s Bill of Rights Act 1990.


Free speech should allow us to say anything we want about religion so the law should be immediately repealed. If our free speech is truly protected under New Zealand law then this law is as outdated as the anal intercourse law that was repealed in 2005. I e-mailed our Attorney-General the Hon Christopher Finlayson to ask him two questions:

1. Do you think that the blasphemy law should be repealed?

2. Under what circumstances would you give leave for a prosecution under this old law?

I also provided him with some examples to see if he would consider prosecution for any of them. A few of them have already been used as a basis for prosecution in other Western countries and people have actually been imprisoned. One man who put bacon on a Mosque door handle was murdered after he was sent to prison so my examples are deadly serious.

  • A person criticises Sharia law and calls it barbaric.
  • A person criticises the sexual segregation inside a NZ mosque
  • A person says that Muhammad the Muslim prophet was a paedophile because he married a 6-year-old girl.
  • A person says that Jesus was gay because he never married.
  • A person says that the Hijab is oppressive and a symbol of submission.
  • A person draws the prophet Muhammad and publishes the drawing.
  • A person draws Jesus and publishes the drawing
  • A person draws a political cartoon of Muhammad making fun of him.
  • A person draws a political cartoon of Jesus making fun of him
  • A person says they don’t want a mosque built in their suburb
  • A person says they don’t want a church built in their suburb
  • A person says they want to stop Muslim immigration to New Zealand because their values and culture and religion do not assimilate easily into our society.
  • A person says they want to stop Christian immigration to New Zealand because Christian values and culture do not assimilate easily into our society
  • A person protests against a mosque by putting a slice of bacon on their fence.
  • A person protests against a church by putting a condom on their fence.
  • A person reads out in public a section of the Quran that describes violent and murderous intent towards non-Muslims.
  • A person?reads out in public a section of the bible that describes historical violence.
  • A person says publically that Islam is not compatible with our society.
  • A person says publically that Christianity?is not compatible with our society.

I will do a follow-up post when I receive his reply.

Also of concern not just to me but also to New Zealand’s Humanist society is the 2015 harmful digital communications act which states:

“A digital communication should not denigrate an individual by reason of his or her colour, race, ethnic or national origins, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.”

The new Harmful Digital Communications Act, intended to stop cyber-bullying, could have the effect of landing a person in jail for two years for committing blasphemy, the New Zealand Humanist Society said this week.

…”This legislation not only flies in the face of human rights, but the introduction of yet another law that gives special privileges to religions is unfair, unpopular and unrepresentative of our society, where over 40 per cent of New Zealanders identify as not religious, making this our country’s largest single belief group,” said society president Mark Honeychurch.

However, Justice Minister Amy Adams said the society’s interpretation of the law was unfounded.

“A person would have to do much more than simply post blasphemy to fall foul of the criminal offence in the Harmful Digital Communications Act,” Ms Adams said.

…Mr Honeychurch said the law would effectively impose some of the world’s strictest penalties – including fines of up to $50,000 – on people found guilty of blaspheming, or insulting religion.

…Mr Honeychurch called the law a “great step backwards from being a progressive society”.

-NZ Herald