May 12, 2017

Jesus F-ing Christ! Blasphemy is back, and it’s flummoxing secular legal systems

The case of a former Jakarta governor illustrates the role that blasphemy plays at the intersection between law and state-sponsored religion.

Michael Bradley — Managing partner at Marque Lawyers

Michael Bradley

Managing partner at Marque Lawyers


Official: You have been found guilty by the elders of the town of uttering the name of the Lord and so as a blasphemer you are to be stoned to death.

Matthias: Look, I’d had a lovely supper and all I said to my wife was, "That piece of halibut was good enough for Jehovah."

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36 thoughts on “Jesus F-ing Christ! Blasphemy is back, and it’s flummoxing secular legal systems

  1. Whodathunkit

    How many million more years have to go by before humans get over this ridiculous special imaginary sky daddy bullshit?
    Thousands of years of educational development and scientific advancement and billions of people still don’t have the intellectual capacity to realise they have been and are being conned.

    1. Dion Giles

      First giant leap to rationality was the European Enlightenment when the Age of Faith was superseded by the Age of Reason. Yet a WA MHR, the Federal Member for Cowan, was reported to have proposed (unsuccessfully) to the ALP that it support blasphemy law by protecting religions (no prizes for guessing which one) from public opprobrium. The ACT already has laws mirroring that under which the Indos are gaoling the politician Ahok.
      The British, anticipating moves to turn racial vilification law into blasphemy law, have adopted a Section 29J:
      “Nothing in this Part shall be read or given effect in a way which prohibits or restricts discussion, criticism or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse of particular religions or the beliefs or practices of their adherents, or of any other belief system or the beliefs or practices of its adherents, or proselytising or urging adherents of a different religion or belief system to cease practising their religion or belief system.”
      We in Australia need to adopt something like that to protect freedom from religion along with freedom of religion.

      1. AR

        Just in case people have forgotten, Chucky BigEars told the few who give a flying some years ago that when/if he ascends the throne, he wants to be known as the “Defender of Faith” – none in particular, just delusions of adequacy in general.
        As Samuel Clemens wrote, “Faith is what you need to believe something which you know to be untrue”.

  2. zut alors

    Religion has precipitated, amongst other things, wars, mistrust, persecution, genocide & abuse of children. An abhorrent scorecard. All gods should be called out.

  3. Woopwoop

    Indonesia is NOT in the same 99% Muslim position as Turkey:
    According to Wikipedia, “In the 2010 Indonesian census, 87.18% of Indonesians identified themselves as Muslim.”
    Some areas, like Bali and West Papua, are not Muslim.
    I feel the government should beware of a separatist backlash to this latest move.


    1. Dion Giles

      Bring on the separatist backlash. Indonesia was cobbled together between Jap occupiers and local quislings, has a history of racist genocide and no real legitimacy.

      1. mike westerman

        Bit ignorant of history are we?

        1. Dion Giles

          It’s all on public record including Soekarno’s offer to the Jap occupiers to help extend their reach to the many islands of the NEI.

          1. mike westerman

            And before that with 350y of Dutch colonisation? And Sukarno’s Non-aligned Movement and the opening to Soviet and Chinese communists flowing from it?
            The Konfrontasi and British meddling in Sarawak for 150y? And after that with CIA/MI6/ASIO/DGSE putting Soeharto in place? And Portuguese colonisation? And Australia’s meddling in Papua?
            The sprawling Indo-Chinese archipelago from Sumatera to Luzon, and its overlapping with Melanesian/Polynesian settlers at its edges is and always will be a messy proposition – pointing to a single event on a history of 40-50,000 years is inane.

  4. mike westerman

    My experience in living for many decades is strongly religious countries is that it was very little to do with intellectual consent to ideas and almost all to do with identity. It shouldn’t then be surprising that as inequality increases, so that the majority populations in many countries are made to feel inferior from a secular point of view, that they turn to every increasing commitment to religious values that provide them with a sense of belonging and worth. If you want people to primarily accept secular values, you have to make secularism value people – monetary discrimination does nothing of the sort.

    1. Dion Giles

      Secularism isn’t an imposition, it is the absence of the imposition of theocracy. It doesn’t have to value people, it’s up to us people to do that. Theocracy forbids us to do so. Its absence allows us.

      1. mike westerman

        No social construct occurs in a vacuum – secularism is founded in extant values, whether they are out of humanism or utilitarianism or some other ism. And the values they place on people, and the relative value of the individual and collective flow out of those values. Because I don’t believe in supernatural reasons for religion, its popularity must be driven by strong inherent needs of societies – it certainly does a good job in justifying ethnic cleansing!

  5. Rais

    As an Aussie Muslim, when Indonesian friends ask me about conditions in Australia I tell them Australians are free to do whatever they want within the law provided that they don’t harm others. I believe this is a good model for a secular state of all its citizens. We do see now the rise in Australia of explicitly religious based political parties like the Christian Democrats, the Australian Conservatives and its newly absorbed partner Family First. One Notion also claims a “Judeo-Christian” basis for its bigotry. There are other even more extreme groups that have not, so far, won seats in Parliament. Australians concerned about events in Indonesia could concern themselves as well with local issues such as these.

    1. mike westerman

      Well said Rais.

    2. Lesley Graham

      well said Rais. But we also need to keep in mind that these groups are usually only very small groups of people, with an axe to grind. When the Neo Nazi’s have their protests generally only 2 men & a dog turn up to them. The Q society aren’t great in numbers, & neither are any of the more extreme groups, most Australian’s are smart enough to not let religious & political interests become to entangled, at heart this is a country where as you said “as long as you do no harm to others,” kind of mentality is ingrained as there is an all pervading attitude in general of live & let live. Also we need to keep in mind the more these groups splinter (stay small) the better, look at One notion, they are going to end up falling apart because they can’t get their act together, this is their second shot at it & they still can’t get it right.

    3. Srs21

      Exactly!, and well said!

  6. rob.vandriesum

    Re blasphemy (Ahok and Fry): what about science that’s in the process of providing all the real answers about how things work? Soon we’ll find life forms beyond our limited orb. The question of “why” is irrelevant. Reality — and life — just is.
    If someone claims that an omnipotent (and therefore by definition unprovable) force is superior to science and has a goal that’s revealed in a text that someone wrote a few hundred years ago, can I take them to court for blasphemy?
    Isn’t the universe so unfathomably large that an earth-bound assumption of a god figure that guides our destiny is blasphemous in itself?

  7. AR

    No need to look abroad – last year Dr Anne Aly MP advocated that religions be protected from criticism but rowed back at a rate of knots when it was pointed out that she was calling for blasphemy to be criminalised.
    No such rationality in Toy Town though – Vilification on the grounds of religion is now illegal and in serious cases could result in a criminal conviction with a fine of up to $7500, under laws passed by the ACT parliament in August 2016.
    Both Labor and Liberal supported the move put by the Greens Shane Rattenbury, who said the display of hatred, intolerance and offensive behaviour towards Muslims was one of the biggest intolerance issues in Australia today.
    We need freedom FROM religion – the very nature of religious delusion is that it is not a private problem but one that insists that others, not so afflicted, act in accordance with the god botherers’ crazy ideas.

  8. Lesley Graham

    Law simply can’t deal with it.And because of this shouldn’t deal with it.

    1. mike westerman

      I see the watershed between theocracy and secularism is the shift in authority from the religious elite to the people. Christianity thru Protestantism, Zen in Buddhism, Zoroastrianism in Hinduism, made possible the transition by shifting faith to personal and communal practice. Catholicism, Islam, Hinduism still have too much invested in political power to do so.

  9. Dion Giles

    Re Mike Westerman’s “inane”: The Jap occupation of NEI, Soekarno’s assistance to the occupiers, the Soeharto coup, the genocidal massacre of Chinese Indonesians and political opponents in the 1960s, the aggression against East Timor, the rape of West Papua, the treasonous complicity of Australia’s Jakarta lobby, the upsurge of Moslem theocracy today have a hell of a lot more to do with the current shape of Indonesia than things that happened 40-50 thousand or even several hundred years ago, safely remote from the theocratic criminality of today and its living-memory origins.

    1. mike westerman

      Oh I see – bit more complex than just Japs and Sukarno…and I suppose inter-theocratic tensions that targeted Ahok arose from some other source than Japs/Sukarno,ditto the tensions between animist Javanese and Islamic fundos? Keep going and you will gradually obscure your original rant.

      1. Dion Giles

        Islamic infestation has has been a constant in Indonesia since long before even the Dutch. A background, not an event. Not relevant to Australia other than a warning we’d better watch our own backs.

        1. mike westerman

          Again – not supported by the evidence. Hindu and Buddhist influence extending for over a millennium remained a powerful undercurrent until very recently, and Islam was only partly extant for a century before the arrival of the Dutch. The pogrom against the Chinese by Soeharto with the support of the West as a purge against communism, and his later “accommodation” of Wahabi influences probably did as much as anything to allow the ascendancy of radical Islam over the menage that was pre-Independence Islam except perhaps in Aceh. If Australia has anything to worry about (and it does) it is the weak position of the current governments in Indonesia and Malaysia in standing against Wahabi and Salafist movements, primarily as a result of capitulation to Saudi Arabia.
          If you want to see just how “un-constant” the influence was, look back at photos of Indonesian women right up to the post Soeharto era – no sign of hijabs. If you wish to learn from history, and avoid its traps, it’s better to start with factual rather than ideological views, otherwise you are no more enlightened than the “religious” you disparage.

  10. Marion Maddox

    The Queen lost the title “Defender of the Faith” as far as Australia is concerned in the Royal Style and Titles Act 1973. She is still Defender of the Faith in the UK, where the existence of an established church presumably answers the question, ‘Which faith?’. But when she visits New Zealand, where she also retains the ‘Defender of the Faith’ title, she must wonder which faith she would be called on to defend.

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