Sunday, October 16, 2011

"The Permissibility of Incitement to Religious Hatred Offenses Under European Convention Principles"

Susannah C. Vance, The Permissibility of Incitement to Religious Hatred Offenses Under European Convention Principles, 14 Transnat'l L. & Contemp. Probs. 201 (2004).

Vance's article is a useful examination of the history of France's existing and England's (at the time) proposed statutes on religious hatred. The validity of each is analyzed under European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence, with particular attention paid to the Court's two decisions upholding domestic blasphemy statutes: Wingrove v. United Kingdom (1997) and Otto-Preminger Institute v. Austria (1994). Vance concludes that both country's religious hatred statutes would likely be upheld if challenged under Article 10 (the free speech guarantee) of the European Convention (p. 226).

In the course of this analysis, Vance makes several interesting points regarding the relationship between blasphemy and religious hatred. She notes:

"A law criminalizing religious hate speech may be analogized either to the racial incitement provisions contained in Britain's and France's civil rights legislation, or to blasphemy laws enacted to protect a country's established church." (p. 229)

"When contrasted with blasphemy laws, religious incitement laws of the sort enacted in France and contemplated in Britain appear better adapted to protecting the religious feelings of others. First, blasphemy laws in their traditional form are designed to protect the integrity of doctrine (typically the doctrine of the established church) from defilement; their primary focus is not on insult to individual adherents of the faith. Second, and more importantly, blasphemy laws are radically under-inclusive in their coverage; they protect only the established religion." (p. 237)

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