Policing Belief: The Impact of Blasphemy Laws on Human Rights examines the human rights implications of domestic blasphemy and religious insult laws using the case studies of seven countries—Algeria, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan
and Poland—where such laws exist both on paper and in practice.
Without exception, blasphemy laws violate the fundamental freedom of expression, as they are by definition intended to protect religious institutions and religious doctrine– i.e.,
abstract ideas and concepts – from insult or offence.
At their most benign, such laws lead to self-censorship. In Greece and Poland, two of the more democratic countries examined in the study, charges brought against high-profile artists, curators
and writers serve as a warning to others that certain topics are off limits.
At their worst, in countries such as Pakistan and Malaysia, such laws lead to overt governmental censorship and individuals are both prosecuted and subject to severe
criminal penalties including lengthy jail sentences.
Blasphemy was quietly abolished in Greece on 1 July 2019 under changes to the country's criminal code, in a huge step forward for the global campaign to end harsh blasphemy laws.
According to the Humanist Union of Greece, the crime of blasphemy
will be dropped from the country's Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedures from 1 July 2019. The news was welcomed by the Humanist Union of Greece after it was published on a Greek news site.
Greece's blasphemy law was among the most
restrictive in Europe, and has actively been used to prosecute people for often satirical posts deemed to insult religion. In a high-profile blasphemy case in Greece in 2012, blogger Filippos Loizos used a play on words to portray a revered Greek
Orthodox monk as a traditional pasta-based dish. He was sentenced to 10 months in prison after being found guilty of blasphemy. His conviction was later overthrown on appeal.
Greece is the 8th country to repeal its blasphemy law since 2015.