Grand-standing on blasphemy law – archaic but no real threat


Bishop Steve Lowe the Catholic Bishop of the Hamilton says New Zealanders are fortunate to live in a land where freedom of speech and belief was enshrined in law and blasphemy laws seem archaic.

“Some years ago I had a wonderful opportunity to visit Pakistan at a time when their Blasphemy Laws were causing real hardship. In contrast, we are fortunate to live in our land where freedom of speech and freedom of belief is enshrined into our laws and where blasphemy laws seem archaic,” he said.

“The Stephen Fry case seems a nonsense when what he is struggling with is the same struggle many Christians experience, namely how to reconcile a God of love in the face of human suffering.”

“Each of us has to work that out in our own way. It is when we can grapple with the great questions of spirituality and life with mutual respect for the opinions and beliefs of others that we grow as a healthy community.”

Lowe has joined a chorus of church leaders and politicians who agree that the law is archaic.

However the ACT party’s attempt to table a bill that would repeal New Zealand’s blasphemy law has failed because it is not seen as an immediate threat to anyone.

“I don’t think anyone is lying awake at night thinking ‘good heavens, I’m a target and I’m liable for a blasphemy prosecution”, said Labour leader Andrew Little 

“The time to do it would be in the Statutes Amendment Bill, a part of a routine procedure for Parliament. I don’t think we have to waste Parliament’s time outside the usual order of business.”

The Prime Minister Bill English agrees, “We have a process for cleaning up law that has become redundant, and that’s the normal process it will go through.”

Labour MP Chris Hipkins tabled an amendment to the Statutes Repeal Bill to delete the crime of blasphemy.

Seymour’s attempt to have the law repealed followed news reports that the British actor Stephen Fry was being investigated by Irish police on a complaint of blasphemy.

He says he’s forced the government’s hand.

“I’m very happy, it’s the right thing to do,” he told reporters.

“Previously they refused to include the change in the Statutes Repeal Bill, now they seem to be prepared to do it… that means blasphemy laws can be gone by the end of this month.”


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