Religious offences in Italy, as in many European countries, have a long and complex history that is intertwined with the events in the history of the relationship between church and state and the institutional and constitutional framework of a nation.
This article is divided into three parts. The first part aims to offer some historical remarks concerning the rules on the contempt of religion and blasphemy in Italian criminal law from the end of the 19th century to the present day. The second part focuses on changes to the law on vilification introduced in 2006 and the third part deals with the recent developments in blasphemy law in the context of sport.
The article shows that, on the one hand, reforms of the offences grouped under vilification of religion are anachronistic and do not stand up against the religious freedom of individuals, yet on the other, despite the traditional rules for the protection of religion being considered obsolete, they are applied in new areas of law, for example sport, and are used to curb bad manners and bad behaviour. The relationship between the new functions of these criminal rules and the traditional ones, however, remains uncertain and fluctuating, and reveals a moralistic approach to religious offences.