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AUSTRIA'S LAW AGAINST DEFAMATION OF RELIGION: A CASE STUDY

  • Greg Taylor (a1)
Abstract

Recently there have been calls from Islamic nations for the creation of a crime of “defamation of religion.” Austria already has such an offense: section 188 of the Criminal Code of 1974 prohibits giving “justified offense” (berechtigtes Ärgernis) by “publicly disparag[ing] or ridicul[ing] a person who, or an object which, is the subject of veneration of a domestically established church or religious community, or a dogma, a lawful custom or a lawful institution of such a church or religious community.” This has recently been applied to secure the conviction of an activist of the right-wing Freedom Party of Austria, who announced at a semi-public seminar attended by about thirty people, including one undercover journalist, that Mohammed was a pedophile. Drawing on the law of comparable jurisdictions, this article traces the history of the provision and considers how it is applied by the courts. In this article it is contended that this provision, while rarely used, unduly restricts public discussion. At the least, the provision needs both reinterpretation and amendment; international human rights sources suggest that repeal should be seriously considered given that the existing offense of sedition is available for serious cases.

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1 Galatians 6:7 (New Revised Standard Version).

2 Cf. Mark 5:11; Levy, Leonard W., Blasphemy: Verbal Offense against the Sacred, from Moses to Salman Rushdie (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995), 565–66. Given that the founder of Christianity, thought to be of the Deity himself, was tortured to death as a criminal, a blasphemer no less, it is easy to see why Christians should not be worried about any other, necessarily lesser insults offered to him or their faith.

3 The reference to “daily units” refers to the system by which a person's income, reckoned by the day, is the basis for the calculation of fines. This is meant to ensure that the economic circumstances of offenders are taken into account in setting fines, which might otherwise be too steep for the poor or derisory for the wealthy. The translation is adapted from that to be found in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) Case, Otto-Preminger-Institut v. Austria, 1994 series A no. 295-A, p. 12. (The Court omitted the word “publicly” in its translation.) Unless otherwise noted, all translations from German are the author's.

4 Dacey, Austin, The Future of Blasphemy: Speaking of the Sacred in an Age of Human Rights (London: Continuum, 2012), chapter 1.

5 Of 31 December 1768; Article 56.

6 Art. 57, section 2.

7 Hartl, „Strafrecht und Religion: Gedanken zur Säkularisierung des österreichischen Strafrechts“ ÖJZ 1976, 426, 427; Klecatsky, „Religionsfreiheit und Religionsdelikte“ öArchKirchenR 1970, 34, 34f; Küpper, „Zu Notwendigkeit und Umfang strafrechtlichen Schutzes gegen die Beschimpfung von religiösen Bekenntnissen“ in Klein (ed.), Meinungsäußerungsfreiheit versus Religions- und Glaubensfreiheit (Berlin: Berliner Wissenschaftsverlag, 2007), 15; cf. The King v. Taylor (1676) 1 Vent 293; 86 ER 189; 3 Keb 607; 621; 84 ER 906; 914; Pringle, Helen, “Regulating Offence to the Godly: Blasphemy and the Future of Religious Vilification Laws,” University of New South Wales Law Journal 34, no. 1 (2011): 316, 327.

8 Sections 91–94.

9 Sections 107–08.

10 RGBl 1852/117 (27 May 1852), sections 122–24, 303.

11 RGBl 1868/49 (law of 25 May 1868), Art. 7.

12 Various scholars suggested that the prohibition might have been repealed by desuetude: for references see Hartl, ÖJZ 1976, 426, 427. This suggestion, obviously somewhat heterodox in a codified system, was clearly also inconsistent with the republication of the provision in the official collection of Austrian law in 1945, after the end of the occupation or annexation by Germany. Amtliche Sammlung wiederverlautbarter österreichischer Rechtsvorschriften: Österreichisches Strafgesetz, 4th ed. (Vienna: Austrian State Printer, 1947), 51f; Klecatsky, öArchKirchenR 1970, 34, 36f. Furthermore, it was rejected by the Supreme Court of Austria in SSt XLI/34 (judgment of 19 June 1970). See also Austrian Parliamentary Papers, Thirteenth Legislature, no. 30, 327. In its judgment of 19 June 1970, the Court even denied that the provision was in conflict with the European Convention on Human Rights, citing the exception in Article 10(2).

13 RGBl 1912/159 (law of 15 July 1912), Art. 1. This law originally protected only Islam practiced according to the Hanafite rite (the most common in Bosnia). This restriction was declared constitutionally invalid by the Constitutional Court on 10 December 1987. ErkSlg 11 574/1987; BGBl 1988/164 (24 March 1988). By this time, however, the Criminal Code of 1974 had been passed, and it refers not to legal recognition (as its predecessors had) but to existence in fact. Austrian Parliamentary Papers, Thirteenth Legislature, no. 30, 328; Mayer/Tipold in Triffterer (ed.), StGB Kommentar: System und Praxis [Salzburger Kommentar] (27th update, Lexis Nexis, s.l. 2012), preliminary remarks on sections 188ff, no. 1; annotations to section 188, no. 2. Thus, this ruling had no effect on the application of section 188 of the Criminal Code. On 22 May 2013, the Islamic Alevite Community was added to the list: BGBl 2013/133.

14 Austrian Parliamentary Papers, Eleventh Legislature, no. 706, 33.

15 These are documented quite thoroughly by Klecatsky, öArchKirchenR 1970, 34.

16 Ibid., 34, 45.

17 Austrian Parliamentary Papers, Thirteenth Legislature, no. 30, clause 195 and p. 327.

18 Austrian Parliamentary Papers, Thirteenth Legislature, no. 959, 30.

19 Mayer/Tipold in Triffterer (ed.), StGB Kommentar, preliminary remarks on sections 188ff, no. 1.

20 For a handy overview of the statistics from 1951 to 2001 see Statistik Austria, Bevölkerung nach dem Religionsbekenntnis und Bundesländern 1951 bis 2001 (June 1, 2007), available at http://www.statistik.at/web_de/static/bevoelkerung_nach_dem_religionsbekenntnis_und_bundeslaendern_1951_bis_2001_022885.pdf.

21 Taylor, Greg, “Concepts of Intention in German Criminal Law,” Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 24, no. 1 (2004): 99127.

22 Bachner/Foregger in Höpfel/Ratz (eds.), Wiener Kommentar zum Strafgesetzbuch (online; Vienna: Manz, 2012), annotations to section 188, no. 20; Hinterhofer, Strafrecht Besonderer Teil II, 4th ed. (Vienna: W.U.V. Universitätsverlag, 2005), 56; Mayer/Tipold in Triffterer (ed.), StGB Kommentar, annotations to section 188, nos. 17f; Platzgummer, „Herabwürdigung religiöser Lehren, Meinungsfreiheit und Freiheit der Kunst“ JBl 1995, 137, 137.

23 Foregger/Fabrizy, Strafgesetzbuch: Kommentar, 10th ed. (Vienna: Manz, 2010), 594.

24 OGH, SSt XIII/45, 142. See also Protokoll über die 10. Arbeitssitzung der Kommission zur Ausarbeitung eines Strafgesetzentwurfes im Jahre 1962 – 30. August 1962 (typescript held at the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law, Freiburg/Br., Germany), 1189, 1192f, where herabwürdigt is chosen as a more modern and understandable alternative to the traditional but rather antique verunglimpft.

25 Austrian Parliamentary Papers, Eleventh Legislature, no. 706, 343; Austrian Parliamentary Papers, Thirteenth Legislature, no. 30, 329.

26 Mayer/Tipold in Triffterer (ed.), StGB Kommentar, annotations to section 188, no. 14 (referring also to sections 248 (2) and 317 of the Criminal Code, where the two glosses found in my text are used together and then followed by otherwise (herabwürdigt)).

27 The case OLG Graz, MR 1985 (2), A10, A11, uses verächtlich machen as a synonym for herabwürdigt.

28 As well as general changes in Western societies since that date, it should be mentioned that this decision was handed down on 22 May 1933, only a couple of months after the authoritarian regime of the Patriotic Front (1933–1938) had replaced Austrian democracy. It is not my task to review here the precise relationship between that regime and religion, but it can be said without fear of exaggeration that the regime was friendly to the Roman Catholic inheritance of Austria.

29 OGH, SSt XIII/45, p. 142.

30 Barendt, Eric, Freedom of Speech, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 191.

31 For example, Bachner/Foregger in Höpfel/Ratz (eds.), Wiener Kommentar, annotations to section 188, no. 7; Mayer/Tipold in Triffterer (ed.), StGB Kommentar, annotations to section 188, nos. 6–8.

32 Liebscher, „Religiöses Gefühl und Strafgesetz“ JBl 1971, 114, 116f, bases part of his (obviously unsuccessful) argument for an end to the protection of religions against insult in the lead-up to the reform of 1974 on the question whether extreme adherents of the cult of Wotan should receive protection; they, too, have not troubled the Courts.

33 Foregger/Fabrizy, Strafgesetzbuch, 594f

34 Kienapfel/Schmoller, Studienbuch Strafrecht: Besonderer Teil, vol. 3, 2nd ed. (Vienna: Manz, 2009), 91; Mayer/Tipold in Triffterer (ed.), StGB Kommentar, annotations to section 188, no. 18.

35 OLG Graz, MR 1985 (2), A10. The bar was set fairly high as early as 1885 by the case reported in Plenarbeschlüsse und Entscheidungen des k.k. obersten Gerichts- und Cassationshofes 8, 812, p. 130. In this case a parish priest attacked spiritualism in the presence of persons inclined towards it, one of whom protested; it was held that mere muttering on the part of the audience as a reaction to the protest did not show that Ärgernis existed, and the protester was found not guilty for that and other reasons.

36 OLG Graz, MR 1985 (2), A10, A11 (case); Bachner/Foregger in Höpfel/Ratz (eds.), Wiener Kommentar, annotations to section 188, no. 13; Hinterhofer, Strafrecht, 56; Mayer/Tipold in Triffterer (ed.), StGB Kommentar, annotations to section 188, no. 19. But compare the cases referred to in Ahdar, Rex Tauati, “Religious Vilification: Confused Policy, Unsound Principle and Unfortunate Law,” University of Queensland Law Journal 26, no. 2 (2007), 293, 308.

37 Foregger/Fabrizy, Strafgesetzbuch, 595; Kienapfel/Schmoller, Studienbuch Strafrecht, 91f; Platzgummer, JBl 1995, 137, 137.

38 For example, Hinterhofer, Strafrecht, 56; Mayer/Tipold in Triffterer (ed.), StGB Kommentar, annotations to section 188, nos. 3, 18; Platzgummer, JBl 1995, 137, 137.

39 Kienapfel/Schmoller, Studienbuch Strafrecht, 92; Mayer/Tipold in Triffterer (ed.), StGB Kommentar, annotations to section 188, no. 19; Triffterer/Schmoller, „Die Freiheit der Kunst und die Grenzen des Strafrechts: Auswirkungen des Art. 17a StGG auf die strafrechtliche Verantwortlichkeit bei künstlerischer oder vermeintlich künstlerischer Betätigung“ ÖJZ 1993, 547, 579. Cf. also Feinberg, Joel, Offense to Others (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 26, 32f, 45.

The position must be as stated in the text: even within the one religion (or perhaps especially within the one religion), a person of strong protestant convictions, say a strict Calvinist, might find the mere invocation of saints in a Roman Catholic Mass blasphemous and heretical, but can avoid the offense easily by not attending Mass; or a Sunni Muslim might find various aspect of Shia Islam equally offensive, but should apply the equivalent remedy.

40 Mayer/Tipold in Triffterer (ed.), StGB Kommentar, annotations to section 188, no. 19.

41 Bachner/Foregger in Höpfel/Ratz (eds.), Wiener Kommentar, annotations to section 188, no. 14.

42 A similar approach to avoiding criminal punishment for the offense of animal cruelty committed for religious ritual reasons is suggested by Lewisch, „Schächten als strafbare Tierquälerei? Religionsfreiheit und strafrechtliche Beteiligungslehre am Beispiel 15 Os 27, 28/96“ JBl 1998, 137.

43 The drafting materials on the provision against disturbing funerals reveal that “justified” was inserted there on the run also, in case anyone claimed to be offended by, for example, someone's failure to pray at the graveside: Protokoll über die 10. Arbeitssitzung der Kommission zur Ausarbeitung eines Strafgesetzentwurfes im Jahre 1962 – 30. August 1962 (typescript held at the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law, Freiburg/Br., Germany), 1221f.

44 BVerfGE 7, 198. For a translation of the judgment, see Markesinis, Basil S. and Unberath, Hannes, German Law of Torts: A Comparative Treatise, 4th ed. (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2002), 392–97.

45 Human Rights Act, 1998, ch. 42, section 3(1). For cases from the United Kingdom close to the area presently under discussion that do just this, see Hammond v. Director of Public Prosecutions (2004) 168 JP 601; [2004] EWHC 69; Connolly v. Director of Public Prosecutions [2008] 1 WLR 276, [18].

46 RGBl 142/1867 (law of 21 December 1867) continued in force by Article 149 (1) of the present Constitution. For a brief reference to the background, see Stelzer, Manfred, Constitution of the Republic of Austria (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2011), 5, 9.

47 BGBI 1964/59 (Law of 4 March 1964, Art. II (7)).

48 Berka, „Die Freiheit der Kunst (Art. 17a StGG) und ihre Grenzen im System der Grundrechte“ JBl 1983, 281, 289f; Platzgummer, „Herabwürdigung religiöser Lehren, Meinungsfreiheit und Freiheit der Kunst“ JBl 1995, 137, 140.

49 In theory it might be possible, under section 72 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, BGBl. Nr. 631/1975, for a private person to continue a prosecution that the state has abandoned, but this will be a rare case indeed. Section 2(1) of that Code requires the Public Prosecutor to begin criminal proceedings if sufficient grounds exist—there is usually no discretion not to prosecute.

50 Article 13 of the catalogue of basic rights of 1867 admittedly protects freedom of opinion and expression “within statutory limits.” To avoid delaying the flow of my argument, I add in this footnote that section 188 should not be interpreted as if Article 13 said nothing more than “within statutory limits,” thus essentially permitting itself to be negated by any statute, but also read restrictively with due regard to the substantive guarantee in the rest of Article 13 and the value embodied in the right protected. This, the Wechselwirkungslehre, is also a well-known interpretative tool from the Lüth judgment.

51 Berka, „RichterInnen als GrundrechtswahrerInnen: Grundrechte und Rechtsprechung der ersten Instanz“ öRZ 2008, 114. For a similar, if more cautious treatment, see Adamovich/Funk/Holzinger, Österreichisches Staatsrecht: Band 3 – Grundrechte (Vienna: Springer, 2003), 29; Stelzer, Constitution of Austria, 190f, 218.

52 Bachner/Foregger in Höpfel/Ratz (eds.), Wiener Kommentar, annotations to section 188, no. 13.

53 The Rechtsgutstheorie goes back to the criminal law scholarship of the 1830s, well before the time when Austria and Germany were separated, and thus it is part of their common inheritance rather than an import from one country to another.

54 See, for example, Fuchs, Helmut, Österreichisches Strafrecht: Allgemeiner Teil I – Grundlagen und Lehre von der Straftat, 7th ed. (Vienna: Springer, 2008), 13, 85f.

55 Lauterwein, Carl, The Limits of Criminal Law: A Comparative Analysis of Approaches to Legal Theorising (Farnham: Ashgate, 2010). The comparative exercise supposedly undertaken in that work is of no scholarly value. See Taylor, Greg, “The Limits of Criminal Law: A Comparative Analysis of Approaches to Legal Theorizing,” University of Queensland Law Journal 29, no. 2 (2010): 347. Something of the flavor of the idea may also be gathered from the speech of Lord Scarman in The Queen v. Lemon [1979] AC 617, 658B (describing the offense as designed “to safeguard the internal tranquillity of the Kingdom”); but see Lemon [1979] AC at 662D (stating that the “true test is whether the words are calculated to outrage and insult the Christian's religious feelings”). The former appears to be the value protected, the latter is a part of the elements of the offense. See also Director of Public Prosecutions v. Collins [2006] 1 WLR 2223, [7].

56 Section 166 of the Criminal Code (in the version of Erstes Gesetz zur Reform des Strafrechts (1. StrRG) of 25 June 1969, BGBl I 645). There are, however, important differences in addition to the one about to be noted in the text. Thus, for example, the German provision protects only from disparagement, not from ridicule: Küpper, „Zu Notwendigkeit“, 26.

57 It took, however, some time for everyone to catch on: see Küpper, „Zu Notwendigkeit“, 18–21.

58 See note 18 above. For prior discussions, see Klecatsky, öArchKirchenR 1970, 34, 48f.

59 There is an interesting parallel in a recent case in what is otherwise the rather different environment of Indonesia. See Crouch, Melissa, “The Indonesian Blasphemy Case: Affirming the Legality of the Blasphemy Law,” Oxford Journal of Law and Religion 1, no. 2 (2012): 514, 516f.

60 Mayer/Tipold in Triffterer (ed.), StGB Kommentar, annotations to section 188, no. 5, footnote 19.

61 Thus, for example, I have been unable to find a report of the proceedings against Dr. Susanne Winter in 2009 in Graz. This article, however, is not a summary of the case law; and the utterances of Dr. Winter were somewhat more extreme than those of Frau Sabaditsch-Wolff, and also much more clearly made in public, making Dr. Winter's case a less suitable one for testing the reach of section 188.

62 OLG Graz, MR 1985 (4), A7, A8 (appeal dismissed on other grounds: MR 1986 (2), 15).

63 Protokoll über die zweite Arbeitssitzung der Kommission zur Ausarbeitung eines Strafgesetzentwurfes im Jahre 1959 – 29. Jänner 1959 (typescript held at the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law, Freiburg/Br., Germany), 159; Austrian Parliamentary Papers, Eleventh Legislature, no. 706, 340; Austrian Parliamentary Papers, Thirteenth Legislature, no. 30, 327, 329.

64 Protokoll über die 11. Arbeitssitzung der Kommission zur Ausarbeitung eines Strafgesetzentwurfes im Jahre 1962 – 31. August 1962 (typescript held at the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law, Freiburg/Br., Germany), 1245f.

65 Austrian Parliamentary Papers, Thirteenth Legislature, no. 30, 327.

66 See note 18 above.

67 Bachner/Foregger in Höpfel/Ratz (eds.), Wiener Kommentar, preliminary remarks on sections 188–91, nos. 2–4; Kienapfel/Schmoller, Studienbuch Strafrecht, 90; Mayer/Tipold in Triffterer (ed.), StGB Kommentar, preliminary remarks on sections 188ff, no. 2; annotations to section 188, nos. 3, 4; Platzgummer, „Herabwürdigung religiöser Lehren, Meinungsfreiheit und Freiheit der Kunst“ JBl 1995, 137, 137f. A case from 1970, before the enactment of the present provision, is equally equivocal about the purpose of the prior law, stating both that a variety of values are protected by it and baldly that religious peace alone is the value protected: OGH, SSt XLI/34, 150, 152.

68 Hinterhofer, Strafrecht, 54.

69 Pawlik, „Der strafrechtliche Schutz des Heiligen“ in Isensee (ed.), Religionsbeschimpfung: der rechtliche Schutz des Heiligen (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 2007), 76, 78. Compare the statute dealt with in Monis v. The Queen (2013) 249 CLR 92.

70 Barendt, Freedom of Speech, 192; see also Waldron, The Harm in Hate Speech (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012), 106; Worms, Die Bekenntnisbeschimpfung im Sinne des § 166 Abs. 1 StGB und die Lehre vom Rechtsgut (Peter Lang, Frankfurt/M. 1984), 126–28. Although it does not concern religious vilification, and is about civil rather than criminal liability (the latter, however, is an a fortiori case), see also the comments made to and by the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee of the Australian Senate in its report to the Senate, tabled on 21 February 2013, on the Exposure Draft of the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012 at 37–43, 88f.

71 In the judgment cited below in note 74, at page 14.

72 Section 115 (1).

73 See note 62 above.

74 In what follows I shall not repeatedly cite the judgment against Frau Sabaditsch-Wolff and the appeals brought by her, which were unreported at the time of writing but have the following file numbers:

  • trial: LG Wien (State Criminal Court of Vienna), 112 E Hv 144/10g;

  • intermediate appeal: OLG Wien (State Appeals Court at Vienna), 22 Bs 145/11a;

  • final appeal: OG (Supreme Court of Austria), 15 Os 52/12d.

75 Freeman, Heather Berit, Note, “Austria: The 1999 Parliament Elections and the European Union Members' Sanctions,” Boston College International and Comparative Law Review 25, no. 1 (2002): 109.

76 There was not, however, any restriction on attendance at the seminar; the journalist did not identify herself as such, but it was not necessary to be a party member to attend, for example.

77 Mayer/Tipold in Triffterer (ed.), StGB Kommentar, annotations to section 188, no. 23.

78 Feinberg, Offence to Others, 44.

79 15 Os 52/12d, p. 12.

80 See note 34 above.

81 See note 39 above.

82 Grabenwarter, „Filmkunst im Spannungsfeld zwischen Freiheit der Meinungsäußerung und Religionsfreiheit: Anmerkung zum Urteil des Europäischen Gerichtshofs für Menschenrechte vom 20. September 1994 im Fall Otto-Preminger-Institut“ ZaöRV 1995, 128, 152f; cf. Pell v. Council of the Trustees of the National Gallery of Victoria [1998] 2 VR 391, 392 (rejecting a claim by a plaintiff cardinal that the mere awareness of the public exhibition of “Piss Christ” offended his flock even if they did not go and see it).

83 15 Os 52/12d, p. 16.

84 For example, the assertion by Dacey, Future of Blasphemy, 68, that “there is a human right to blaspheme.” Even assuming that there is such a right, others need to be balanced against it.

85 As well as European countries such as the one under discussion here, see the analysis of the law of Israel in Reichman, Amnon, “Criminalising Religiously Offensive Satire: Free Speech, Human Dignity, and Comparative Law,” in Extreme Speech and Democracy, ed. Hare, Ivan and Weinstein, James (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), chapter 17.

86 Public Order Act 1986 sections 29B(1), 29J (1986).

87 Cf. Ivan Hare, “Blasphemy and Incitement to Religious Hatred: Free Speech Dogma and Doctrine,” in Extreme Speech and Democracy, 295f, with Hadfield, Bridget, “The Prevention of Incitement to Religious Hatred—An Article of Faith?” Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly 35 (1984): 231 (contrasting the law of Northern Ireland).

88 Various pieces of legislation are handily collected, expounded, and assessed in Saskatchewan (Human Rights Commission) v. Whatcott, 2013 SCC 11, [2013] 1 S.C.R. 467, at [41], [58], [86] (stating, inter alia, that hatred is much stronger than merely causing offense).

89 Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 section 8.

90 See Ahdar, “Religious Vilification,” 306, 309.

91 Adamovich/Funk/Holzinger, Österreichisches Staatsrecht, at 27.

92 See note 47 above.

93 See Hinterhofer, Strafrecht, 54.

94 European Court of Human Rights, Church of Scientology v. Sweden, 21 Decisions & Reports of the European Court of Human Rights 109, 111 (1980); Ian Cram, “The Danish Cartoons, Offensive Expression and Democratic Legitimacy,” in Extreme Speech and Democracy, 320; Dacey, Future of Blasphemy, 81; European Commission for Democracy through Law, Report on the Relationship between Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Religion: The Issue of Regulation and Prosecution of Blasphemy, Religious Insult and Incitement to Religious Hatred,” Human Rights Law Journal 29, no. 6 (2008): 451, 459; Holoubek, „Meinungsfreiheit und Toleranz – von der Schwierigkeit einer Verantwortungsteilung zwischen Staat und Gesellschaft für einen vernünftigen Umgang miteinander“ öJRP 2006, 84, 86; Kienapfel/Schmoller, Studienbuch Strafrecht, 91; Pabel, „Grundrechtsbeschränkungen bei grenzüberschreitenden Konfliktlagen“ öJRP 2006, 92, 96.

95 Ahdar, “Religious Vilification,” 296f; Barendt, Eric, “Religious Hatred Laws: Protecting Groups or Belief?” Res Publica 17, no. 1 (2011): 41, 50f; Grabenwarter, ZaöRV 1995, 128, 146, 161; Isensee, „Die staatliche Verantwortung für die Abgrenzung der Freiheitssphären: der Streit über die Mohammed-Karikaturen als Paradigma“ in Klein (ed.), Meinungsäußerungsfreiheit, 69f; Stelzer, „Der Karikaturstreit: Versuch einer grundrechtlichen Entgrenzung“ öJRP 2006, 98, 99; Thompson, Simon, “Freedom of Expression and Hatred of Religion,” Ethnicities 12, no. 2 (2012): 215, 226–28; cf. Waldron, Harm of Hate Speech, 130, 134f. On the consequences of a less rigid view on this point, see Cram, “Danish Cartoons,” 320.

96 Hare, Ivan, “Crosses, Crescents and Sacred Cows: Criminalising Incitement to Religious Hatred,” Public Law (Autumn 2006): 521, 529f (rejecting a third possible basis for reasons with which I wholly agree), 536; Pawlik, „Der strafrechtliche Schutz“, 59, 79, 83.

97 1994 series A no. 295-A. The case is also referred to in Dacey, Future of Blasphemy, 64–68.

98 Klein, Introduction to Meinungsäußerungsfreiheit, 11.

99 Judgment by the European Court of Human Rights (Second Section), case of Aydin Tatlav v. Turkey, Application no. 50692/99, 2 May 2006. I read a German translation of the judgment in NVwZ 2007, 314, but I have not been able to find a printed report in English.

100 15 Os 52/12d, p. 15.

101 Judgment by the European Court of Human Rights (Second Section), case of Giniewski v. France, Application no. 64016/00, 31 April 2006, 277.

102 Ibid., 293.

103 Judgment by the European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), case of Klein v. Slovakia, Application no. 72208/01, 31 October 2006.

104 Judgment by the European Court of Human Rights (First Section), case of Müslüm Gündüz v. Turkey, Application no. 35071/97, 4 December 2003.

105 Ibid., 74.

106 See, e.g., Judgment by the European Court of Human Rights (Second Section), case of I.A. v. Turkey, Application no. 42571/98, 13 September 2005.

107 Platzgummer, JBl 1995, 137.

108 Cram, “Danish Cartoons,” at 327; Hare, “Crosses, Crescents and Sacred Cows,” 527; James Weinstein, “Extreme Speech, Public Order and Democracy: Lessons from the Masses,” in Extreme Speech and Democracy, 56.

109 Mayer/Tipold in Triffterer (ed.), StGB Kommentar, annotations to section 188, no. 13; see also Levy, Blasphemy, 554.

110 Feinberg, Offence to Others, 26.

111 Brown, Alexander, “The Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006: A Millian Response,” Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 11, no. 1 (2008): 9.

112 UN Human Rights Committee (HRC), General comment no. 34, Article 19, Freedoms of Opinion and Expression, 12 September 2011, CCPR/C/GC/34.

113 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, art. 20(2), Dec. 16, 1966, 999 U.N.T.S. 171.

114 Isensee, „Staatliche Verantwortung“, 57 (giving the amusing example that an attack on the German Civil Code is not defamation of a professor who devotes his life to studying it).

115 Barendt, “Religious Hatred Laws,” 45; But see, ibid., 47.

116 Dacey, Future of Blasphemy, 50; cf. Eatock v. Bolt (2011) 197 FCR 261.

117 Or, for example, the authoritarian Constitution of Austria enacted in 1934, which commenced by declaring Austria to be “a Christian, German federal state.” Constitution of Austria of 1934, preamble.

118 This is taken from the unpaginated English-language version of the Freedom Party of Austria's program of 18 June 2011, available on its website at http://www.fpoe.at/fileadmin/Content/portal/PDFs/_dokumente/2011_graz_parteiprogramm_englisch_web.pdf. A small grammatical error has been corrected.

The German version, however, uses the term Volksgemeinschaft—a word that, along with having a most unhappy history, would justify the even more revealing translation “national, linguistic and cultural community” rather than “people's . . .”

119 I am conscious of the fact that I am partly conflating two sets of related but separate terms: race, ethnicity, and nationality; abuse, vilification, and defamation. I think the argument works despite that, and is easier to follow without such fine distinctions, although if I were writing a book on this topic, or talking about the former Yugoslavia, for example, it would be both necessary and desirable to tease these things out.

There is also the question of racial prejudice camouflaged as religious debate; in my discussion, I take this as a practical problem of proof and assume that this sort of thing can be sniffed out and correctly classified as what it is.

120 Joyce v. Director of Public Prosecutions [1946] AC 347.

121 Vance, Susannah, “The Permissibility of Incitement to Religious Hatred Offences under European Convention Principles” Transnational Law and Contemporary Problems 14, no. 1 (2005): 244.

122 Barendt, Freedom of Speech, 190; Pringle, “Regulating Offence to the Godly,” 330.

123 European Commission for Democracy through Law, “Report on the Relationship between Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Religion,” 458.

124 Ahdar, “Religious Vilification,” 301; Hare, “Crosses, Crescents and Sacred Cows,” 534; Hare, “Blasphemy and Incitement to Religious Hatred: Free Speech Dogma and Doctrine,” 308.

125 Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rabat Plan of Action on the Prohibition of Advocacy of National, Racial or Religious Hatred that Constitutes Incitement to Discrimination, Hostility or Violence, 5 October 2012, http://www.ohchr.org/documents/issues/opinion/seminarrabat/rabat_draft_outcome.pdf; see also, Human Rights Council of the United Nations General Assembly, Report of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief (A/HRC/25/58, 26 December 2013), 59.

126 Waldron, Harm of Hate Speech, 120–26. It is of course a different question whether we can know the truth-status of such propositions.

127 Goodall, Kay, “Incitement to Religious Hatred: All Talk and No Substance?Modern Law Review 70, no. 1 (2007), 97.

128 Monis v. The Queen (2013) 249 CLR 92, [199], [222] (Austl.).

129 Saskatchewan (Human Rights Commission) v. Whatcott, [2013] 1 SCR 467, [57], [66], [82], [85]–[92], [108]–[110]; see especially Ibid., [82] (“[P]rotecting the emotions of an individual group member is not rationally connected to the overall purpose of reducing discrimination.”). Reference might also be made to section 57 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 (U.K.), deleting “insulting” from the criminal law of England and Wales in a comparable context. This offense could, under sections 28 and 31(1)(c) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, be an aggravated offense if motivated by religious hostility, but required the presence of someone to be harassed, alarmed, or distressed, and was thus different from the Austrian provision in a crucial respect.

130 See note 112 above.

131 Cram, “Danish Cartoons,” 322; Isensee, foreword to Isensee (ed.), Religionsbeschimpfung, 5f; cf. Levy, Blasphemy, 564.

132 Barendt, “Religious Hatred Laws,” 51; European Commission for Democracy through Law, “Report on the Relationship between Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Religion,” 459. This phenomenon has been noticed over a long period; in his notes to the draft Indian Penal Code of the 1830s, Lord Macaulay says,

A person who should offer a gross insult to the Mahomedan religion in the presence of a zealous professor of that religion; who should deprive some high born Rajput of his caste; who should rudely thrust his head into the covered palanquin of a woman of rank, would probably move those whom he insulted to more violent anger than if he had caused them some severe bodily hurt.

Quoted in Macaulay's Speeches and Poems, with the Report and Notes on the Indian Penal Code, vol. 2 (New York: Hurd & Houghton, 1867), 414f.

In an otherwise excellent article that is by no means hostile to Islam, the explanation of this phenomenon proffered by Danchin, Peter, “Defaming Mohammed: Dignity, Harm and Incitement to Religious Hatred,” Duke Forum for Law & Social Change 2 (2010), 5, 31f, leaves open more questions than it answers: granted that Muslims feel very close to Mohammed, why do most Christians not react with similar vehemence to criticism of Jesus Christ, who has an even more central role in their faith than the one he describes there as occupied by Mohammed in the Islamic faith? The point made above, see note 2, will surely not appeal to many, or perhaps most.

133 Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rabat Plan of Action, paragraph 19.

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Journal of Law and Religion
  • ISSN: 0748-0814
  • EISSN: 2163-3088
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