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)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

U.S. Federal District Court Upholds Regulation of Fortune Telling

Howard Friedman's Religion Clause Blog reports that the U.S. Federal District Court for the District of Eastern Virginia has upheld zoning, tax, and permit restrictions on fortune telling against constitutional challenges premised on freedom of religion, speech, and more. In the case, Moore-King v. County of Chesterfield Virginia, the Court rejected the plaintiff's freedom of religion argument, holding that the plaintiff was not engaged in religious practices. [this post is based solely on Friedman's, as I do not currently have access to Lexis to read the case itself]

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

English Cafe Owner Ordered to Stop Displaying Bible Verses

Police in Lancashire, England ordered the owner of a cafe to stop displaying Bible verses following a complaint about "insulting" and "homophobic" material. The cafe's owner displayed the Bible verses on a t.v. screen using DVDs that cycle through each verse of the New Testament in order; it is unclear which specific verses are the cause of the complaint. In ordering the display to stop, police stated that they were relying on Section 5 of the Public Order Act, which prohibits:

(a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or
(b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,
within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.

After consulting with his attorney, the cafe's owner decided to continue displaying the Bible verses. Section 5 of the Public Order Act has been the subject of widespread condemnation by reformists in England on the ground that it has been abused by police to censor the legitimate exercise of free speech.

Sparse Posting

Apologies once again to the sparse posting--still adjusting to the new demands of fatherhood!