Coalition parties split over blasphemy motion
17 November 2004, AMSTERDAM — A split has emerged among the government coalition partners in the Netherlands over whether the country's blasphemy law should be scrapped.
17 November 2004
AMSTERDAM — A split has emerged among the government coalition partners in the Netherlands over whether the country's blasphemy law should be scrapped.
The small liberal D66 party has risked the wrath of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's Christian Democrats (CDA) by tabling a motion to re-evaluate the prohibition on blasphemy. The motion will be voted on next week.
The Netherlands is governed by a coalition made up of the CDA, D66 and Liberal Party (VVD).
Ministers of all three parties claim abolishing the blasphemy law now would give off the wrong signal. But D66 and VVD MPs seem set to push the motion through.
Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner, a member of the CDA, sparked a debate when he suggested at the weekend that the law should be strengthened.
The question of how far one can go to insult another's religious beliefs in the Netherlands has been a big issue in recent weeks. Theo van Gogh, a filmmaker known for his vocal criticism of Islam, was murdered on an Amsterdam street on 2 November.
A man who holds Dutch and Moroccan nationality has been arrested for the killing.
Politicians rallied to the cause of freedom of speech after the assassination and government ministers emphasised that citizens should be allowed to speak freely, even when attacking strongly held beliefs.
Responding to Donner's attempts to beef up the law, D66 parliamentarian Lousewies van der Laan has tabled a motion in the Lower House of Parliament, or Tweede Kamer, asking for the law to be reformed.
"The intention is to scrap it. But because scrapping isn't a legal term, my motion calls for the law to be reformed," she said on Wednesday.
She argued that it was wrong that articles 147 and 147a of the criminal law outlawed blasphemy but did not ban insulting the ideas and principles of non-believers.
"I can't accept that calling someone a dumb Christian is more injurious than calling someone a dumb nigger," she said.
Van der Laan also noted the blasphemy law has rarely been used since it was introduced in 1932 by the present justice minister's grandfather.
Most of the parties in parliament, including D66 and the VVD, have indicated they will support Van der Laan's motion. Only the Christian parties, the CDA and the smaller SGP and ChristenUnie, want to keep the blasphemy law.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news