The Dutch cabinet will today discuss a proposal to remove article 147, the law against blasphemy, from the Dutch penal code. Article 137 of the penal code which forbids insulting groups on the basis of race, religion, sexual disposition or handicap will be amended too and the reference to religion will be taken out.
This is reported (Dutch) by the Reformatorisch Dagblad, a orthodox Calvinist Christian newspaper connected to the Christian Union (CU) Party. The CU is a junior partner in the Dutch Cabinet of Christian Democrats, Christian Union and Labour (PvdA).
The Constitution and the law against Discrimination
Appearently article 1 of the Dutch Constitution will remain unchanged. Article 1 states:
All persons in the Netherlands shall be treated equally in equal circumstances. Discrimination on the grounds of religion, belief, political opinion, race or sex or on other grounds whatsoever shall not be permitted.This law on discrimination by the state was amended in 1980 to include discrimination by private persons and parties on the lines of the old Soviet Constitution of 1936 (article 123).
The Minister of Justice
The Reformatorisch Dagblad credits the proposal with Hirsh Ballin, a Cabinet member for Justice. Hirsch Ballin is a member of the Christian Democrats (CDA). He infamously defended the intimidating arrest of Dutch Cartoonist Gregorius Nekschot.
Freedom of Speech against Discrimination
2008 was a year of political friction and unrest between those who favour the principle of Freedom of Speech and those who favour religion. Dutch Cartoonists and webmasters attacked Islam in the same way as Christianity was attacked in the late 1960ies. They found that the government started to use the law against Blasphemy against them. Even though this law had been dormant since the case against writer Gerard van 't Reve had been dismissed by a Dutch court in 1968.
There seemed to grow a coalition between Christians and Islam in The Netherlands. The secular parties including the Leftist parties opposed this revival of the law against Blasphemy. They were prodded on by their voting base, which demanded Freedom of Speech and the right to criticize Religion especially Islam. The Labour Party (PvdA) and Socialist Party vied for the honour of defeating the law of Blasphemy. A proposal by Justice Minister Hirsch Ballin to extend the law against Blasphemy to insults to all worldviews was leaked by someone in the department of Justice and shot down in parliament.
What will happen?
There is a broad majority in parliament to remove the law against Blasphemy so the vote today seems a race with a predictable end.
Discrimination and protected classes
Even so the law against "discrimination" remains both in the Constitution and in the penal code. And thus immigrants remain a protected class under the law. The secularist have correctly pointed out that the law against Blasphemy makes the religious a protected class under the law. By giving the followers of religions superior rights to the rights of secular citizens. But it remains so that the law against Discrimination favours classes of people defined by race, gender and sexual orientation.
To paraphrase the word of Jesus: the secularists see the speck in the eye of the Christians and the Muslims, but fail to behold the plank in their own eye. (Matthew 7 : 1-6).