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Nz govt quietly imposes "world's strictest blasphemy law"

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Another charming surprise...

"New Zealand has imposed some of the world's strictest blasphemy laws by stealth, a humanist group says.

The new Harmful Digital Communications Act, intended to stop cyber-bullying, could have the effect of landing a person in jail for two years for committing blasphemy, the New Zealand Humanist Society said this week.

This aspect of the new law was an affront to four in 10 Kiwis who weren't adherents of any religion, the group said.

"This legislation not only flies in the face of human rights, but the introduction of yet another law that gives special privileges to religions is unfair, unpopular and unrepresentative of our society, where over 40 per cent of New Zealanders identify as not religious, making this our country's largest single belief group," said society president Mark Honeychurch.

However, Justice Minister Amy Adams said the society's interpretation of the law was unfounded.

"A person would have to do much more than simply post blasphemy to fall foul of the criminal offence in the Harmful Digital Communications Act," Ms Adams said.

The society said the act stated digital communications "should not denigrate an individual by reason of his or her colour, race, ethnic or national origins, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability".

Mr Honeychurch said the law would effectively impose some of the world's strictest penalties - including fines of up to $50,000 - on people found guilty of blaspheming, or insulting religion.

"We want to increase social cohesion and understanding, and by awarding privileges and protecting groups from critique we are closing the door on free speech, free inquiry and public debate. New Zealand has to abolish its blasphemy laws before they are used to censor, suppress, and silence public debate," he said.

Mr Honeychurch called the law a "great step backwards from being a progressive society".

The Humanist Society said some human rights organisations took a dim view of the new law for allowing people to bring proceedings if they alleged a digital communication denigrated their religion or caused them to "suffer serious emotional distress".

Last month, lawyers cited in The Law Report said another "possible unintended consequence" of the law would be the establishment of a new legal avenue for recipients of defamatory digital content.

Supporters of the act have said it would address cyber-bullying and the distribution of harmful content online.

The act established a new civil enforcement regime, and new criminal offences to deal with what the Government called "the most serious harmful digital communications".

Ms Adams said it would take a lot for someone to be charged under the act.

"Not only must the perpetrator be responsible for posting the communication, they must intend to harm another person and that harm must actually occur. The offence is targeted at the very worst online behaviours, and will not censor, suppress or silence public debate. Its enactment was recommended by the Law Commission who considered this matter thoroughly."

Ms Adams said that a breach of communication principles does not automatically give rise to civil law remedies under the act.

"So while a communication may 'denigrate an individual by reason of his her colour, race, ethnic or national origins, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability', it must also be likely to cause serious emotional distress before the approved agency will investigate.

"The test is even higher for someone to apply for district court orders; the applicant must first have been to the approved agency, the breach of the communication principle must be serious or repeated, and the breach must cause or be likely to cause serious emotional distress. Also, the approved agency and the district court will have to act consistently with the Bill of Rights Act and consider the importance of freedom of expression when considering complaints or when the court is making decisions and issuing orders."

Ms Adams said the Human Rights Commission welcomed the new laws to address harmful digital communications and noted that it "aims to strike the right balance between freedom of expression and our need as a community to challenge our bullying culture and protect people who are under attack".

- NZME."


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If I was in NZ they probably would have strung me up to a flagpole by the testicles by now. There's been a few things I've written here that have been taken the wrong way.

I come from a generation where Ted Bullpit was an accepted and popular form of humour, so I think some of the shit I write was ingrained early in my life and it's hard to break out the mould.

How was your day Ted ?

Bloody shambles of course.

Someone should blow nuns up.

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I'd be swinging by my nuts next to you Sally

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I feel very uneasy about this. I may fear unnecessarily but in my mind all kinds of things could be classified as 'blasphemy' and 'intending to cause harm' for example talking about plant spirits and advocating building relationships with them.

I'm scared of witch trials re-emerging really.

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did you guys hear about the guy in canadia that's facing 6 months in jail for disagreeing with someone on twitter?

sad but true example of what these "anti-bullying" laws do

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Ours aren't written in the laws... yet ... but it's happening here too where anyone who works somewhere that uses a common webfiltering service will have the following sites blocked:

Alternative Beliefs

Websites that provide information about or promote religions not specified in Traditional Religions or other unconventional, cultic, or folkloric beliefs and practices. Sites that promote or offer methods, means of instruction, or other resources to affect or influence real events through the use of spells, curses, magic powers, satanic or supernatural beings.

(hint, that includes this site - possibly just cuz it's got "shaman" in the name :rolleyes: )

At the moment this is an optional service mostly used by paranoid employers, but idiotic politicians have been trying (& thankfully mostly failing) to introduce ISP-level filtering for a long time. And while the current filtering is limited to a few specific sites discussing very illegal things, a more comprehensive version could easily be modeled on the existing voluntary filters such as the one above.

In a way, the NZ laws aren't as bad as this "alternative beliefs" horseshite. At least they seem, on the surface & in theory anyway, to be equal to all religions, allowing for followers of any minority beliefs to make the same reports of "serious emotional distress" from the online denigration of their religion.

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