DENMARK: Man prosecuted under old blasphemy law for burning a Koran

From Breitbart:

Danish Man who Set Fire to Quran Charged with Blasphemy

A man who burned the Islamic holy book in his backyard has been charged with blasphemy, in a move his lawyer speculates was driven by fear of Muslim extremists. The attempted prosecution is the first of its kind in nearly 50 years.
The 42-year-old man from Jutland uploaded video footage of a Quran being lit on fire, which he posted to a Facebook group called ‘Yes to freedom – no to Islam’ in December last year.

“It is the prosecution’s view that circumstances involving the burning of holy books such as the Bible and the Quran can, in certain cases, be a violation of the blasphemy clause, which covers public scorn or mockery of religion,” said chief prosecutor Jan Reckendorff in a statement.

“It is our opinion that the circumstances of this case mean it should be prosecuted so the courts now have an opportunity to take a position on the matter.”

The defendant’s lawyer, Rasmus Paludan, said that his client had burned the Quran in self-defense, asserting that the Islamic holy book “contains passages on how Mohammed’s followers must kill the infidel, i.e. the Danes”.

“Therefore, it’s an act of self-defense to burn a book that in such a way incites war and violence,” he told the New York Times.

Noting that it’s “legal to burn a Bible in Denmark”, highlighting how in 1997 a Danish artist set fire to and burned a copy of the Bible on state television in Denmark but was not charged, Mr Paludan said he is “surprised that it would be guilty to burn the Quran.”

“The fear of Islam and Muslims may be far greater now, and the prosecution service may be a lot more apprehensive of Islam and its followers,” he added, speculating on the prosecutor’s decision to bring charges in this case.

Under clause 140 of Denmark’s criminal code, anyone found guilty of publicly insulting or degrading religious doctrines can be imprisoned or fined, but only four blasphemy prosecutions have ever been attempted in the country.


I wonder if there are any old blasphemy laws on the books here in these USA.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Religious Liberty, The Coming Storm, The Last Acceptable Prejudice, The Religion of Peace and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Kathleen10 says:

    There is apparently only one man left in that entire geographic area, Geert Wilders. The males that are standing around occupying space are nothing but effeminates and traitors. They are gleefully handing over their land, their culture, their wives and children, to Islam. Well, if they want to do it, do it and be done with it! Fools.

  2. un-ionized says:

    I don’t believe there has been a blasphemy case in the US for many years but Massachusetts, Michigan, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Wyoming, and Pennsylvania still have some such laws on the books.

  3. rcg says:

    Did the state bring this prosecution or was there a complaint it acted on? If so, Have there been other complaints and how were they resolved without prosecution?

  4. JARay says:

    Geert Wilders is Dutch not Danish and he leads a political party in Holland aimed at getting the Islamists out of Holland. I rather like him.

  5. JustaSinner says:

    Glad I don’t live in Denmark; I burned my Koran years ago.

  6. excalibur says:

    Every original state had blasphemy laws, and other states added to the union also had them. But, once SCOTUS [falsely] claimed that the 14th Amendment incorporated the 1st Amendment those laws became unenforceable. Many have since been removed, but a few still remain, deeply hidden away.

    Massachusetts, Michigan, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Wyoming, and Pennsylvania have laws that make reference to blasphemy.[1] Some US states still have blasphemy laws on the books from the founding days. For example, Chapter 272 of the Massachusetts General Laws — a provision based on a similar colonial era Massachusetts Bay statute enacted in 1697 — states:

    Section 36. Whoever willfully blasphemes the holy name of God by denying, cursing or contumeliously reproaching God, His creation, government or final judging of the world, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching Jesus Christ or the Holy Ghost, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching or exposing to contempt and ridicule, the holy word of God contained in the holy scriptures shall be punished by imprisonment in jail for not more than one year or by a fine of not more than three hundred dollars, and may also be bound to good behavior.

    The history of Maryland’s blasphemy statutes suggests that even into the 1930s, the First Amendment was not recognized as preventing states from passing such laws. An 1879 codification of Maryland statutes prohibited blasphemy:

    Art. 72, sec. 189. If any person, by writing or speaking, shall blaspheme or curse God, or shall write or utter any profane words of and concerning our Saviour, Jesus Christ, or of and concerning the Trinity, or any of the persons thereof, he shall, on conviction, be fined not more than one hundred dollars, or imprisoned not more than six months, or both fined and imprisoned as aforesaid, at the discretion of the court.

    As can be seen, they clearly were aimed at blaspheming Jesus, and the Trinity.

  7. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    It is interesting to note the earlier prosecutions detailed in the article: 1971, “a song mocking Christianity”where the accused “were acquitted since the court found the song to be a contribution to the debate on the religious views of the sexuality of women”(!), 1946, where the accused were found guilty of having “dressed as a priest and carried out a mock baptism”, and 1938, when “four others were sentenced for putting up anti-Semitic posters and leaflets”. The last suggests the law does not relate exclusively to Christianity: it would be good to see an accurate translation in full of the statute, and more details on the earlier cases. But the 1971 case and 1997 incident suggest it has been long since a fair application could be expected.

  8. Michael_Thoma says:

    Of course, many of those historically anti-Catholic states could in the past use such laws to demean the Church and the Holy Father, and any American citizen openly supporting either.

  9. Grant M says:

    At least they set the bar high for blasphemy in Denmark. Jakarta Governor Ahok is currently on trial for making a few unguarded comments about Sura 5:51. I think if you burnt a copy of the Qur’an here, you might not survive to stand trial.

  10. Grant M says:

    Don’t burn your copy of the Qur’an, read it. We need to understand what we are up against. For a Muslim, to burn a Qur’an is worse than the desecration of the Blessed Sacrament for a Catholic. Fear aside, I would not burn the Qur’an now, any more than I would have trampled on the Blessed Sacrament when I was Protestant. (Though I have been known to pile secular books on top of the Qur’an when no-one was looking.) But do they prosecute people in Denmark for desecrating the Blessed Sacrament? Not a level playing field is it?

  11. Imrahil says:

    To be fair,

    abusus non tollit usum. In this cases, that Danish courts may have overstepped their competence in setting a law aside in the past, does not mean they cannot, or should not, judge correctly in further cases.

    Blasphemy laws can have a legitimate objective other than in defending (true) religions also in forcing citizens to use prudence in this important field, even in the attack of a false one.

    To make the distinction quite to the point, no law should be issued, nor would it be binding in conscience, to forbid the statement “Mohammed was a liar or insane”. But laws can, and perhaps ought to, be issued to forbid inserting expletives before “liar” and “insane”; we can expect people to treat someone their neighbors consider a holy prophet with civility even in their denouncings.

    In such a category falls the burning of the Koran in public; what good could it possibly bring? And setting the civility aside for a moment, even as a provocative agitationary measure, what precisely does it agitate for? One would have to have an actual plan (and a prudent one*) how to deal with the Islamic problem, or at least an actual brainstorming going on.

    [* A prudent plan would have to deal with the fact that, though the Russians apparently do the bombing (and sometimes hit other places), the troops actually fighting ISIS on the ground are in large majority Muslims. Western Allied publicists were held, in the Second World war after 1941, to calm down their anti-Communist rhetoric a bit for the time being.]

  12. Grant M says:

    “Muhammad was a liar or insane.” Flinch…I would almost certainly end up in prison here, were I to repeat those words publically, with or without expletives.

    A Catholic is not required to show respect to Islam per se, but we are required to show charity and courtesy to individual Muslims. Of course the notorious hair-trigger sensitivity of many Muslims means that it is in practice impossible to make any public criticism of Islam, at least in this country. (In fairness, none of the six official religions here can legally criticize any of the others in public.)

  13. Imrahil says:

    I would almost certainly end up in prison here, were I to repeat those words publically, with or without expletives..

    My point being, of course, that this is quite immaterial. In separating what is actually bad (like saying Islam were no religion*, bad because false), or what is in itself neutral but may lawfully forbidden by legitimate authority, such as using expletives on Mohammed, and things that amount to mere telling the truth, as that he was a liar or insane, we must use quite neat distinction. Because of the things themselves, not because the others would make the same distinction and treat us fairly if we treat them fairly. They won’t. But that doesn’t change what we have to do.

    Of course a second thought may be the prudential one that prison is to be avoided if need be. (But “not binding in conscience” means among other things that we can say things forbidden in public to our trusted friends in private.)

    [* except “no religion” in the sense “a false religion, only Catholic Christianity actually is a religion”. However, the phrase “Islam is no religion” is usually understood in the sense that Buddhism or Hinduism may be false religions but certainly are religions, as well as Christianity, but Islam isn’t; and that would be a false statement, and as such bad.]

  14. Grant M says:

    Imrahil: You’re quite right. In principle I am justified in arguing politely and rationally why Muhammad was wrong. The fact that in many parts of the world I can only do that among friends doesn’t alter the principle.

  15. Grant M says:

    (I typed “in principle” just now with a few typos, and auto-correct , no doubt in a sardonic mood, changed it to “in prison.” Thanks, auto-correct, I get the message.)

Comments are closed.