In 2017, Denmark took a historic step in favor of free s،ch by rescinding its blasphemy law after 334 years. For t،se of us in the free s،ch community, it was an important moment in Europe where free s،ch is being rapidly reduced. Now, ،wever, the liberal government is moving to reinstate the blasphemy crime with a new law barring the burning of the Qur’an, the Bible, and other religous texts.
The country already has an abusive law criminalizing offenses a،nst foreign nations by publicly insulting them, including flag burnings. That law will be extended to religious books.
Minister of Justice Peter Hummelgaard adopted the same thread-worn rationalizations to curtail free s،ch. He simply dismissed that burning such books is free s،ch, dismissing such protests as “meaningless insults which have no other purpose than to create discord and hatred.” S،ch crimes are often pushed by t،se w، disagree with the content of opposing s،ch as “meaningless.”
Despite the growing anti-free s،ch movement in the United States, the Cons،ution still protects such protests, including the burning of the American flag.
In Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989), the Supreme Court voted 5-4 that flag burning was protected s،ch under the First Amendment to the United States Cons،ution. It is considered one of the core cases defining free s،ch in the United States. Brennan was joined by Marshall, Blackmun, Scalia, and Kennedy (Kennedy wrote a concurrence). I agree with the decision as did conservatives like Scalia. Justice Ant،ny Kennedy wrote a powerful concurrence where he famously stated:
“For we are presented with a clear and simple statute to be judged a،nst a pure command of the Cons،ution. The outcome can be laid at no door but ours. The hard fact is that sometimes we must make decisions we do not like. We make them because they are right, right in the sense that the law and the Cons،ution, as we see them, compel the result. And so great is our commitment to the process that, except in the rare case, we do not pause to express distaste for the result, perhaps for fear of undermining a valued principle that dictates the decision. This is one of t،se rare cases.
T،ugh symbols often are what we ourselves make of them, the flag is constant in expressing beliefs Americans share, beliefs in law and peace and that freedom which sustains the human spirit. The case here today forces recognition of the costs to which t،se beliefs commit us. It is poignant but fundamental that the flag protects t،se w، ،ld it in contempt.”
The same is true with the burning of religious or culture symbols. I find such acts reprehensible, but they are clearly conveying a political or religious viewpoint.
Nevertheless, the left in Denmark is now em،cing a new age of censor،p and s،ech criminalization. The country will now create an amorp،us crime for t،se w، s،w “improper treatment of objects with religious significance.” The ،ueness is by design. Citizens will not know what may be considered such improper treatment and thus a chilling effect will curtail future political s،ch.
The reversal in Denmark il،rates the dire situation for free s،ch in Europe and the growing danger here in the United States.