The Danish Government introduces legislation to take action against systematic denigration of religious scriptures
After a public hearing period, the Danish Government today introduces a bill to ban improper treatment of scriptures of significant religious importance to a recognised religious community. On the basis of the submitted hearing statements, views expressed in the public debate, and other considerations, a number of adjustments have been made to the bill. The bill criminalises improper treatment of scriptures of significant religious importance to a recognised religious community. The purpose of the bill is to take action against the insulting and denigrating actions, which, among other things, have contributed to intensifying the terrorist threat against Denmark.
The Danish National Police reports that during the period from 21 July 2023 to 24 October 2023, there have been 483 registered demonstrations with book or flag burnings in Denmark. Meanwhile, the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET) has stated that the recent Quran burnings have impacted the current threat, and that the terrorist threat against Denmark has increased from an already high level.
Following the hearing period, the Government has adjusted the bill in a number of areas. The most significant changes to the bill are as follows:
- The bill has been narrowed to specifically target improper treatment of scriptures of significant religious importance. The bill was originally planned to cover objects of significant religious importance.
- The bill specifically covers religious communities that are registered as recognised under the Religious Communities Act, and the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Denmark. It was previously proposed that the bill should cover religious communities regardless of their registered status as recognised.
- It is stated in the explanatory notes to the bill that works of art in which the improper treatment is a minor part of a larger work will not be covered by the ban.
- It is made clear that it will not be a criminal offence to condone the improper treatment of scriptures of significant religious importance to a recognised religious community.
- The bill will be assessed after a three-year period.
Minister of Justice Peter Hummelgaard says:
“It has been important for the Government to ensure that the bill is as precise as possible. We have decided to adjust the bill, taking into account various considerations, including the hearing statement from the Danish Police Union expressing concern that the original
wording of the ban would make it too difficult to enforce in practice. With the changes we are now proposing, the law will be easier to navigate – including for the police and the courts. The terrorist threat against Denmark as a result of the recent Quran burnings has increased from an already high level. Add to this the recent attacks we have seen in both France and Belgium, which in my view confirms that the terrorist threat must be taken seriously. Therefore, the Government is taking action against the systematic insulting and denigrating actions, which are solely intended to cause division, and which have consequences for the security of Denmark and the Danes. The Danish Government is taking a responsible approach to the situation by introducing this bill.”
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