Spanish blasphemy laws stifle freedom

As actors, writers, comedians and musicians, as well as patrons of the humanists of the UK, we were shocked to read on your pages about the detention of our colleague, Spanish film actor Willy Toledo, in connection with the ongoing trial of three women accused of blasphemy in Spain (Spanish actor detained after ridiculing ‘God and the virgin Mary’, September 12).

Spain is one of several western European countries that continue to proscribe blasphemy in law – an unconscionable violation of the right to freedom of thought, belief and expression. As entertainers and as humanists, we cherish free expression and wish to see the prime minister of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, take urgent action to repeal his country’s blasphemy laws.

At a time when many of the world’s most horrific regimes are using blasphemy laws to punish and persecute religious minorities and the non-religious alike, more and more democracies with blasphemy laws in statute are choosing to repeal these laws, including Denmark, Malta, Norway, Iceland, and France in the last three years. The governments of New Zealand, Canada, and Ireland have all started this process as well.

We ask the prime minister of Spain to show solidarity with the millions of people still persecuted around the world for their beliefs and opinions by looking to repeal, rather than enforce, Spain’s medieval restrictions on the right to think and speak freely.