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Stephen Fry blasphemy investigation prompts New Zealand to repeal its law

The Independent logo The Independent 9/05/2017 Samuel Osborne

© Provided by Independent Print Limited A blasphemy investigation into Stephen Fry has prompted New Zealand's major political parties to commit to repealing the country's blasphemy laws.

The Irish police investigation into the comedian and actor was dropped after detectives failed to find enough people who had been outraged by his remarks.

Asked what he would say if he was confronted by God at the pearly gates of heaven, Fry replied: “I’d say, bone cancer in children? What’s that about?"

He went on to call ask why he should "respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world that is so full of injustice and pain."

News of the investigation brought to light the existence of blasphemy laws in New Zealand, which neither the prime minister nor the Anglican archbishop were aware of.

It led the country's major parties to commit to repealing the blasphemy laws, with an amendment to a bill to repeal laws expected in the next few weeks.

Prime Minister Bill English said he was not aware the laws existed, but said "we could get rid of them."

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"Laws that overreach on addressing robust speech are not a good idea," he added.

In New Zealand, blasphemy remains punishable by up to a year in prison.

However, the law has not been used since 1922, when it formed the basis of one unsuccessful prosecution.

Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association, said: "We are delighted that the investigation against Stephen Fry has been dropped, and what is more that the furore has prompted New Zealand to pledge to scrap its own blasphemy laws.

"It is urgent that Ireland soon follows, as well as Northern Ireland, Scotland, and other countries that have apparently 'dead' blasphemy laws.

"This is important not only to ensure they are never resurrected, as almost happened in Ireland, but also to send a clear message to the rest of the world that blasphemy laws are unacceptable and that the fact that people are still dying over them in many countries must come to an end."

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