(Church building in Shawnigan Lake/Photo by Colin Smith Photography)

Did you know that taking the Lord’s name in vain could have landed you in jail? Right here in Canada?

Until recently, anyone in Canada found guilty of expressing disdain or disrespect for deities, or items deemed sacred, and therefore committing ‘blasphemy’ could have ended up in jail for up to two years.

But as of this month, the Canadian Senate has voted to repeal Section 296 of the Canadian Criminal Code pending royal assent.

‘Blasphemous libel’ has been illegal in Canada since the 19th century, and according to a report from Humanists UK, the last conviction for blasphemy was in 1927.

Since then, Section 296 has been used to try and bypass freedom of expression laws as recently as 1979, when an Anglican clergyman tried (and failed) to bring a prosecution against Monty Python’s The Life of Brian

The issue was brought to the attention of the Senate after national petitions created by various Humanist groups across Canada called for an end to the law, and garnered thousands of signatures.

“This is the chance for every one of us to send a message to the world that Canadians and the Government of Canada values freedom of expression,” stated Ian Bushfield, Executive Director, BC Humanist Association.

“While we have the luxury of speaking out, many do not. Bloggers around the world are being put in jail, lashed or murdered for criticizing ideas online. We must support free debate and repeal the blasphemy law.”

Repealing Section 296 is part of a larger initiative to modernize outdated legislation, that was launched in 2017.

The bill is now in its final stages and awaits royal assent before it can become a law.

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