You are here

Petitions Committee Examines Petition to Abolish "Blasphemy Paragraph"

Giordano Bruno Stiftung sincerely thanks all supporters and draws a first conclusion


Charlie Hebdo Float (Jacques Tilly 2015)

The petition submitted by gbs spokesman Michael Schmidt-Salomon after the attack on "Charlie Hebdo" to delete the "blasphemy paragraph" 166 StGB (German Criminal Code) has attracted more than 11,000 signatories - significantly more than 98 percent of the petitions submitted to the German Bundestag so far. The Giordano Bruno Stiftung would like to thank all those who contributed to the spreading of the petition, and is now awaiting the outcome of the parliamentary inquiry, which is likely to take several months.

Schmidt-Salomon had hoped that the petition would find co-signers in the five-digit range. Accordingly, he is satisfied with the result: "Petitions on the website of the Petitions Committee of the German Bundestag receive far fewer supporters than the more symbolic avaaz or petitions due to the formal obstacles. Petitions with more than 10,000 signatories are rare at the German Bundestag and indicate that a petition request is actually backed by a broader social interest."

Contrary to what has been claimed in some media reports, reaching the so-called quorum of 50,000 signatories (which is extremely rare in practice) is not a prerequisite for a petition to be reviewed by the petitions committee. As Schmidt-Salomon explains: "The difference is that in the case of a petition above the quorum, a public hearing can be rejected by a two-thirds majority in the petitions committee, whereas in the case of a petition below the quorum, a simple majority is sufficient. For the parliamentary procedure itself, the content of a petition is decisive - not the question of whether the quorum was reached or not."

Considering the current political majority, Schmidt-Salomon does not expect that his petition will lead to the deletion of §166 StGB soon. This was not the primary objective of the petition campaign in the first place. The Giordano Bruno Stiftung was more concerned with initiating a renewed debate on freedom of art and expression - and this worked out well: "Unlike in the cartoon controversy, for example, when conservative politicians pushed for a tightening of §166 StGB, this time we were not on the defense, but were able to steer the debate in a more liberal direction from the outset. In the media, which quickly took up our press release, comments in favour of the abolition of the old censorship paragraph fortunately prevailed, despite the unfavourable attitude of the governing coalition."

Schmidt-Salomon emphasised that in the course of the debate Thomas Fischer, presiding judge at the Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe, had also called for the abolition of §166 StGB without substitution: "The fact that Thomas Fischer, one of Germany's leading lawyers, considers the paragraph to be 'superfluous and backward' should give the petitions ommittee food for thought. Therefore, we hope that, despite the political majority in the parliamentary review procedure, not only the interests of conservative religious lobbyists will be taken into account, but also the numerous arguments which, from a liberal, constitutional point of view, oppose the preservation of a criminal norm which restricts freedom of art and expression and motivates religious fanatics to resort to the law of force. In a modern constitutional state, such a paragraph has no place."

See also: