But this is not a story about the triumph of tolerance over antiquated law. Ms. Bibi was freed not because the court found that the blasphemy law violated her rights or was in any other way inherently wrong, but because the trial was flawed. Blasphemy, broadly defined as speaking insultingly about God or religion, remains a capital crimein Pakistan and illegal in many other lands, in the East and the West.
According to the about a quarter of all countries had anti-blasphemy laws or policies as of 2014, and more than a tenth have laws or policies against apostasy, or renouncing a religious belief. That does not mean people in the West risk being imprisoned for taking the Lord’s name in vain. In many countries, like Canada, old laws remain on the books simply because nobody has bothered to get them off — as the Irish did last month when they voted in to scrap their blasphemy laws. In the United States, six states still have old blasphemy laws, but no case would conceivably survive against the First Amendment.