Did SNL Violate Canada’s Blasphemous Libel Law?

by | April 6, 2015

On April 4th, Saturday Night Live (SNL) produced and distributed a spoof of Scientology.  According to Business Insider, The comic video seems to be taking advantage of the HBO documentary Going Clear.  There is extensive media coverage of the HBO series and Scientology’s bizarre claims and activities.  Certainly, Scientology is far enough from the mainstream, that SNL was comfortable to produce their spoof.

Here in Canada, the SNL video should be considered in light of Canada’s Blashemous Libel law – Criminal Code Section 296.  The last time Section 296 was dragged out (that we know of) was in response to the Monty Python film, The Life of Brian. CFI Canada has attempted to raise Canadians’ awareness of Canada’s blasphemy law and how it connects to issues around the world (the media does seem to understand – one hopes that the legislators will also understand and act).  So what makes The Life of Brian meaningfully different than the SNL spoof video, or for that matter a cartoon depiction of Mohammed?

From a legal standpoint – I don’t think we know what makes the one case more or less likely to be considered blasphemous than the others.  That is, unless we acknowledge that the blasphemous libel law is discriminatory in its foundation as a Christian law.

In a sense it is fortunate that the blasphemous libel charge against The Life of Brian did not proceed at that time (1980) – the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was still not in place. But if that case had moved forward, it would have provided a precedent to examine the SNL video.

Did SNL violate Canada’s criminal code Section 296?  Shouldn’t the very ambiguity of the situation lead us to conclude that it is time to get rid of this law?

One thought on “Did SNL Violate Canada’s Blasphemous Libel Law?

  1. Randy

    Is there a way in Canada for citizens to ensure that the law gets enforced by initiating legal action when the government fails to do so?

    Let’s get this law into the courts, so the public can see it in action.


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