BLASPHEMY: The act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence to a deity, to religious or holy persons or sacred things.

In many countries, blasphemy is a crime. As recently as 2012, anti-blasphemy laws existed in 32 countries around the world. Granted, mostly in Muslim countries, but also some Asian and European countries as well.

It was only recently (2015) that countries like Norway and Iceland abolished their blasphemy laws. In 1893, New Zealand abolished blasphemy laws, although section 123 of the Crimes Act 1961 does state that everyone is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year who publishes any blasphemous libel.

However, "It is not an offence against this section to express in good faith and in decent language, or to attempt to establish by arguments used in good faith and conveyed in decent language, any opinion whatever on any religious subject." Thank goodness for that!

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Even though a WIN-Gallup global survey showed that atheism and the non-religious population are rapidly growing (religion dropped by 9 per cent and atheism rose by 3 per cent between 2005 and 2012) we still have a few old hangovers from the days when religion reigned supreme.

Take, for example, shops cannot open on Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Christmas Day - and if they do, thou shalt be slapped with a fine of up to $1000.

Some of you millennials and Generations Zs will not know this, but it was not until the 1980s that shops were even allowed to open on a Saturday.

And it was only as recently as 1989 that Sunday trading became legal and as late as 1999 before restrictions for opening licensed premises were removed. At the time, churches were aghast at such changes and the Shop Employees' Union campaigned against Saturday trading because that meant shop employees would lose their weekends.
So, why am I sharing all this with you? Because a 2016 amendment to the Shop Trading Hours Act 1990 now enables councils around New Zealand to decide if shops can operate on Easter Sunday, and the Whanganui District Council will be asking you for your opinion so they can decide if they will adopt a policy that will allow Easter Sunday trading.

How terrible you might say, if you are of a religious bent. Or, how wonderful you might say if thou be of little faith.

Shop or not: Whanganui District Council is to consult the public on allowing Easter Sunday trading.
Shop or not: Whanganui District Council is to consult the public on allowing Easter Sunday trading.

For those of you who feel for the poor shop worker having to work on this sacrosanct day, you will be pleased to know that all shop employees have the ability to refuse to work on Easter Sunday and do not have to provide any reason.

And, yes, the cynical among you will argue there will still be pressure applied by some shop managers, but under the Employment Relations Act, an employee has the ability to take a personal grievance against their employer if they have been forced to work under duress.

In August 2017, Auckland decided to stay with the status quo and not allow Easter Sunday trading. As of just recently, 28 councils have agreed to allow Easter trading, 16 have not and six - like Whanganui - are considering it.

Of our neighbours, Rangitikei, South Taranaki and New Plymouth have allowed Easter Sunday trading, but Palmerston North did not.

Given that Whanganui probably has more churches per population than most places in New Zealand, there may be some pushback against change, but I did notice a lot of churches around here have now closed or amalgamated ... perhaps a sign that we are now becoming a post-Christianity community.

On a personal note, I am in favour of being able to shop on Easter Sunday, and I find it abhorrent that the religious lobby or elected representatives have the gall to try to tell me what to do with my life, or with my business.

So long as I am not hurting other people, doing what I do, I believe I have the right to do whatever I want.

PS: For you religious folk - yes, this article does have 666 words ... purely by chance.