Blasphemy debate in Italy after man fined for swearing

Blasphemy is an administrative offence in Italy.

Italian police fined a businessman from Florence for using blasphemous language at a food festival in the Grosseto area of Tuscany, according to news reports in Italy.

The incident, reported by the Tuscan newspaper Il  Tirreno, took place during the mid-August Ferragosto holiday but is only coming to light now.

The man, identified as Simone Sernissi, said he had been enjoying an "evening of total relaxation" in Semproniano by indulging in "a few glasses of wine after weeks of intense work".

Sernissi said his outburst occurred when he 'took the Lord's name in vain' after someone jokingly threw "water or beer on my neck".

His loud exclamation was heard by nearby carabinieri on duty, leading to two fines: one for drunken behaviour in public and the other for using blasphemous language in a public place.

Sernissi told reporters that he will pay both fines - totalling €208 - and that he has no quarrel with the carabinieri who were just enforcing the rules.

However he says his goal is to open a debate on blasphemy and what he considers "an obsolete law, without any rationale and, in my opinion, unjust" in a secular country.

Introduced as a crime in Italian law in 1930, under Mussolini, blasphemy was decriminalised in Italy in 1999.

However blasphemy "against the deity" in public remains an administrative offence, punishable with fines ranging from €51 to €309.

Sernissi told Il Tirreno that "if all those who swear were fined, it would be enough to enter the bars in the Maremma for Italy to pay off its public debt".

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