Thursday, 30 April 2009

A blasphemy law for Ireland?

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There's troubling news from Ireland this week, with the government proposing to insert a "blasphemy" clause into a new Defamation Bill, which would read:
“A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €100,000.”
So what exactly would they define as "blasphemous matter", I hear you ask. According to the Irish Times, it would be any material “that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion; and he or she intends, by the publication of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.”

The bill is still making it's way through the Irish parliament, so it's as yet unclear how this blasphemy clause will fare. Interestingly, the Irish Republic already has a constitutional prohibition against blasphemy, which declares that “The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent material is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law”, but, as the Irish Times informs us, in the one legal case in which that clause was cited the Irish Supreme Court decided that it was impossible to say “of what the offence of blasphemy consists”.

So as we wait to see how this pans out, let's have an Irish view on the matter courtesy of my predecessor at New Humanist, Padraig Reidy. Not only is he a fully fledged Irishman, but he also now works for Index on Censorship, which makes the issue of censorship and blasphemy something of a specialist subject. In this piece on the Index website, he reminds us that the Irish bill is the latest development in a worrying global trend towards outlawing blasphemy and the criticism of religion.

2 comments:

Joe Hayhurst said...

God does not exist, and if he does, he is a twat.

Sue me, Ireland!

btw, 100,000 euros seems a tad excessive, still, I suppose I've brought it on myself.

Anonymous said...

As an Irishman, I feel sick with embarrassment over this.

First our government foots 90% of the bill levied against the Catholic church for child abuse scandals out of tax payers' pockets; like the Vatican couldn't pony up.

Now they're entertaining the idea of reviving blasphemy laws. What's next, public burning of heretics?

This law blatantly disregards the rights of non-believers. It does not even entertain the notion that the slew of material ranging from calls for our execution, to declarations regarding our wickedness and moral bankruptcy which are peddled under the banner of religion as the infallible word of God, could be offensive to secular individuals.

This law is a bullet proof vest for religious zealots against reason and dissent.

If it is passed then I hope it's meted out fairly, with Muslims being prosecuted for declaring Jesus isn't the son of God, Christians being prosecuted for saying he is and so on. Then I'll keep my mouth shut and let the religious folk blaspheme themselves out of the country.

Hopefully this law will be laughed out of consideration and seen for the backward, bowel-brained idiocy that it is.