Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Graham Linehan on the Irish blasphemy law

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Yesterday I wrote about the proposed Irish law against "blasphemous libel", which is being voted on in the Dáil tomorrow, and in my post I included a quote the Observer had from Father Ted creator Graham Linehan, who had spoken to them about it along with his co-writer Arthur Matthews. After putting this out on Twitter, I received a tweet back from Graham saying that the quote in the Observer wasn't exactly in his words, and he kindly offered to answer some questions from me. Here's what he said:
New Humanist: Are you surprised by the government's attempt to outlaw blasphemy? How aware were you of the pre-existing clause against blasphemy in the constitution?

Graham Linehan: I suppose every country has odd, silly laws from the dawn of time that no-one ever got around to changing. What's unusual here is the attempt to actually bolster backward, backwoods thinking. It's very important to smack down every attack on free speech and secularism when they appear, because religious fanatics are getting louder and crazier and more violent, and capitulating only energises them.

NH: How would a blasphemy law have affected your work over the years – would Father Ted have been made?

GL: It might have had a greater effect on our work with Chris Morris. In 'Ted' we tried to avoid attacking basic tenets of belief because we wanted the show to be big and silly and fun ... we weren't interested in being bad boys. But a law like this would have made it much more difficult for the show to be broadcast in Ireland, and it took long enough for it to be shown as it was.
There is a scene in 'Tentacles of Doom' where Dougal outlines his difficulties with Catholicism to a visiting Bishop and basically accidentally rips apart the whole basis of it. I wonder whether that would have to go from future broadcasts.

NH: What can people do to help oppose the law? And if it does pass, how can they carry on opposing it?

GL: Well, I like Mick Nugent's idea of testing the law with a blasphemous statement, but it would have to be worded carefully so that it doesn't dismay normal believers who just want to get on with their lives without bothering others with their beliefs. I suspect these people are in the majority and they should be brought on board, because a blasphemy law makes fools of them as much as it makes fools of the Government.
Michael Nugent is chair of Atheist Ireland, who are spearheading the opposition to the law, which will be voted on in the Irish parliament tomorrow. Irish readers can help oppose it by writing to their Dáil representatives, and you can all show support by joining this Facebook group and following the campaign on Twitter. Atheism Ireland's AGM, which is open to the public, takes place next Saturday from 2pm-5pm at Wynns Hotel, Dublin.

Update: Read Michael Nugent's piece for Index on Censorship on why the proposed law is reactionary, silly and dangerous.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you to GL for saying that there are normal religious folk for who the idea of a law like this is despicable too.

Christian or Atheist, we just need to try and accept that there are different views on life, and that no single group gets to be a monopoly.

We've been knocking around on this planet for long enough now, we should really be getting along with each other, shouldn't we?

foolfodder said...

'The legislation was proposed by Justice Minister Dermot Ahern, and blasphemous material, according to the Irish Times, is defined as anything "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."'

'GL: Well, I like Mick Nugent's idea of testing the law with a blasphemous statement, but it would have to be worded carefully so that it doesn't dismay normal believers who just want to get on with their lives without bothering others with their beliefs.'

Surely the type of statement proposed here would not violate the law, as you have to intend to be offensive.

Joe Hayhurst said...

@foolfodder:

Sounds like a pretty strange law to me. You will fall foul of it if you 'intend' to cause an outrage among substantial numbers of adherents. So if you only outrage a few you're ok. It's like having a law where you are aloud to call one man a c*** but if you insult a whole room then you're in trouble!

Hmmmm........

DavidMWW said...

How in the name of Feck can you word a blasphemous statement in a way that isn't going to dismay religious believers?