Irish politics can be quite frankly insane at times, for example it is the only nation on the planet that has managed to pack a war of independence and a civil war into a six month period. Ah but there is an even better example, they have a blasphemy law that was introduced not too long ago. The current constitution (enrolled in 1999), has a clause that reads …
The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.
That’s Article 40.6.1.i
If you take all of say two seconds to think about this, you will quickly realise that the entire concept of blasphemy is meaningless in a legal context. For example Christians proclaim Jesus to be God … but that is Blasphemy as far as Muslims are concerned. The Muslims in turn proclaim that Jesus is not god and just a prophet, but that is Blasphemy from the viewpoint of Christianity. In other words, the concept is a license for any prevailing belief to suppress all other beliefs and gag any and all valid and fact-based criticism.
Luckily I’m not alone in thinking this constitutional clause is complete bullshit because a Constitutional Convention is taking place and one of the major changes they are considering is a removal of the blasphemy law.
Michael Nugent, the current chair of Atheist Ireland, has written a fabulous rebuttal to the entire concept within The Journal. It opens as follows …
Blasphemy laws have a chilling effect on freedom of expression and have no place in a modern democracy like Ireland, writes Michael Nugent.
BLASPHEMY LAWS ENDANGER freedom of speech and deny equality. They are arguably against Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This was recognised by the UK House of Lords Select Committee on Religious Offences in 2003; such laws are known to have a universal ‘chilling effect’ upon normal freedom of expression.
An inclusive blasphemy law, which Ireland’s law seeks to be, has been historically shown to be inadequate for protecting religious beliefs in conflict with one another.
Michael then proceeds to dig into the details slicing and dicing this nonsense in a most effective manner making a robust case for the daft blasphemy law to be struck off by illustrating the gross abuses of basic human rights inflicted by other nations that use similar laws to oppress minority beliefs and non-beliefs.
Does such a law in Ireland do any real harm? Yes it does, we know this because it already had has a serious impact upon the international stage, this is no dry academic clean-up, it really matters …
Islamic states, led by Pakistan, use the Irish blasphemy law at the UN to promote universal blasphemy laws. Professor Heiner Bielefeldt, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion, has advised Atheist Ireland:
Of course you are right that the major damage done by this legislation is the international one.
I wouldn’t expect any harsh verdicts being handed down in Ireland, but those countries that continue to have an intimidating anti-blasphemy practice like to quote European countries to unmask Western hypocrisy. I hope things will be moving in the right direction.
So is it just Atheist Ireland speaking out against this daft law? No, not at all, they are quite rightly adding their voice to the many others calling for its removal …
In 1991, the Law Reform Commission recommended deleting it as there was no place for such an offence in a society which respects freedom of speech. In 1996 the Irish Constitution Review Group also recommended that it be deleted from the Constitution. In 2008 the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution recommended deleting it as a modern Constitution should not expressly prohibit blasphemy.
Will common sense and basic human decency prevail? I remain hopeful … especially after reading the comments after the article.
“Blasphemy is an epithet bestowed by superstition upon common sense” – Robert G. Ingersoll