Blasphemer vs blasphemer

Ireland’s new blasphemy law, that went into effect on Friday:

36.— (1) 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 €25,000.

(2) For the purposes of this section, a person publishes or utters blasphemous matter if—

(a) he or she publishes or utters matter 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

(b) he or she intends, by the publication or utterance of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.

(3) It shall be a defence to proceedings for an offence under this section for the defendant to prove that a reasonable person would find genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value in the matter to which the offence relates.

That’s in the Irish Defamation Act 2009. It takes our Racial and Religious Tolerance Act even further, by making the determining factor “outrage” on behalf of any offended religious group.


Unrighteous creature, how do you plead? Heh, heh, heh.

It’s insane, of course, because any fervent religious person can be “outraged” by absolutely anything – including other religious people who believe something slightly different. Far from discouraging religious conflict, it gives the most antagonistic and self-righteous a new weapon to use against their opponents – a weapon that costs a lot of public money whenever it’s wielded, even if it doesn’t work as severely as they’d hoped. And if it does…

Irish atheists are protesting against the law by publishing 25 blasphemous quotes (although they’d probably have a defence under subsection 3 above) – but it’s legislation that should bother everyone, not just atheists. You might feel pretty safe from prosecution because your religion’s the most popular at the moment – but that could change. And this law, if enforced at face value (and laws that sit on the books waiting to be capriciously enforced are a particularly bad idea), could make your beliefs about the erroneousness of other religious very expensive indeed.

I was vaguely sympathetic to the Victorian parliament trying to prohibit hate speech that incites violence against religious or racial minorities, but the Irish experience shows just how easy it is to step over that line into censorship and blasphemy laws. On second thoughts, repeal the lot. Deal with incitement to commit violence as an ordinary crime under the Crimes Act. Make the bar a very high one. Leave political speech alone.

This isn’t the middle ages, and we should be encouraging religious harmony, not giving nutters the tools to wage their eternal war in the courts.

PS Jehovah! Jehovah! Jehovah!

(Via Darryl Mason)

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6 responses to “Blasphemer vs blasphemer

  1. These laws are an outrage and apparently are already being used by other more extreme religious states to push their agenda in the UN.

    Glad to see the Irish atheist/secular movement get some publicity out of this outrage.

  2. As a worshipper of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I welcome this new law in Ireland. We Pastafarians are outraged by the failure of anyone to take our religion seriously. The mere fact that we don’t attract much comment, adverse or otherwise, is extremely insulting, and I intend to press for criminal charges in Dublin against almost everyone in the world. You have been warned.

  3. Chris Grealy

    Yeah, some people can take offence at anything. Do you have a Hell Pizza outlet in your neck of the woods? They letterboxed us for Halloween (more Yank crap, don’t get me started) and some nervous nelly took offence at their blasphemy. They used the word “hell”, you see.

  4. All speech should be left alone. The fewer carve-outs from this principle the better.

  5. Jaysus fookin’ Christ.

  6. “(4) In this section “ religion ” does not include an organisation or cult—
    (b) that employs oppressive psychological manipulation—

    (i) of its followers, or

    (ii) for the purpose of gaining new followers.

    luckily theres a loophole in section (4). christians,jews, muslims all use psychological manipulation, so we’re free to bag the shit out of them 🙂

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