The Campaign to Overturn Ireland’s Blasphemy Law on Oct. 26 Has Begun

Oct 2, 2018

By Hemant Mehta

On October 26, Irish citizens will have the opportunity to vote in a referendum and overturn their nation’s blasphemy laws once and for all.

It’s a long time coming. Article 40.6.1 of the Irish Constitution prohibits “publication or utterance” of blasphemous content, which is obviously in the eye of the beholder. It’s not just a remnant of older law, either. It’s been evoked in recent years to punish comedians who called a Catholic communion wafer “haunted bread” and questioned why a benevolent God would ever create something as awful as bone cancer in children. While they could have been fined up to €25,000 for their statements, both cases were dropped after international bad press.

But the looming threat remains a problem and that’s why, yesterday, Atheist Ireland launched their campaign to overturn the blasphemy law.

They’re pushing five main reasons citizens should vote “Yes” on the ballot.

Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.

One comment on “The Campaign to Overturn Ireland’s Blasphemy Law on Oct. 26 Has Begun”

  • both cases were dropped after international bad press.

    Not quite accurate. The Constitution (1937) has a clause in it, which requires there to be a blasphemy law. The law in force until 1999, Blasphemous Libel, dated from British times and the last prosecution was in 1855. That piece of common law was ruled repugnant to the religious freedom provisions the Constitution in 1999.

    It therefore became incumbent on the Government to pass a blasphemy law of some sort, so after ten years of sedulously avoiding the issue, it was reluctantly decided to frame it in such arcane terms that a successful prosecution would be impossible. It was feared at the time that a referendum to change the Constitution would become socially divisive, bitter and angry. It might even have failed.

    The law passed in 1999, and no-one has been prosecuted under it, let alone punished. Trouble makers from the diminishing cohort of religious zealots tried to get the comedians prosecuted but the police were unable to round up sufficient numbers of offended people to make a case (clever drafting by the Government worked!). It is open to question how diligent the Gardai were in their inquiries.

    The law did have an effect a few years ago. An anti-Scientology film by Louis Theroux, My Scientology Movie, was not shown in this country because distributors and cinema management were worried about possible prosecution under the act (Friendly Atheist Sept 26, 2016), from the famously well-organised and lawyered-up disciples of Ron and David. They would have perhaps have been able to arrange a suitably large and outraged crowd, sufficient in number to send the blasphemers to their doom.

    Of course Ireland is now a different country, and with the Iona Institute and Opus Dei licking their wounds from the abortion and gay marriage referendums, blasphemy is likely to go the way of all things, into eternal damnation.

    It’s too easy to represent Ireland as a backward medieval society, chained to outdated beliefs and shibboleths. It’s one thing to realise that we live in the modern world, but clearing up the detritus of the past takes time, money and energy, all of which could be used to deal with the future rather than the past.

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