You’re probably aware of the Blasphemy law in the Republic of Ireland (at that Wikipedia article, scroll down to “Defamation Act 2009”). The law was passed in 2009 and became effective at the start of 2010. The next day we wrote Is This Blog Blasphemous in Ireland?
We haven’t seen any relevant news out of Ireland. That isn’t surprising, because laws like that tend to discourage dialogue, so we looked elsewhere to see if we could learn what’s going on over there. It appears that there haven’t been any prosecutions — not yet — but the absence of prosecutions could mean only that the people have been living in silent terror. Besides, one never knows what horrors are about to be unleashed. There are undoubtedly robed and hooded maniacs rubbing their hands together as they gleefully anticipate giving blasphemers a foretaste of the hell that awaits them.
However, we did find something in the The Guardian, one of the UK’s most widely read newspapers. It’s a column titled Why Ireland must get rid of its disgraceful blasphemy law, which has attracted has over 1,100 comments so far. It was written by Roy Greenslade, described as a “professor of journalism at City University, and was editor of the Daily Mirror from 1990-91.” Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
Ireland is the only country in the developed western world to have introduced a blasphemy law in the 21st century. The disgraceful law, passed in 2009 and introduced in January 2010, carries a maximum fine of €25,000. It prohibits the “publishing or uttering [of] matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion”.
Greenslade has the right attitude. He then says:
A government promise of a referendum about the law was broken despite the then prime minister, Enda Kenny, previously agreeing that one was necessary. The failure to do so outraged Irish atheists and secularists. Michael Nugent, chairperson of Atheist Ireland, believes blasphemy laws are inimical to free speech, and regarded the failure to hold a plebiscite as “a betrayal”.
Of course it’s a betrayal. A government comprised of people insane enough to enact a blasphemy law can’t be expected to keep its word. Let’s read on:
In an interview with Ryan McChrystal, Index on Censorship’s online assistant editor, Nugent argued that the law was so “ridiculous and silly” that his organisation’s attempt to get prosecuted by publishing statements blaspheming all the major religions had been ignored.
Nugent is playing with fire. The government might decide to grant his wish. The column continues:
McChrystal points out that the law’s existence in a European country, a member of the European Union “ is setting an example for others abroad.” It makes it harder to argue against blasphemy laws elsewhere. For instance, the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation – which has 57 member states – cites Ireland’s law as best practice and has even proposed the adoption of its precise wording to limit human rights on freedom of conscience.
The Irish must be very proud that their blasphemy law is admired by Islamic countries.
So there you are, dear reader, that’s the news about Ireland. It sounds like a great place for a vacation — as long as you don’t plan to talk about religion or evolution while you’re there. And whatever you do, don’t mention the solar system — remember the Galileo affair.
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