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Ireland's blasphemy law

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William Crawley | 15:19 UK time, Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The-Dail.jpgDebate is raging about Ireland's new blasphemy law, which came into effect at the start of the new year. Atheist Ireland has published a list of twenty-five quotations which, they claim, would be in breach of the law. These include the words of Jesus and Muhammad.

Some media experts say the law is an assault on free speech. Other commentators ask, 'Who wanted this law in the first place?'

David Quinn, former editor of The Irish Catholic, says, ""My own personal theory is that it actually had to do with the Danish cartoon controversy of about four years ago. That there was a fear that we might get a Danish cartoon-style controversy in Ireland -- that some newspaper might publish something that Muslims found highly offensive -- and it might have repercussions for Irish trade in the Muslim world."

Evangelical Christian critics fear the law could restrict their freedom to defend the uniqueness of the Christian witness in a global religious context.

Richard Dawkins says, 'One of the world's most beautiful and best-loved countries, Ireland has recently become one of the most respected as well: dynamic, go-ahead, modern, civilised - a green and pleasant silicon valley. This preposterous blasphemy law puts all that respect at risk.'

It is very difficult to find anyone willing to step forward and defend the new law. On last week's Sunday Sequence, Fianna Fail Senator Jim Walsh became the first senior politician to speak in support of the law.

Your thoughts?

Comments

  • Comment number 1.


    Jesus Christ! It's ridiculous!

  • Comment number 2.

    Of course there's the old chestnut about blasphemy being a victimless crime, but in the way it's defined (as far as I understand), it requires intent to be demonstrated. The easiest defence to this would be to say that the *intent* was to stimulate debate or highlight this, that, or the other. It's a stupid law, and no-one is ever going to be successfully prosecuted under it, but it does send out a message that Ireland is stuck in a time warp. PEOPLE deserve respect, not IDEAS. Ideas need to be challenged in any number of ways, and if that means that a few moaning minnies get their knickers in a twist when their particular brand of space pixie is held up to appropriate ridicule, then boo hoo.

    The reaction of some Muslims to the Danish cartoons was inexcusable, and you could argue that the demonstration of that fact by the very publication of the cartoons in the first place was a massive public service and a very timely wake up call as to what passes for a "moderate" in some circles.

    Blasphemy should be a *duty*.

  • Comment number 3.

    HOORAY!!!

    The thread I wanted! And H is back, and John.
    I feel just like Dorothy at the end of "Wizard of Oz"

    (Which is an atheistic tract (think about it). Maybe they'll ban it under the blasphemy law.)

    GV

  • Comment number 4.

    Surely a rational approach would be to protect individuals from violence, threat of violence or discrimination based on their religious beliefs; allow freedom of belief and worship (or otherwise) but not to protect any religious institutions or set of ideas from criticism. Protecting one set of ideas is discriminating against other sets of ideas. All in society should have equality in how they are treated.

    I happen to think that God, Allah, Yahweh, Brahma et al do not and have never existed; that Buddha simply died rather than achieved enlightenment; that there is no afterlife or reincarnation, there will be no second coming, resurrection or whatever; spirits do not live in trees and mountains and so on.

    Those happens to be my honestly held opinions; some may be offended by them – if they choose to take offence – but have they been actually been harmed?

    Likewise they can call me all the names under the sun in return – if a statement is libellous I can defend my reputation in court – and it is up to me to decide whether or not to take offense or to ignore it and shrug it off.

    We may not agree with each other, but each individual is entitled to their convictions and freedoms as long as they do not harm others, wish to harm others or to prevent them from exercising their rights.

    I fail to see why any religion should be given immunity to criticism.

  • Comment number 5.


    How are you GV? And H? Good to read you. This one's a little bit of an easy ball for those of us who love a debate - as William points out virtually nobody approves of the law - but if anything it astounds me that such a screwed up concept could ever make its way past the democratic process (past, not through). If most people disagree with a law, and the people elect the government, it would appear they have elected the wrong government!

  • Comment number 6.

    #2 - Heliopolitan -

    "Blasphemy should be a *duty*."

    To paraphrase George Orwell: "All blasphemies are permitted, but some blasphemies are more permitted than others".

    So, of course, in a secular society that champions "freedom of speech" religion is "fair game" to be ridiculed, but woe betide any poor soul who dares to suggest that schoolchildren should be allowed to question the views of the "complexity from randomness" brigade.

    Now that really is a blasphemy we surely cannot tolerate, eh!?


    (Wait for it... I hear the words "straw man" rising from somewhere... I better run for cover!)

  • Comment number 7.


    HORRAY too!!

    Never mind the blasphemy malarky, Helio's back!

    I mean that H, life just wasn't the same.

    Graham, personally, if I had a choice, I'd rather be Dot at the beginning of Oz, those ruby slippers were just divine. Opps! Was that blasphemy?

  • Comment number 8.


    Graham - let's hope none of your street-savvy students note your declaration that you felt like Dorothy!

    John - the will of the people actually having anything other than the most marginal impact on legislation and government - HEAVEN FORBID!

    What really gets me though is Dawkins' comment "One of the world's most beautiful and best-loved countries, Ireland has recently become one of the most respected as well: dynamic, go-ahead, modern, civilised - a green and pleasant silicon valley". BARF! He'd be just about as up-to-date if he'd talked of "comely maidens dancing at the crossroads".


  • Comment number 9.


    Right, apart from that; if someone writes a comment in RoI and it ends up on a blog in the UK, even though the blog can still be read in the RoI, could the person be guilty of blasphemy? Or, if they wrote a comment in the UK and posted it on a blog in the RoI but it was read in the UK, where would that leave them? What if they were typing the entry on their phone on the 'Enterprise', and they started it in Dundalk and finished it in Newry, would that be part blasphemy, or if their phone carrier switched half way through, what then? Come to think of it, maybe there's an app for that.

  • Comment number 10.

    Well done!!! you gave into a couple of atheists who can't stop complaining about the blasphemy law even though it affects anyone who says anything against any other religion...not just atheists...but the rest of us dont go on about it because we got over it

  • Comment number 11.

    Thanks William Crawley for the this topic.

    Out there on the streets, the public domain, anything surely goes unless someone posses a threat to others or themselves. There are all sorts of images and sounds in the realm of what is public that may cause frustration or disgust to any of us, but that does not justify violence. I am sickened whenever a preacher is given media time to recite words begging this or that god for favours. They seem to be liars to me so I use that thing called tune out & then write letters to politicians and newspapers voicing objection.

    The basic laws protecting innocent people from slander or libel should suffice to cover speech issues.

    Protecting religious belief from ridicule, scrutiny and criticism insults us, is medieval censorship and contra to the high ideal of free speech. Every person of sound mind must demand of clerics that they stop lying about knowledge of gods, magic or supernatural stuff and please stop putting them on pedestals.

    The meaning of what is sacrilegious is subjective, individual and not a group dictate. Some consider the act of putting mayonnaise on fries as sacrilegious.

  • Comment number 12.

    #11 - LucyQ -

    "Every person of sound mind must demand of clerics that they stop lying about knowledge of gods, magic or supernatural stuff and please stop putting them on pedestals."

    And also every person of sound mind must demand of second-rate philosophers (dressed up as scientists) that they stop pretending that their unproven and unproveable philosophy is the only scientifically acceptable one - and that they stop using the words "reason" and "morality" when there is no place for such concepts within their philosophy.

    See... I can rant with clever words as well!

  • Comment number 13.


    ChristianCalvinist,

    'Going on about' stuff is the point of the blog. The point, the whole point, and nothing but the point. (Should I put an exclamation mark after 'point' ? Am I being blasphemous about the blog if I don't?)


    Lucy

    "Every person of sound mind must demand of clerics that they stop lying about knowledge of gods, magic or supernatural stuff"

    Is 'must' really the word you want to use? Seems awfully absolute! :-) (just winding!)


    Graham

    This is the thread you wanted. Mmmmm, when did you become an atheist? Sorry to hear that.

  • Comment number 14.

    OK - just to clarify. I don't want to dress up in Ruby Slippers.
    & I don't want to feel Judy Garland (too high maintenance(and dead)).

    It was more of a "no place like home" moment. Honest.

    I take it everyone did notice that God is a fraud in Baum's book, and to a greater extent, the movie? What takes it (arguably) into blasphemy is the play on the Burning Bush experience (the Wizard appears to the Lion as a ball of fire).

    So hey-ho, the "Wizard's" going to end up in court!

    GV

  • Comment number 15.

    PeterMorrow

    Stop giving in to atheists!

    GVeale

  • Comment number 16.

    this is meant to be a blog about religious matters not a place to come and rant about the irish government's legal system...

  • Comment number 17.


    ChristianCalvinist

    I wouldn't want William charged with breaking the Trade Descriptions Act (!) so I refer you to the box at the top of this page entitled "About this blog" - I quote, "BBC Northern Ireland presenter William Crawley discusses the often controversial political, religious and ethical issues of the day." :-)

    Graham, if you're not using your slippers...

  • Comment number 18.


    re. post 9.

    If someone had a blasphemous thought in Dundalk but waited until Newry to communicate it could they be prosecuted?

    Helio, is there any way of scientifically proving (is there any other kind of proof?) when and where a thought originated?

  • Comment number 19.

    point proved... i apologise

  • Comment number 20.

    The only people on the planet really concerned with blasphemy are Moslems... and Irish atheists. The faith-group context of the Irish Constitution re. blasphemy is Christianity. Upside-down world!

  • Comment number 21.

    #135 from the "36 Arguments" thread - graham veale -

    "Is W&T dying? Where have all the bloggers gone?!"

    Can we take it that W&T is now out of intensive care?

    Is Irish blasphemy law the wonder working drug this blog needed?

  • Comment number 22.

    #18 "If someone had a blasphemous thought in Dundalk but waited until Newry to communicate it could they be prosecuted?"

    I remember Patrick Kielty telling the story when he made fun of the IRA during a stand-up routine in Dundalk. No reaction - he expected a rough ride. It was very different apparently when he cracked a joke about the Corr's...

  • Comment number 23.

    (Wait for it... I hear the words "straw man" rising from somewhere... I better run for cover!)

    On this occasion the words are not required. That you think objections to creationism and ID being taught in science classes is comparable to slapping a 25,000 Euro fine for "causing outrage" to the religious has an eloquence all of its own.

  • Comment number 24.

    Okay, while I think this is badly written law I think there is room for a blasphemy law. My criterion, however, would be what is offensive to God, not to any particular group of believers. As drafted this law gives a mandate to the usual suspects to riot if the prophet is disguised as a teddy bear.

    But, a question - what do we think about laws against anti-semitism - anyone support those as such?

  • Comment number 25.

    McCamley

    "As drafted this law gives a mandate to the usual suspects to riot if the prophet is disguised as a teddy bear."


    Actually, many Protestants burn a teddy bear dressed up as the Pope every 11th July. This usually means dressing the teddy bear in a Celtic strip. Or a white cap. Sometimes a white baseball cap. Many tourists fail to grasp the symbolism, and want to know what we Prods have against Teddy bears. Which is ridiculous. Of course we only hate Papish Teddy bears.
    Of course the question remains - would this expression of Ulster Scots culture count as blasphemy?

    GV

    The serious question about anti-semitism needs a bit of thought. I think Germany has such laws, and it is a robust democracy. If Brian's about I'd appreciate his thoughts on this topic.

  • Comment number 26.

    LSV

    I think you owe the Irish Government roughly £25000.

    GV

  • Comment number 27.

    Okay, while I think this is badly written law I think there is room for a blasphemy law. My criterion, however, would be what is offensive to God, not to any particular group of believers.

    Doesn't God have his own system for this sort of thing?

  • Comment number 28.

    We need to look at this law in context.

    First, the financial aspect. The Irish economy is in tatters and they do not know how they are going to pay for all their public services. They export a lot of beef to Muslim countries, so that source of funds is now crucially important. A Danish cartoons episode could be financially damaging, so they have brought in a blasphemy law in order to curry favour with Islamic regimes and show that the Irish Government has no more regard for freedom of speech than those Islamic regimes. So, as usual, money is the Prime Mover.

    Second, the Irish state has been the jewel in the crown of the Vatican empire, making Catholic social policy the law of the land. The people, however, have had their loyalty to Catholicism pierced to the core by the paedophile scandal and the exposure of the cover-up. Some bishops have resigned, but there is still unrest and the demand for a secular state where the Catholic church will have less power is growing. Cowen and his cronies are weaklings - as seen in his pathetic acceptance of Vatican hauteur when the inquiries of the Murphy Commission were ignored. So as well as kow-towing to the Islamic regimes, the blasphemy law represents an attempt to bolster the position of a Catholic church which has lost the trust of the people.

    On both counts, the law is contemptible. It is a sticking plaster on an abcess and will achieve nothing, other than making Cowen's Government look even more inept and out of touch than before.

  • Comment number 29.

    Re.27

    To quote "A Man for All Seasons"

    Margaret More: Father, that man's bad.
    Sir Thomas More: There's no law against that.
    William Roper: There is - God's law.
    Sir Thomas More: Then God can arrest him.

  • Comment number 30.

    William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

    Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

    William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

    Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!

  • Comment number 31.


    Apparently, Graham, your literary prowess has scared everyone away. Humph! You spend all that time waiting for your choice of thread to come along and then you scuttle it!!

  • Comment number 32.

    The whole blog froze. What happened?

  • Comment number 33.

    Do you know what that is??? ............It's the sound of silence.

  • Comment number 34.

    Hello silence my old friend...

    dum di dum...

    How appropriate to hear from you again...

    dada...

    For there's a subject on the other thread...
    Iris is regretting all those things she said...
    [ with passion ] by the hypocrisy of what she said...

    She should have stuck...
    To silence

    Ooeeoo


  • Comment number 35.

    Are you going to Scarborough Fair?

  • Comment number 36.

    There's a religious connection to this one.

    Helio, you're breaking my heart
    You're shaking my confidence daily...

  • Comment number 37.

    I think we should get a blasphemy bill up here.........

  • Comment number 38.

    Wait a minute...does this mean that the "blasphemus mass" of the Roman Catholic church (as knox called it) is now illegal in Ireland?

 

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