Feckin’ Irish blasphemy law takes effect today

It is a sad day. Starting 1 January 2010, the citizens of a Western, republican nation can face a £22,000 fine for “publishing or uttering 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”.

Granted, this only attached punishments to something already in the Irish constitution:

The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent material is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.

That such a fossil remains enumerated in a 70-year old document is not troubling itself, and almost to be expected if not condoned. But that parliaments are actively moving to empower it with the force of law in this day in age is appalling.

 Some persons who shall remain nameless have a tendency to lump every person left-of-center on any social, economic, or civil libertarian issue into a single imaginary Monolithic Conspiracy of Socialism and Politically Correct Nihilism. But in theory and practice, identity politics/multiculturalism/political correctness and genuine secularism do not stand in a united front. On the contrary: They are at war, in this Irish case and elsewhere. The stated rationale behind the bill is the “protection” of recent waves of Muslim immigrants. And the only serious campaign against the act hence so far has been an act of civil disobedience by Irish Atheists (IA). The group published online 25 quotations meeting the enumerated criterion for blasphemy, from authors as diverse as Richard Dawkins and Joseph Ratzinger.

IA chair Michael Nugent explains his opposition:

 “This new law is both silly and dangerous. It is silly because medieval religious laws have no place in a modern secular republic, where the criminal law should protect people and not ideas. And it is dangerous because it incentives religious outrage, and because Islamic states led by Pakistan are already using the wording of this Irish law to promote new blasphemy laws at UN level.”We believe in the golden rule: that we have a right to be treated justly, and that we have a responsibility to treat other people justly. Blasphemy laws are unjust: they silence people in order to protect ideas. In a civilised society, people have a right to express and to hear ideas about religion even if other people find those ideas to be outrageous.”

We’ll see how far their protest goes. In the mean time, one must wonder, Will Joyce now be removed from syllabi? Even if he is not, a new Joyce will face the same censors as the first one did a century earlier.

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One Response

  1. Hmm this implies that one can not insult religion but seems to leave practitioners open for insult if one is inclined to step down to their level and amuse themselves

    *raises hand*

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