Feck! Ireland considers “blasphemous libel” law

The government of Ireland is to decide whether or not to step back a couple of centuries by putting a blasphemy law on its statute books.

The extraordinary move is proposed by the Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern, who want to insert a blasphemy clause into the revised Defamation Bill, stating:

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 €100,000.

“Blasphemous matter” is defined as 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 he or she intends, by the publication of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.

“Any religion”? That would include Scientology, Satanism, Jedi, and the one I just made up? Even if it does, the law neglects an important fact: adults are responsible for their own outrage. All it would take to get a conviction under this law is for an unspecified “substantial number” to claim outrage against their undefined “religion”. Hey presto – deference guaranteed.

Blasphemy is already forbidden by the Irish constitution, but it remains harmless there as a 1999 court case ruled that it was impossible to say “of what the offence of blasphemy consists”. But a new law on the statute books could have a serious effect of freedom of expression.

The Irish Times clarifies what it means in practical terms:

Where a person is convicted of an offence under this section, the court may issue a warrant authorising the Garda Síochána to enter, if necessary using reasonable force, a premises where the member of the force has reasonable grounds for believing there are copies of the blasphemous statements in order to seize them.

Labour spokesman on justice Pat Rabbitte is proposing that the fine be reduced to 1,000 euros and exclude matter of artistic merit. Not good enough.

Is Ireland applying for membership of the OIC?

9 Responses to “Feck! Ireland considers “blasphemous libel” law”

  1. Matt M says:

    I sometimes wish there were a God – if only so It could eventually tell the likes of Mr Ahern just what pricks they’ve been.

  2. aharon says:

    Interesting the point of intent to cause an outrage… How would one establish such intent..?

    A while back, I was contemplating the possibility – or lack of it – to legislate regarding intent to cause fear, as in intent to bully.. I think its very hard to establish, so it comes down to activities we take to mean one thing or the other..

  3. Angela K says:

    I expect this bunch of idiots is acting on behalf of pope ratnazi; Ireland already kow-tows to the Vatican – try getting an abortion. And you can bet the muzzies will be the first to whinge and use this legislation.
    This is yet another stupid proposal that tries to protect [rather stupid] ideology but not people. Dark Age here we come.

  4. Stonyground says:

    These imbeciles are tacitly admitting that religious beliefs are without substance. Their king is stark bollock naked and the only way they can continue to claim that he has any clothes on is by fining or imprisoning anyone who dares to point out that he hasn’t. Words are not enough to convey my utter contempt for such people, I despise them so much.

  5. Nick says:

    As someone once said on this blog: “The right to believe in shit is inseparable from the right to take the piss.”

  6. TalkyMeat says:

    If this amazingly stupid clause does pass into law, here’s how to cripple it;

    1 – get together a band of a few hundred protesters; more if possible

    2 – get them to form groups of three. Each group founds a new made-up religion, with a leader, creed and somewhat fleshed-out mythic narrative. It would be pretty cool if some of these were in themselves satirical of/offensive to other, older made-up religions, but it’s more important that they each be clearly distinguishable from each other. Each religion sets up it’s own website.

    3 – The adherents of each religion publish webpages, pamphlets, songs, youtube videos or other media, individually blaspheming, outrageously and egregiously, against each of the other religions participating in the protest – ideally containing, at some point, an explicit statement that the adherents of the religion in question are a) intended to be offended, and b) cunts.

    4 – Everyone prosecutes everyone else for blasphemous libel. This generates P many frivolous, time-wasting prosecutions, according to the following formula, where N is the total of participants in the protest:

    P = ((N/3)-1)^2

    So, if you have 303 participants, you have 10,000 prosecutions. If you have 3003, that’s 1,000,000 prosecutions. Enough to completely clog up the courts for a very, very long time … unless of course the law is repealed, or some judge finds a pretext to dismiss the prosecutions en bloc, and in so doing sets a legal precedent that effectively de-claws the clause.

    Other fun projects would be getting Satanists to prosecute churches, and goading existing churches into prosecuting, then insisting that God press charges in person. Hilarity ensues.

  7. […] Ireland is thinking of draconian blasphemy laws. […]

  8. PaulJ says:

    A “substantial number” of adherents of a religion whose total number of adherents is one (such as a religion I just made up) is 100 percent – and you can’t get more substantial than that.

  9. Stuart H. says:

    For all the appearance to us outsiders of being a strongly religious country, Ireland has at least managed one thing us Brits haven’t.
    Justin Keating, who was agriculture minister and is still a fairly senior politican, is also President of the Humanist Association of Ireland. Great bloke, and a polite but persistent critic of all things skyfairyish.