Irish atheists challenge blasphemy law constitutionality

Atheist Ireland has sent a letter to the President, Mary McAleese, on the day before she is due to decide whether or not to refer the blasphemy bill to the Council of State.

The letter makes the following points:

– The law is contrary to the guarantees of equality under the law enshrined in Article 40.1 of the Irish Constitution, and of freedom of conscience and religion enshrined in Article 44.2.
– The law is contrary to Article 44.2.3 of the Irish Constitution, which says that the State shall not impose any disabilities or make any discrimination on the ground of religious profession, belief or status.
– The law shifts the burden of proof to the defendant in contravention of Article 38 of the Constitution, and of Schedule 1, Article 6, 2. and 3(a) of the European Convention on Human Rights Act, 2003.
– The law does not meet the standard of prevention of imminent public disorder that made the old English blasphemy law compatible with the European Convention of Human Rights.
– The definitions in the law are too vague to allow citizens to regulate their conduct, and it could make it unlawful for a religious citizen to inform his co-religionists about a statement he believes to be blasphemous.

What with all this, plus the fact that it is a patently stupid law, can we afford to feel a little bit optimistic?

UPDATE (22 July) Law lecturer Eoin O’Dell (of has an article in The Irish Times which also challenges the blasphemy law on constitutional grounds.

UPDATE: (23 July) Twitter says the president has just signed the bill into law!

UPDATE: Yup. It’s in The Irish Times

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