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Blasphemy law a return to middle ages - Dawkins - Comments

RPizzle's Avatar Comment 1 by RPizzle

I am utterly shocked that such a law could even see the light of day.

However, I'm actually somewhat heartened that this may serve as a rallying point for the secular community.

Being an American, I'd almost hope for something like this to happen...if only to get other Atheists to stand up and be counted.

I really do hope that this law goes down in flames. My hats off to the Irish Atheists.

Sun, 12 Jul 2009 21:39:00 UTC | #378324

superwolf's Avatar Comment 2 by superwolf

I'm reading this and I don't know if it's because I overdid it on the dessert tonight, but I'm having real trouble conceiving that this is possible. Too much time with sheep and beer?

Sun, 12 Jul 2009 21:43:00 UTC | #378326

Dr Doctor's Avatar Comment 3 by Dr Doctor

Laws enacted to control criticism are the first sign of a panicking establishment.

Sun, 12 Jul 2009 22:13:00 UTC | #378330

Kimpatsu's Avatar Comment 4 by Kimpatsu

i foresee a lawsuit at the European Court of Human Rights in the futrue, as this law clearly contradicts the European Union's laws on freedom of speech.

Sun, 12 Jul 2009 22:14:00 UTC | #378331

Alternative Carpark's Avatar Comment 5 by Alternative Carpark

Fecking Hell!

Oh wait, does that count?

Sun, 12 Jul 2009 22:43:00 UTC | #378339

Shane McKee's Avatar Comment 6 by Shane McKee

Green and pleasant silicon valley? We've a pretty major recession problem going on here, and the economy is shot to feckery. However, the law is spectacularly ridiculous, and will be widely broken; a few test prosecutions might be taken, and will fail, and the law (and the bigots who set it up) will be seen as the arse that it is.

Sun, 12 Jul 2009 23:06:00 UTC | #378344

ashtonjaymz's Avatar Comment 7 by ashtonjaymz

Wow, this is actually quite terrifying.

Sun, 12 Jul 2009 23:25:00 UTC | #378345

MrPickwick's Avatar Comment 8 by MrPickwick

Well, I guess it's blasphemy time in Ireland. A nice occasion to show how ridiculous this is.
Who goes first?

Sun, 12 Jul 2009 23:39:00 UTC | #378348

godless_hoor's Avatar Comment 9 by godless_hoor

Sun, 12 Jul 2009 23:41:00 UTC | #378349

Follow Peter Egan's Avatar Comment 11 by Follow Peter Egan

Wow, this is actually quite terrifying.

Quite. This hasn't been said enough.

England's just repealed the age-old blasphemy laws. This is a terribly ill-advised step for Ireland. It'll be interesting to see what happens when the heathens release their statement to test the law.

Sun, 12 Jul 2009 23:50:00 UTC | #378351

critica's Avatar Comment 10 by critica

It's at times of economic turmoil, socially and politically difficult decisions, when genuine leadership is called for, that you see this kind of vacuous moralising. It’s nothing more than lesser minds, unequal to the task of real governing, latching onto the quick, easy and ultimately meaningless appeal of offering up their pious actions to promote themselves as a focus for attention. Get over it. Do your job.

Sun, 12 Jul 2009 23:50:00 UTC | #378350

Fidgaf's Avatar Comment 12 by Fidgaf

It's a FANTASTIC law.

"The law, which makes the publication or utterance of blasphemous matter a crime punishable by a €25,000 fine."

Every single priest in Ireland or others of the same lying ilk will immediately get fined €25,000 and every single publisher of scripture or holy text receives similar punishment.

I think I'm right that for any one flavour of holy word (34,000 different denomonations, sects and cults of Christianity alone) will be blasphemy to several others.

The Muslims can gripe about the Christians' blasphemy, the Christians can gripe about the Muslims' blasphemy, the Hindus' can gripe about the Muslim and Christian blasphemy and FSM can gripe about the blasphemy of every other religion.

At €25,000 a hit all religions should be bankrupt within a very short while.

This is a very cunning ploy by the Irish government to full its coffers with the church's money.

Look out Pope - The Irish are after your gold mountains.


Sun, 12 Jul 2009 23:52:00 UTC | #378352

friendlypig's Avatar Comment 13 by friendlypig

As a second generation Englishman but genetically Irish (lapsed Roman Catholic) on my Mothers' side and Scots (C of S) on my fathers side, I truly thank god that I am an Atheist.

But, don't you see that the only way to prevent superstition is to have religion; it really is the only way ;OD

Sun, 12 Jul 2009 23:59:00 UTC | #378353

Fidgaf's Avatar Comment 14 by Fidgaf

Should we write to the Pope and demand an immediate response against the blasphemous Protestants, Latter Day Saints, Nontrinitarians and Messianic Jews?

Once done with the Christian blasphemers, he can move on to the Dharmic religions, far eastern religions, folk religions, traditional religions, diasporic religions and about 500,000 others.

BLASPHEMERS! The lot of them.

Mon, 13 Jul 2009 00:08:00 UTC | #378355

Disbelief's Avatar Comment 15 by Disbelief

@ Fidgaf

Nah sorry, I thought that but Hungarianelephant put me straight on another thread.,4043,Who-asked-for-Irelands-blasphemy-law,Padraig-Reidy-Guardian

Check out Comment 30

Mon, 13 Jul 2009 00:38:00 UTC | #378357

Flapjack's Avatar Comment 16 by Flapjack

Middle ages? I thought Blasphemy laws have a more ancient pedigree than that...

Mon, 13 Jul 2009 00:53:00 UTC | #378362

hungarianelephant's Avatar Comment 17 by hungarianelephant

Nice of Senator Bacik to turn up and tell Atheist Ireland how important its establishment is.

Pity she didn't get round to saying anything about the blasphemy law when it was passing through the Senate.

Mon, 13 Jul 2009 00:54:00 UTC | #378363

Fidgaf's Avatar Comment 18 by Fidgaf


That just seemed weasel words to not act upon a law.

Was that the Oireachtas' intention? To pass an unusable law?

Curiously, the Catholic Encyclopaedia specifically states a phrase that is blasphemous:

"Jesus Christ was a bastard and his mother was a whore"

Even more amusing as it's a correct statement. Perhaps a variant of that could be used as a test case?

Muslims state quite clearly:

"Blasphemy in Islam constitutes speaking ill of Muhammad or of any other prophet mentioned in the Qur'an, or to claim that there is more than one god or that Jesus Christ (the son of Mary) is the son of God (5.017), or to speak ill of God".

I wonder who is going to decide exactly what blasphemy is?

Not having read the new law, I guess I should stop speculating until it's clearer.

As it happens, I was going for satire more than a debate. I'll leave that to better educated persons than myself.

Mon, 13 Jul 2009 01:03:00 UTC | #378366

Carl Sai Baba's Avatar Comment 19 by Carl Sai Baba

Is a legal penalty even necessary? If someone commits blasphemy in Ireland, won't the leprechauns get them?

Mon, 13 Jul 2009 01:04:00 UTC | #378367

WilliamP's Avatar Comment 20 by WilliamP

To all Irish citizens:
Last night I recieved a vision from god that told me that the only way to worship him is to blaspheme against all religions. If you do not do so, your soul will be condemned to hell, so you should follow my teachings and be saved. As my followers, go forth and get yourselves recognized as a religion under Irish law. Then oppose this blasphemy ban as an affront to your right of religious freedom.

Mon, 13 Jul 2009 01:23:00 UTC | #378372

Roland_F's Avatar Comment 21 by Roland_F

For similar reasons e.g backwards religious inspired laws, Turkey is objected from many to join the EU.

Mon, 13 Jul 2009 01:26:00 UTC | #378373

Dr Doctor's Avatar Comment 22 by Dr Doctor

Roland_F, Nedim Gursel won his case though, and is quoted as saying that Blasphemy laws have no place in a secular republic like Turkey.

Mon, 13 Jul 2009 01:28:00 UTC | #378375

Vaal's Avatar Comment 23 by Vaal

Does this mean that showing Father Ted is blasphemous, or showing Dave Allen reruns? How utterly ridiculous, what birdbrain in Ireland is responsible for this fatuous draconian law?

You would have thought that the recent harrowing Catholic abuse scandal would have inspired the opposite effect on Irish judiciary, and politicians. The judiciary seem to be completely out of touch with the Irish population, as most Irish that I know are extremely irreverent, and proud of it, so I suspect this law is doomed to failure, as the absurd anachronism it is. It also doesn't bode well for integration with Northern Ireland.

I would recommend anyone who hasn't seen it to watch the film "Evelyn" with sterling acting by Pierce Brosnan about the horrors of institutional religious dogma being taken seriously in a court of law. Very eye-opening.

Mon, 13 Jul 2009 01:42:00 UTC | #378378

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 24 by Steve Zara

Let's deal with this idea that blasphemy is a victimless crime. I think that is wrong. The victim is clearly God.... but that has to be wrong, unless he can be shown to exist. Ok then, the victim is clearly the poor believers who have been offended. But that has to be wrong, as they almost never do the complaining. It is the leaders of religious communities. But that is so so weird. Why should people need some leader to insist that they have taken offense? In any other area of society such an arrangement would look completely barmy. Imagine if there was a law which protected football teams from public statements saying they were rubbish. People would think the legal system had gone mad.

The real victim of blasphemy is everyone, as they live under damned stupid laws.

Mon, 13 Jul 2009 01:54:00 UTC | #378381

rod-the-farmer's Avatar Comment 25 by rod-the-farmer

Thanks Fidgaf for the examples of blasphemy. My next question is, "Can I post an advert in the Irish Times newspaper, containing those very words, comeplete with my full name and address, and then be charged with blasphemy ?" Would they even accept such an advert ? If not, there are problem other newspapers who would, just for the circulation growth and ad revenue from many others like me, once their willingness was made public.

I am a Canadian only two generations removed from Ireland, so that should give me a head start over all others outside Ireland who wish to participate. I believe there is already an agreement between Canada and Ireland on extradition, so hopefully they will request it in my case.

Oooooh, I am SO excited !

EDIT I have just sent an inquiry off to the Irish Times, asking if they will accept an advert, using the exact phrase Fidgal suggested above. I told them my purpose was to test the new blasphemy law. I will let you know their response. Hopefully they accept my advert. Once they accept one, they may be bound to accept all. Phase II is to have someone actually IN Ireland to press the relevant authorities to stamp out this example of blasphemy by laying charges. I will offer my self for extradition. Oooooh, I am all a-quiver.

Mon, 13 Jul 2009 01:55:00 UTC | #378382

Jay Cee's Avatar Comment 26 by Jay Cee

Yes Steve, if the all-powerful one, the almighty god does exist then he most certainly needs protecting from us horrid humans who want to use his name in vain. He's quite touchy apparently.

Mon, 13 Jul 2009 02:01:00 UTC | #378383

SaganTheCat's Avatar Comment 27 by SaganTheCat

I'm scared to visit Ireland now. I'm sure there are some lovely old churches there but I couldn't visit.

As an atheist, would it be blasphemy to enter one£

Can you fart in church£

If so can I take a shit in the font£

where does one draw the line£

Mon, 13 Jul 2009 02:05:00 UTC | #378385

mjwemdee's Avatar Comment 28 by mjwemdee

I just feel sorry for all the leprechauns.

Mon, 13 Jul 2009 02:59:00 UTC | #378394

hungarianelephant's Avatar Comment 29 by hungarianelephant

Apologies for reposting this material, but as some people are still wondering what the Irish blasphemy law is all about, here it is (Defamation Bill 2006):

36. Publication or utterance of blasphemous matter.

(1) 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*.

(2) For the purposes of this section, a person publishes or utters blasphemous matter if (a) he or she publishes or utters 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 (b) he or she intends, by the publication or utterance of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.

(3) It shall be a defence to proceedings for an offence under this section for the defendant to prove that a reasonable person would find genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value in the matter to which the offence relates.

* This is actually the text when last published in committee on 20 May. There was a ministerial amendment to change €100k to €25k. The reports say that no amendments were debated so I don't know whether this went through.

This is a criminal matter and not a civil one. No one can sue anyone else. Also, since it's on indictment only, there can be no private prosecutions. Only the DPP's office can bring a prosecution, which means that the Attorney-General gets the final say in whether to prosecute.

Please don't waste your money on trying to place ads in the paper. It doesn't matter whether the RC church considers something blasphemous - only whether it would cause "outrage" amongst a "substantial number of adherents".

This is some of the committee debate. The first person speaking is the minister who introduced it, Dermot Ahern:
As regards the offence of blasphemous libel, I believe we would all agree that the optimal approach, and certainly the one I would probably find most preferable, would be to abolish it altogether. However, we are where we are in regard to what is in the Constitution.
My proposal for a new section 35 has regard to the constitutional provision, the decision of the Supreme Court in the Corway case in 1999 and the earlier recommendations of the Law Reform Commission. This new section includes a definition of "blasphemous matter" along the lines proposed by the commission in its report. In addition, the term "outrage" as proposed by the commission is used so as not to widen the scope of the offence. There is also a requirement for a mens rea for the offence. A person should only be criminalised for the offence if he or she intended to cause outrage. We must avoid criminalising a person who might not have known that the matter in question was insulting because he or she was not aware of the teachings of a particular religion. The provision does not include a definition of religion; that interpretation must be left to the courts. The term "religion" was used in the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 where it was clearly intended that all religions be covered without being defined. The new section also provides for a monetary sanction only, with the removal of the prison sanction. I am also ensuring that any future prosecutions are taken by the Director of Public Prosecutions and not by individuals, as has occurred on several occasions since 1961.

In addition, my revised proposal now includes, in a new subsection 35(3), a defence in proceedings for an offence under this section whereby the defendant may prove that a reasonable person would find genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value in the matter to which the offence relates. My proposal mirrors somewhat that proposed by the Labour Party. However, it requires, in regard to the onus of proof, for "genuine value" as opposed to merely "any value". It does not include the broad and somewhat vague "social value" test.
Without incurring the expense of holding a referendum*, I am including as much as possible with regard to what is, in effect, an arcane concept. Because of the constitutional imperative, I propose the inclusion of a changed section that will raise the bar pretty high for a possible prosecution.

Deputy Charles Flanagan (FG): The Minister commenced what he admitted was a rather lengthy explanation of the reason for the inclusion into the Bill of this new section by speaking of his visits to Rome and what he did while there as though it bears any relevance to the Bill. I can draw one inference from his visits to Rome, which is that he certainly has engaged in something of a circus in respect of this legislation. His belated attempt to introduce a good defence procedure makes the Bill less operable than was the case heretofore.
Although the Minister proposed this provision as an attempt to justify the reason blasphemous libelshould be enshrined in legislation, he has ensured that this section of the Bill is completely unworkable. This is a classic example of an Irish solution to an Irish problem.

* What this is all about: The reason this is being introduced is because the Constitution says that "blasphemy shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law". The Corway case was an attempted blasphemy prosecution under the 1961 Act. That prescribed the penalty but did not say what blasphemy actually was. So the Supreme Court overturned the conviction, effectively saying that there was no such offence.

This bill repeals the 1961 Act and hence the penalty for the non-offence. Ahern says he is constitutionally obliged to insert an offence of blasphemy. So here we are.

The alternative is to amend the constitution to delete the references to blasphemy. This has been ruled out on the ground of cost, though it has not been explained to us why we cannot have a referendum in conjunction with Lisbon II in October.

(Edited for clarity)

Mon, 13 Jul 2009 03:05:00 UTC | #378396

Peter_on_Sax's Avatar Comment 30 by Peter_on_Sax

Under the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) legislation, any EU member state can issue a warrant for the arrest and extradition of a suspected criminal. The arrest warrant is enforceable in all EU member states.

For example, Gerald Fredrick Töben allegedly posted material "of an antisemitic and/or revisionist nature" on his website, which he writes from his home in Australia. To publish such material is an offense in Germany, so the German courts issued an EAW. While changing planes at London Heathrow last October, Töben was arrested, even though his alleged offense is not a crime in the UK. Some 50 days later the case was dropped due to a lack of detail and Töben was released from the British prison.

With the introduction of Ireland's new blasphemy law, I conclude that, anyone in the World who might have caused "outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of [a] religion" should be wary of even stepping foot in the EU for fear of extradition to Ireland to face blasphemy charges.

Mon, 13 Jul 2009 03:24:00 UTC | #378400