Thursday, 9 July 2009

Ireland passes new blasphemy law

This is very bad news for the cause of free speech, and for the ongoing campaign to create a clearer separation between church and state in Ireland. As Padraig Reidy says, 'Irish law has now enshrined the notion that the taking of offence is more important than free expression.'

Under the revised Defamation Act, passed yesterday by the Dáil, a fine of up to 25,000 can be imposed for any statement or publication '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.'

Once again, the limits of free speech are to be determined by the degree of 'outrage' fomented by religious activists. This is good news for fundamentalist rabble-rousers everywhere.

More here.


kellie said...

Incredible - I hadn't heard of this. Perhaps the way forward is to start reporting as many religions as possible to the Gardaí for being grossly abusive to one another in their core beliefs.

Martin said...

...or organise a class action on behalf of the Jedi Church, or the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster - after all, it does say 'any religion'.

kellie said...

The fine is five times higher than the one proposed by Irish lawmakers last year for detonating a nuclear bomb without a license.

Martin Meenagh said...

The excuse proferred by the Irish government (not o do so myself) is that the constitution requires that there be a penalty for such speech. I have to say that a) I'm not convinced that the issue would ever arise or that b) it has to be such a penalty. One of the dangers of a written constitution is that this sort of thing happens, or that this sort of justification can be offered for restrictive behaviours which are otherwise difficult to justify.

Martin said...

Yes, I read that about the constitution too. I'm probably more enthusiastic about the notion of a written constitution than you are, but (as I've often said in my posts) I'm not sure I'd trust any of our current crop of politicians to write it....None of them, on either side, are great civil libertarians, and I suspect it would reflect the vacuous nostrums of the day. The Americans were fortunate that their constitution was composed at a high point of democratic revolutionary ferment, and by some of the best minds of the past two hundred years.

Martin Meenagh said...

I absolutely agree. I think that there is some sort of desperate pandering going on in Ireland though, because I can't believe that either a case would be prosecuted, or entertained, or that that President or the Supreme Court feel that there is a need for this law.

I swither on the written constitution issue. The US, the constitution I approve of, is usually the wrong example; but Germany does well out of the basic law, as does Israel. Neither of them technically have a constitution, as much as a series of documents. What any system relies on is, not to be too pompous, the virtue or ability of the political classes and the education of the citizens. Those are things we or the global markets have taken a match and petrol to in the past few decades.

Ah well. Hope all is well in any event