As of last Friday, 1 January, the Defamation Act 2006 came into effect, including the provision of a €25,000 fine for blasphemy. Atheist Ireland have launched a campaign to repeal this law by publishing 25 blasphemous quotes. I like the fact that the first two are from Jesus of Nazareth, reminding people that according to the Gospel, it was on charges of blasphemy that he was put to death. The first, from Matthew 26:64, “Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”
In the autumn of 2006, I proposed a motion at the AGM of the Young Progressive Democrats calling for a referendum to remove the references to God and the clause in Article 40.6.1° i. on blasphemy from the Constitution of Ireland. I believe it passed, but I was told that it was meaningless, as it would never be invoked. Well here it is now. Given that the provision has been recognized by law, we can only hope to repeal this provision after changing the Constitution.
Apart from being an anachronism, it can be seen as part of a worrying trend infringing freedom of speech. Laws have been enacting in an increasing number of states criminalizing the denial of the Holocaust and other tragedies. We also saw an attempt by a group of Islamic countries last year to pass a binding resolution prohibiting insulting religion. I would worry if we had set a precedent for such a formula.
Here’s one of the quoted blasphemies: