You’re probably all aware that Ireland’s Minister for Justice (and noted homophobe), Dermot Ahern, proposed to insert a new section into Ireland’s Defamation Bill, which requires that a person publishing or uttering “blasphemous matter” shall be held 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.”
In a wrenching display of Lose, Ireland’s Seanad passed the bill by walk-through vote, after at first narrowly rejecting it via electronic vote.
Quite aside from the obvious legal difficulties inherent in dealing with nebulous concepts like “outrage” and “substantial number” (and the fact that one man’s blasphemy is another’s comedic gold!) the bill is, in Richard Dawkin’s words, “a wretched, backward, uncivilised regression to the middle ages”. Atheist Ireland is going to issue a deliberately blasphemous statement in the coming few days to test the law.
Proponents of the bill claim that anti-blasphemy legislation is necessary as Ireland’s Constitution prohibits blasphemy, despite there having been no legislation on the books addressing it. The correct response seems obvious: have a referendum and amend your Constitution, idiots?