Atheist Ireland Tests Ridiculous Irish Blasphemy Law

A few months ago, a new law passed in Ireland that makes blasphemy a crime warranting a fine of €25,000.

Atheist Ireland wants to get it repealed and they’re doing it by challenging the law starting on Day 1.

We believe in the golden rule: that we have a right to be treated justly, and that we have a responsibility to treat other people justly. Blasphemy laws are unjust: they silence people in order to protect ideas. In a civilised society, people have a right to to express and to hear ideas about religion even if other people find those ideas to be outrageous.

In this context we now publish a list of 25 blasphemous quotes…

Despite these quotes being abusive and insulting in relation to matters held sacred by various religions, we unreservedly support the right of these people to have published or uttered them, and we unreservedly support the right of any Irish citizen to make comparable statements about matters held sacred by any religion without fear of being criminalised, and without having to prove to a court that a reasonable person would find any particular value in the statement.

The quotes come from all over the place — George Carlin, Salman Rushdie, Jesus, etc.

The atheists are right and the government of Ireland is wrong.

This law will be challenged — not just by the atheists — and one would hope it gets repealed immediately.

  • Revyloution

    For some reason, reading that makes me think of Maddox and his take on civil disobedience.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kR4y0KhdcNY

  • http://aurorawalkingvacation.blogspot.com Paul

    Revyloution,

    Is there a reason you linked to a video of Bill and Ted saying, “dude!” over and over again?

  • Don Juan Triumphant

    It’d be interesting if Father Ted came under this law (it should do, since it portrays the entire catholic church as useless and corrupt, as well as mocking the core beliefs). It’s pretty popular in Ireland.

    Although it’s a cynical look on life, most people don’t give a damn about abstract concepts like free speech, because for the most part they don’t affect them directly. But if something interrupts their favourite TV show? Man. Hell will break loose.

  • http://thinkingforfree.blogspot.com/ Eamon Knight

    I like how they have Jesus quotes that would likely run afoul of this law.

  • http://primesequence.blogspot.com/ PrimeNumbers

    It’s a bad law, and challenging it like this is the best way to rid us of it. Good luck to them, and let’s all blaspheme along with them!

  • Revyloution

    HAHA, Multi tasking fails again.

    Sorry Paul, I was linking that video on a different site.

    For your viewing pleasure, Maddox on civil disobedience.

    http://www.thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=regressive

  • http://princeofpithy.wordpress.com/ Prince of Pithy

    They should put up 25 quotes a day.

  • http://fundie-watch.blogspot.com The Watcher

    When I first heard about this, I shouted “JESUS CHRIST THAT’S A BAD LAW!”

  • The Other Tom

    I think they should just start filing blasphemy complaints against religious groups for publishing and distributing the bible and koran, which say things that offend those who practice secular humanism, and let the religious groups pay the fines and pay for the lawyers to fight the legal battles for us.

  • http://squarenomore.blogspot.com Phil Wyman

    Hey Hemant – I was hoping you’d have something to say on this issue – well, actually I knew you would. So I have a question for you here, from a Christian pastor to the Friendly Atheist:

    In light of the stated purpose for establishing this law, to “make it virtually impossible to get a successful prosecution” for blasphemy. Doesn’t the response by Atheist Ireland seem to be tantamount to nothing more than a good opportunity for press?

    I’d love your feedback.

    It’s been a few years since I worked with Jim Henderson, and we touched base.

    Peace
    Phil in Salem, MA

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    Hi, Phil — It’s a win/win for Atheist Ireland, I think. They will get (and have already received) press over this. And if anyone tries to prosecute them over it, they’ll get even more. It’s all positive press, too.

    But it’s not a real victory until blasphemy laws are removed from the system and the law is overturned.

  • Anonymouse

    Yes, yes! The other Tom – nice idea. Hopefully some christian right wing nut would file a complaint against the Koran or any Imam who spouts nonsense, and vice versa!

    This stupid law should be ridiculed until it’s repealed.

  • Stephen P

    In light of the stated purpose for establishing this law, to “make it virtually impossible to get a successful prosecution” for blasphemy.

    Dermot Ahern may have said that, but it is not a credible statement. If that was really what he wanted then, given the lack of successful prosecutions under the old law, he didn’t need to do anything. Or, if he wanted a token law to comply with the constitution, he could have given it a maximum penalty of a €100 fine. No, Ahern wanted a blasphemy law with teeth, and backpedaled when he started getting heavy flak.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Excellent news. Unjust laws should not be obeyed.

  • qwertyuiop

    The site doesn’t load for me.

  • http://www.rericsawyer.wordpress.com R. Eric Sawyer


    “The atheists are right and the government of Ireland is wrong.”

    As a serious Christian, there is little I can say except “AMEN!”

    Even on my shore, I see that God did not limit our ability to get it wrong, to make errors, to malign Him. There may be a price involved in mis-understanding, and mis-representing the way things are in the universe (no doubt you will think that I make those errors most egregiously!)
    But He has left us free to make them, and enjoy the good or bad fruit as may be. We are not free from the consequences of our choices and actions, but we are free to act and choose as we see fit.

    Definatly bad law, bad policy, and bad religion.

  • http://squarenomore.blogspot.com Phil Wyman

    Hey Hemant,

    I am not sure that I would agree that this is all positive press. What Atheist Ireland has printed for “blasphemy” appears to be two parts obscenity with one part blasphemy. Obscenity and blasphemy laws are not the same thing, and should not be treated as so – in my opinion at least.

    The profusion of obscenity in their 25 blasphemous statements will not garner a positive outlook from those who find their comments offensive at another wholly different level – bad move on their part methinks – keeps them from becoming mainstream.

    Good hearing from you,
    Phil

  • Hal in Howell MI

    I was sent this link http://blasphemy.ie/2010/01/01/atheist-ireland-publishes-25-blasphemous-quotes/ but it says it is Forbidden. Anyone else having the same problem?

  • jessica albert

    A question I have is: How did this law ever get introduced? and then passed? This seems to be that the government is telling religion what to do! It might be morally or socially impolite to utter certain phrases in front of certain people, but to determine “blasphemy” requires that the speaker follows a religion sincerely and feels that he has “blasphemed” his religious rules. I am hoping other progressive nations will loudly comment on this “law.” Any individual who does not follow your religion has no right to ever know that you do follow a religion, because your religion should have zero impact on how you interact with other citizens.

  • muggle

    These blasphme laws are quite frightening to me. I’m sure if the US should follow suit and ignore the Constitution, I won’t last a day without being fined or going to jail.

    I do have to wonder how they work with the internet. They take a blog like this one and start by arresting Hemant then tracking down the rest of us that are in their jurisdiction.

    I too can’t believe these laws were even passed. I find it most troubling and frightening that they were.

    More power to Atheist Ireland!

  • http://carriertom.typepad.com/sheep_and_goats tom sheepandgoats

    Few have been more critical of religious organizations over the years than Jehovah’s Witnesses. Yet they are universally recognized as a nonviolent people. They’re ‘weapons’ are words only.

    Would that all followed that example. Then you could have groups of uncompromising principles existing side by side with like groups espousing different principles. And you wouldn’t need silly laws such as this one, which carry so much potential for abuse.

    It’s the only practical way in a pluralistic society.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    tom sheepandgoats

    Few have been more critical of religious organizations over the years than Jehovah’s Witnesses. Yet they are universally recognized as a nonviolent people. They’re ‘weapons’ are words only.

    And they do quite enough damage to themselves and to their children. That and they are a nuisance to others.

    Yeah, they aren’t killing people, announcing fatwas or picketing blood doners. Thank Jehovah for small mercies. ;)

  • http://carriertom.typepad.com/sheep_and_goats tom sheepandgoats

    Hoverfrog:

    On the other hand, free speech is the subject of this post. If you insist upon it for the atheists, surely you can’t begrudge it for Jehovah’s Witnesses. And if you dismiss out of hand any offence engendered by this Illinois solstice sign, surely you can’t carry on about the “nuisance” of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ visits. After all, if you decline interest in what they have to say, they go away.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    tom sheepandgoats

    On the other hand, free speech is the subject of this post.

    Yeah thanks. I’m pretty sure I didn’t suggest restricting the freedom of speech for Jehovah’s Witnesses as much as I do consider them a nuisance. Like door to door salesmen they have the right to knock on my door and try to sell me something. They sell religion. I exercise my freedom of action by telling them not to bother me.

    If you insist upon it for the atheists, surely you can’t begrudge it for Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    Actually I not only do not begrudge it for JWs I really want them to have it. I actively support JWs right to say the things that I find annoying.

    And if you dismiss out of hand any offence engendered by this Illinois solstice sign, surely you can’t carry on about the “nuisance” of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ visits.

    Of course I can they are entirely different things. The former is a public building that is funded by the state and should have no part in the advancement of religion whatsoever. My doorstep is my private property and the conduct I offer on my private property is entirely up to me subject to the law.

    After all, if you decline interest in what they have to say, they go away.

    Yes they do. It serves no purpose for them to remain when they could be selling their religion to other people. A lesson that door to door salespeople really could learn from JWs. Although it is a different topic to the one about freedom of speech I see no reason why I should be put in the position of having to decline interest. There are plenty of religions that will be there if I decide to look into it. They really don’t need to come to my door.

    In your first comment you said that JWs were non-violent but I still see them as very destructive. I really do see the benefits of joining together with people of faith to combat predations that one faith has on secular life but we should choose our allies carefully. Joining with Jehovah’s Witnesses just seems like a curate’s egg of a bargain. There may well be good parts but overall the result would be entirely spoiled.

    Of course, others may be more accommodating.


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