Atheist Ireland Makes Formal Request for Constitutional Convention to Repeal Blasphemy Law

A Constitutional Convention is taking place in Ireland this year and one of the major changes the committee is considering is a removal of the blasphemy law.

As it is right now, Article 40.6.1 of the Constitution says:

The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.

To that end, Atheist Ireland today submitted their reasons for why that law in particular must be repealed:

2. We argue that blasphemy laws generally are harmful for three reasons:

(a) They endanger freedom of speech and deny equality.
(b) They are used to infringe on human rights around the world.
(c) They have been condemned by reputable international bodies.

3. We argue that the Irish blasphemy law in particular is harmful for three reasons:

(a) It reinforces the religious ethos of the 1937 Constitution.
(b) It brings our parliament and our laws into disrepute.
(c) Islamic states use it at the UN to promote universal blasphemy laws.

(b) We ask the Convention to recommend the following:

(i) Remove the offence of blasphemy from Article 40.6.1 of the Constitution.
(ii) Revise Article 40.6.1 generally, modeled on Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights.
(iii) Include in the revised Article a clause prohibiting laws against blasphemy.
(iv) Consider the inter-related impact of the blasphemy clause and other religiously-inspired aspects of the Constitution.

You should read the full post — it’s very detailed post and includes lengthy explanations of each of those points. There’s no good reason for the committee to let this one slide. Blasphemy is a victimless crime and the law should reflect that.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • the moother

    I am infinitely against “laws against making laws” and don’t think these should be applied. Evar.

    Idiots (mostly in Murca) have made use of this tactic and it is as banal as it is inane. Imagine we made a law stating that all homosexuals should be stoned to death and then make another law which says we may not make laws that prevent homosexuals being stoned to death.

    This is a mega failure of logical and critical thinking. Imagine if the blasphemy law in Ireland was framed by a law forbidding any laws to be passed that allowed blasphemy?

    Especially because some laws need to be broken in order for the law forbidding them in the first place to be scrapped. For example, sodomy was illegal and people were breaking the law all the time. But now it is no longer illegal (in most enlightened places). Same applies to pot smoking. It was necessary for people to break the law in order for it to be repealed.

    I understand that laws against blasphemy are bad but playing this silly legislative game opens it up to further stupidity. And as we all know, there’s almost nothing as stupid as political stupidity!

    • C Peterson

      As I see it, a constitution shouldn’t (and generally doesn’t) make law. A constitution defines the boundaries- sometimes positive, sometimes negative- that determine how laws are created and enforced. So I don’t see any law being made here, only clarified.

    • Sven2547

      Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

      Hmm. A law against making certain laws. Would you describe the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution as stupid?

      • the moother

        “The Irish government shall make no laws permitting blasphemy or laws allowing blasphemy.”

        I agree with you… but you don’t agree with yourself.

        • Sven2547

          The Irish government shall make no laws permitting blasphemy or laws allowing blasphemy.

          Who is proposing such a thing? Nobody.

          I agree with you… but you don’t agree with yourself.

          What are you talking about?

          • the moother

            Not smart enough to understand your own argument? o.m.g.

            • Sven2547

              I understand myself fine. You clearly seem to be misunderstanding me. Rather than these cryptic responses, consider actually elaborating what you’re talking about.

        • Quintin van Zuijlen

          How would you make a law to permit something except as an exception? It makes no sense at all. If there’s no law banning something, it’s allowed by default.

          • the moother

            We are not making a law to permit blasphemy… we are trying to get rid of one that inhibits free speech (and logic)

            Yes, if there is no law banning blasphemy then it is allowed… so no point in making laws to stop making laws against blasphemy.

    • baal

      Legislatures often find it easier to pass a new law than to revise an older law on the same matter. They do it largely to hide the ball as to their real intentions and hope to slide stuff past the press and public. Worse, they will pass some entirely non-controversial pablum and then plan on making a court challenge later on a carefully contrived set of facts so that the old law and the new vehicle conflict and the courts then can rule in a way favorable to the party that set up the mess and its resolution. If this sounds convoluted, it is. But i’ve seen such messes get planned and carried out during my brief stint in government.

    • Quintin van Zuijlen

      I on the other hand am all for a constitution defining what authority government has and hasn’t because I prefer my government actually governing.

      • the moother

        We’re not talking about government authority…. we are talking about peoples rights.

        I’d rather build a society based on what (reasonable) people are allowed to do than on the authority we give to elected assholes who tell us what we can’t.

        I understand that punching you on the nose is and should be illegal but do you really want to give a government the authority to stop me whistling in the street because it “calls the devil” as my grandmother always used to say?

  • ORAXX

    The biggest problem with blasphemy laws is…..one man’s blasphemy is another man’s self evident truth. It’s always stupid to incorporate religion into secular politics.

    • Thalfon

      Yeah, this is one thing I’ve never gotten. I mean, suppose we have a scenario with persons A and B. Person A says something that B thinks is blasphemous. B reports this for blasphemy. However, it’s not unreasonable to expect that person A will find it blasphemous to call his/her beliefs blasphemy. Therefore A reports B’s blasphemy report as blasphemous. Now we’re in a circle. Calling someone else’s belief blasphemous is often in and of itself blasphemous in the eyes of that other person.

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

      Agreed.

      Someone says that I will be tortured mercilessly for all eternity and that I’ll be wailing in pain and gnashing my teeth. I make no such threats against them, but I comment that it sounds like mythology. Blasphemy laws could mandate that I be the one punished for that conversation.

      Crazy.

      • http://springygoddess.blogspot.com/ Astreja

        Já, GodVlogger, that is crazy. Instead of blasphemy laws, I think the god-bothered should just start having god-botherers charged with uttering threats. As part of their defence strategy, they might have to testify that there was never any threat because their divine-hitman god didn’t actually exist.

        And upon checking the Canadian Criminal Code on this matter, nowhere does it say that the threatened person has to believe the threat, either — Making the threat is the actual offence — so they couldn’t use the excuse “Aah, he’s an atheist; he didn’t believe me anyway.”

  • Matthew Baker

    I would think an all powerful deity wouldn’t need the protection of a blasphemy law. Shouldn’t the deity be able to smote the said offender?

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    If you shield your religion behind blasphemy laws, you’re demonstrating that you think your religion cannot stand up to any challenge, even as you strut and posture that your religion is somehow a beacon of wisdom and a rock of strength.

    I just can’t seem to muster compassion for anyone exhibiting such craven, cowardly duplicity. Sucks to be you, I guess.

    • gimpi1

      This argument really resonated with me, Richard. The only reason I can think of for blasphemy laws (or any law against any sort of speech except for slander or calls for direct attacks) is that the entity protected by those laws believes that it needs that protection.

      If the church protected by blasphemy laws was really confident of their arguments, surely they would be the first to argue for dismantling them, on the grounds that they stifle dissent, which they are sure to win over anyway, because of the strength of their case. If they want to keep this legal shield intact, I can’t think of any reason except that they know their case is weak, and think they need the protection.

  • Robster

    Well put Richard that religion pretends to be a “beacon of wisdom and a rock of strength”. Should change that to: “bacon of wisdom and a crock of strength”.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X