Atheist Ireland Opposes New Blasphemy Crime

The Irish Government’s new proposed blasphemy crime combines the oppressive religious thinking of 1950s Catholic Ireland and modern Islamic fundamentalism.

This proposal should be opposed for three reasons:

One, it does not protect religious belief. Instead, it encourages outrage and it criminalises free speech. Two, it treats religious beliefs as more valuable than secular beliefs and scientific thinking. Three, we should be removing 1930s religious references from the Irish Constitution, not legislating to enforce them.

The bill’s first test of blasphemy is that religious adherents express outrage. Instead of encouraging outrage, we should be educating people to respond in a more healthy manner than outrage when somebody expresses a belief that they find insulting. More worryingly, this law would encourage the type of orchestrated outrage that Islamic fundamentalists directed against Danish cartoonists.

Many atheists find it insulting that the Christian Bible suggests that women must not teach and must learn in silence, or that effeminate people are unrighteous, or that people should worship a God who threatens to make you eat your own children. But we do not believe that the Bible should be banned, and neither should discussion of the Bible in terms that cause Christians to be outraged.

Blasphemy is not the only anomaly of running a 21st century state with a 1937 Constitution. You cannot become President or be appointed as a Judge unless you take a religious oath under God asking god to direct and sustain you in your work. We should be amending our Constitution to remove these theistic references, not creating new crimes to enforce provisions that were written in the 1930s.

If you live in Ireland, please lobby your local TD, the Justice Minister, and the members of the Oireachtas Justice Committee that is considering this proposal. Contact details here:

by Michael Nugent

Atheist Ireland


  1. Avatar
    Dez April 30, 2009

    Unbelievable. This country is going backward in so many ways. This bill needs to be opposed on all fronts.

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    Cyril April 30, 2009

    Yes I couldnt believe what I was hearing when I heard this on the radio. Yes seems like we are going right back to the 1980s in everyway possible.
    Most definately down with that sort of thing!!

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    Feardorca May 01, 2009

    At first it seems gob-smacking but maybe it’s a valuable diversion for a government under siege on so many other fronts.
    As regards blasphemy, ‘religious adherents expressed outrage’ (as the new law will put it) at divorce, contraception and just about every other social improvement this century.
    I have been called a blasphemer, often, for expressing the view that gods are invented by men.

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    Alex May 01, 2009

    It is depressing that, in the first decade of the 21st century, free speech should be potentially so threatened. Surely we should be encouraging people to debate both their agreements and their disagreements in an open and mutually respectful manner. Instead, it seems, there are those who still wish to drag Ireland into a morass of self-inflated intolerance.

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    Ronan May 01, 2009

    Dermot Ahern quoted in today’s Irish Times spells out his three steps to heaven on blasphemy law:

    “That the material be grossly abusive or insulting in matters held sacred by a religion; that it must actually cause outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion; and, crucially, that there be an intent to cause such outrage. Such intent was not previously required.”

    This would supposedly require us to gather in the grounds of Leinster House and burn all of the following:

    Any works by Dawkins, Hitchens, Douglas Adams et al.
    Pretty much the entire modern scientific canon
    All three seasons of Father Ted on DVD
    Anything else you’re having yourself father

    I suggest this be done in the company of members of Opus Dei, Youth Defence and other local religious groups to add to the party atmosphere. Biffo could chuck on the offending portraits for good measure and the Dublin diocese might want to lob in the latest report on abuse due soon and hope nobody’ll notice.

    Let’s all hope for a nice clear evening. The heathens’ll see the flames for miles around! God Bless Ireland….

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    Micheal May 02, 2009

    well put, the three points above

    can’t believe that right now when the country clearly needs educated people running the public administration that “outrage” be given a sop of this sort

    Where’s the law to support those who feel outrage for the economic mess the country has been led into?

    now that’s something that’s based on reality with real consequences

    but the idea that uneducated idiots run this country that seek to quell free speech… as the Lenihan bros. like to say to D McWilliams and various reporters, they are not answerable to them

    no doubt they’d claim that they are ultimately answerable to a higher power. so easy to invoke the authority of a non existent deity


    can’t wait for some canny crazy mullah given the franchise for Ireland to come along and act the victim while encouraging husbands to defend their honour if their wives and daughters are seen in public with their heads uncovered…

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    FutureTaoiseach May 02, 2009

    Well said. This is not, as Ahern claims, merely about addressing a constitutional-limbo on blasphemy, nor is it merely about removing jail-terms for blasphemers. The reality is that it is about closing down criticism of religions. For the first time in post-independence Irish history, we will have a definition in law of “blasphemous libel”, and it will be so all-encompassing as to be wildly open to interpretation. The legal definition of blasphemy will be something”“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.” This is Salman Rushdie-fatwa territory. It’s quite likely that such legislation could have been used to prosecute retailers selling the publication of “The Satanic Verses” by Salman Rushdie, which led to the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini issuing a fatwa against him in 1989. The DPP could also prosecute cinemas for showing “The Da Vinci Code” on the basis that Christian fundamentalists could be outraged by it’s claim that the Holy Grail refers to the bloodline of Jesus and Mary Magdalene passed down from their children. Indeed, in Russia, the movie was banned because of Orthodox Church complaints.

    The proposed amendment continiues: “Where a person is convicted of an offence under this section, the court may issue a warrant authorising the Garda Síochána to enter, if necessary using reasonable force, a premises where the member of the force has reasonable grounds for believing there are copies of the blasphemous statements in order to seize them.” This is Sharia-territory, and coming within days of the UN World Conference against Racism, where Muslim countries tried and failed to get an international ban on blasphemy, it just seems too much of a coincident that the Minister announced this now. Is he pandering to radical Islam in the name of Political-Correctness, or the Catholic Right in the name of ‘right living’. Either way, we must stand together against this legislation and put our TDs – especially the Greens – under sustained pressure to block this.

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    Sen May 03, 2009

    Unbelievable. With our ailing economy and now this, its like they’re trying to live the 80’s all over. Hopefully this wont get far, besides I cant see any such law holding up in the European courts

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    IrishAbroad May 04, 2009

    An interesting question would be,

    Who will benefit from this bill being passed?

    Given “that it must actually cause outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion” surely this favors only those “religions” of great number or those which are organized enough and politically connected enough to cause a substantial proof of their outrage.

    A bill which at first appearance gives the impression of protecting believers, in fact seems to give strength to bigotry and suppression of other creeds.

    I wonder if behind the screen, the bill is seen as a necessary means of “stamping out” other minority religions, given that the strongest religion in Ireland and the most politically and economically connected is surely terrified of the potential growth of other creeds, Buddhism and Islam to mention but two.

    The bill should be opposed in my opinion, not because it is based on outrage, but because it is a thinly veiled attempt to discriminate against belief systems which are minorities and seen as a threat to the status quo.

    As opposed to this bill I would lobby for a bill that places civil lay above all religious laws and practitioners must first submit to the lays of Ireland and practice their believe within that framework. this would protect the state and avoid the necessity of outrage and public lobbying to protect religious beliefs.

    A multitude of beliefs can co-exist only as long as there is a common legal system to protect all equally. For those who feel that their personal religious are not compatible to a nations legal system or visa versa, they should perhaps question why their beliefs are contrary to the majority of the civil population and if they are living in the correct country. the legal system allows for new laws to be introduced for the benefit of the majority.

    Civil rights above personal beliefs.

  10. Avatar
    peder May 05, 2009

    Oh my gawd, please stop this law! Where is it going to lead us in Europe, if things like this come through. Best wishes from Germany.

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    KeHoeff May 28, 2009

    hey this is a very interesting article!

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    Brian Mulligan June 20, 2009

    C’mon lads. Get real. This is a fudge, but it may be the only one that will work. Currently blasphemy is unconstitutional and a judge has to make decisions based on precedent which may well be harsh for us blasphemers. This law is meant to make the religious happy but actually make it more difficult to have people charged for normal freedom of speech. Be positive. Things are going our way. Don’t push it too fast or you’ll get a backlash (eg. the 1st divorce referendum came to early and set us back 10 years).

  13. Avatar
    ALEC July 15, 2009

    Well, now July is upon us, and Juggernaut Ahern is rolling his trashy pile of mumbo-jumbo in the general direction of the President, pen-in-hand; having crushed any (and surely ineffectual) resistance in The Dail. So what about us, the great unwashed non and anti-religious thinkers of Ireland? How are we protected if some equivalent of The Mad Mullah (he was an historical figure, see ‘History of the British and their Conquests’; no offence intended to any religious organisation) or The Spanish Inquisition,(another historical group, see ‘History of Torture in the Name of Religious Freedom’; no offence intended to any religious organisation) or the ‘It’s Friday the 13th Let’s Burn Some Templars Alive’ yet another historical group, see History of ‘How to Extract Taxes Out of Reluctant Knights’; no offence intended to any religious organisation, nor the Pope at that time, nor The King of France, nor any of his family or Court) What if their heirs and successors, or new branches of them which may have been asleep as moles in Ireland, were to malign us atheists and agnostics and whatevers to the point where we would be as offended as they would have to be if it was us talking out loud about them, if you see what I mean. There’s an Appalachian folk song titled ‘Can’t you Hear Jerusalem Moan?’ I think it surely must be moaning at this crock of ****

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    Paul Bradley July 16, 2009

    Please… Please do not behave like this …I live far from my shores yet I still live with my shores in my Heart.. I and mine have bleed, wept and stood tall around nations.. We sang>>> when we could not sing>>>>>> we told , when it was not good to tell>>>>> We behaved as we were taught>>>>> Not to be fools nor carry the yoke of old >>>> How now can such fools be!!!!!! I know this may sound like atypical cliche but…. hell or not.. reflect on Joyce… Becket.. Flan O’ Brien.. What had they to say with out the beautiful use of words….. The biggest blasphemy is the power that be….
    I can’t take in that I am actually writing this…… Eire go bra

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    waked July 29, 2009

    I am an atheist born to Muslim family, born in Iraq, living in Europe.
    I find this law outrageous and a very dangerous development and surely make me wonder if we can ever see the day when we as Arabs atheists can get the Arab regimes to recognize our right to be different if a country like Ireland shall adopt such law.
    We are putting real struggle against the religion dogma in our forum and some of us are facing real threats by only trying to visit the forum .it is really discouraging to have such a law implanted in Ireland or any other country.

  16. Avatar
    Kathy Devine January 04, 2010

    I absolutely, totally, fully support your efforts to repeal this disgraceful law.

    Voltaire said it himself, I do not like what………………………………It is those fine words which should and must form the foundation of free speech. That’s what the right to freedom of expression is about, is it not?

    The repealing of this disgraceful law is more important than ever, especially considering the recent attempt on Mr Westergaard’s life in Denmark.

    It is way, way long past the time that those who hold the Islamic faith and who are disgusted with what has happened (if they exist) and who value freedom and civilised societies started speaking out in earnest against these sort of crimes. It is also way, way, way long past the time that they started to accept that the man who started off their religion was not a very nice man. (A 53 year old with a 9yr old girl is wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong), but we know that, plenty obviously still do not.

  17. Avatar
    Alec January 08, 2010

    Ya got it right there, Kathy – but keep in mind that Ireland didn’t even think it was wrong,wrong,wrong,wrong re a 53 yr old (priest) with a 9yr old BOY… so how do you expect the mass of Irish voters to rise up aganst this folly? In fact, just read an opinion the other day as to why opposition Fine Gael and Labour didn’t do everything they could to stop it – answer is ‘they’d lose the farm vote…’ So if this is where we’re at, there ain’t a lot of hope.