Justice Minister to Amend New Blasphemy Law
The Minister for Justice is proposing to amend his new blasphemy law by providing, as a defence, that a person accused of blasphemy can “prove that a reasonable person would find genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value” in the blasphemous matter.
He is not proposing to reduce the fine of €100,000, the onus of proof is on the defendant to prove this new line of defence, and the police may still seize and destroy blasphemous statements. The Minister’s proposed blasphemy law now reads like this:
1. A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €100,000.
2. For the purposes of this section, a person publishes or utters blasphemous matter if (a) he or she publishes or utters 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 (b) he or she intends, by the publication or utterance of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.
3. It shall be a defence to proceedings for an offence under this section for the defendant to prove that a reasonable person would find genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value in the matter to which the offence relates.
The revised amendment has been published on the Oireachtas website. The All-Party Committee on Justice will discuss it tomorrow, Wednesday May 20. We in the campaign against the blasphemy law would welcome your opinions on this development as we consider our response to it.