Atheist Ireland helps to found new international campaign to end blasphemy laws
After considerable work behind the scenes in recent weeks, a new International Coalition Against Blasphemy Laws is launched today.
Our website is at http://end-blasphemy-laws.org.
It includes the most comprehensive available country data and profiles adapted from the most recent IHEU Freedom of Thought Report.
The Founding Partners
The new Coalition is a merger between two concurrent campaigns,
- one coordinated by the International Humanist and Ethical Union and the European Humanist Federation,
- and the other by Atheist Alliance International, Atheist Ireland, Centre for Inquiry Canada, Humanist Canada, Association Humaniste de Quebec, the Humanist Society of New Zealand, and the Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association.
When we each realised that both campaigns were to be launched at around the same time, we were delighted to decide to work together in a single campaign to maximise the impact of the work that we are all doing.
There are also two supporting coalition partners, in countries that do not have blasphemy laws. These are the British Humanist Association and the Centre for Inquiry USA. These will support the campaign operationally, or through international lobbying.
The End Blasphemy Laws campaign believes “blasphemy” and “insult” to religion laws are wrong in several ways:
- They violate the human right to freedom of expression
- They protect religious belief and practices, institutions and leaders, from legitimate and necessary criticism
- They are intrinsically bad laws
- They legitimize mob violence, vigilantism, and persecution of minorities
Join our Action List! Fill out the form here to keep in touch with End Blasphemy Laws and find out how you can help. This is a new campaign, but we hope that with your support we’ll be able to send out mass campaign actions, keep you informed about freedom of expression around the world, and find volunteers for special projects.
Atheist Ireland and the Irish Blasphemy Law
Ireland’s blasphemy law plays a pivotal role in the international campaign to end blasphemy laws, for three reasons.
Firstly, Ireland is the only Western democracy to pass a new blasphemy law in the 21st century. It was passed in 2009, because our 1937 Constitution includes a clause making blasphemy an offence, and the previous 1961 blasphemy law had been found to be unenforceable in the only case that was taken using it.
Secondly, the Islamic States at the United Nations have used the existence of the Irish blasphemy law to justify their own blasphemy laws, and indeed to seek to spread them internationally using wording taken from the Irish blasphemy law.
Professor Heiner Bielefeldt, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion, advised Atheist Ireland as part of our campaign against this law:
“Of course you are right that the major damage done by this legislation is the international one. I wouldn’t expect any harsh verdicts being handed down in Ireland, but those countries that continue to have an intimidating anti-blasphemy practice like to quote European countries to unmask Western hypocrisy. So I hope things will be moving in the right direction.”
Thirdly, last October, the Irish government decided that a referendum should be held on removing the offence of blasphemy from the Irish Constitution and that your Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald would lead consultations on a bill to be put before the Oireachtas.
However, the Government has since decided that it will not hold this referendum within the lifetime of the current Government, despite a Constitutional Convention voting for it to do so, and the UN Human Rights Committee telling Ireland that it is breaching human rights.
Atheist Ireland will be meeting officials from the Irish Justice Department next week, and we will be meeting the Irish Prime Minister the following week, and at both meetings we will be asking the Government to comply with its promise of a referendum to repeal the Irish blasphemy law.
We look forward to the support of our new partners in the Campaign to End Blasphemy Laws, we look forward to supporting our partners in ending blasphemy laws in their own countries, and we look forward to working together to end blasphemy laws wherever they exist around the world.