There is no right to not be offended, and it’s okay to challenge not respect beliefs

RTE, the National Broadcaster, has apologised for any offence that may have been caused by a Waterford Whispers News sketch on New Year’s Eve Countdown show. The Catholic Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin had complained that the item was offensive and blasphemous. Atheist Ireland has written about this issue and you can find that here.

There is no right to not be offended

The Venice Commission has said that it must be possible to criticise religious ideas, even if such criticism may be perceived by some as hurting their religious feelings.

The Council of Europe in its Handbook of Freedom of expression stated that:

“Satirical expression has also been granted special protection by the Court. Satire is a form of artistic expression and social commentary and, due to its inherent features of exaggeration and distortion of reality, naturally aims to provoke and agitate. Any interference with an artist’s right to such expression must be examined with particular care.”

There are over 126 different religions in Ireland. This means that RTE will have to apologise if members of any of these religions find something offensive in what they broadcast. That is an awful lot of apologising on the horizon for RTE, given the fact that many religious people believe that they have a right not to be offended.

Some of those beliefs undermine the rights of others and are not based on the dignity of the human person. Beliefs can be based on religious beliefs or philosophical convictions.

As RTE has apologised for causing offense to some Catholics, then there is no reason why they should not apologise if a sketch was focused on the teachings of Creationism or Scientology.

This is the position that RTE has placed itself. They can’t have a policy of just apologising to the religious majority if they offend them. They must apologise to every religion and belief in the country if their members find something offensive and complain.

State policy to respect beliefs

It is not surprising that the State Broadcaster apologised as it is the policy of the State to respect beliefs.

In schools, children are taught to respect beliefs and the codes of conduct in relation to those beliefs. This applies not only to courses developed by religious Patron bodies but also religion courses developed by the Irish State.

The Goodness Me Goodness You course in community National Schools teaches children to respect beliefs and codes of conduct in relation to those beliefs. The second level Religious Education course developed by the NCCA also teaches students to respect beliefs.

Many of these religious beliefs undermine the rights of others, particularly women and LGBT people.

Most Atheist Parents teach their children to challenge beliefs that are harmful. The state has a policy to teach their children to respect beliefs and the Codes of Conduct in relation to those beliefs. That is indoctrination and undermines freedom of expression.

It is no wonder that many people in Ireland believe that they have a right not to be offended, and that they shouldn’t challenge beliefs even if they feel that they are harmful.

Atheist Ireland will continue to challenge beliefs that undermine the dignity of the human person and that promotes discrimination. We will support the use of satire to challenge beliefs and continue to lobby the state to change its policy on respecting beliefs.

Atheist Ireland