Ireland Passes Blasphemy Law
July 13, 2009 8:02 PM   Subscribe

Who asked for Ireland's blasphemy law? Ireland's sweeping new defamation law, passed in the Dáil on the 9th, "introduces a new crime of blasphemous libel." The creators of Father Ted want some clarification. And at their recent AGM, "...Atheist Ireland members voted to test the new law by publishing a blasphemous statement, deliberately designed to cause offence. The statement will be finalised in the coming days." Across the sea, comedian and co-author of Jerry Springer, the Opera Stewart Lee asks: "What's Wrong With Blasphemy?" [40 minute documentary]

Ireland is not the only country with a law against blasphemy.

As a sidebar, the Oireachtas website is incredibly thorough. Search the Find Text Today box for "blasphemy" in the latest debate, for example, and the site returns every single mention.
posted by milquetoast (68 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Down with this sort of thing!
posted by luckypozzo at 8:04 PM on July 13, 2009 [8 favorites]


Forgot to include this: History of Irish Blasphemy Law.
posted by milquetoast at 8:04 PM on July 13, 2009


Jesus fucking christ.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 8:06 PM on July 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Some of my best friends are blasphemers.
posted by philip-random at 8:08 PM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Blasphemy is a victimless crime.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 8:09 PM on July 13, 2009 [36 favorites]


Great, now I've got Depeche Mode stuck in my head.
posted by klangklangston at 8:15 PM on July 13, 2009


No intelligent person has ever thought for a minute that criminalizing speech would make the world a better place. Anyone who seeks to criminalize speech is an idiot of the highest caliber and should probably be ground up for fertilizer.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:19 PM on July 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Jesus was a goddamn commie. Also, not Irish.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:22 PM on July 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm okay with having laws to protect God's feelings, as long as God is the one who gets to arrest the law-breakers.

*waits*

In all seriousness, what's interesting about the Irish law is that it presumably protects all religions from blasphemy. So it's illegal to lampoon the both the Catholic church and Islam.

I realize that I'm an American, so I have a totally different view of these laws than alot of Europeans, but the idea of making laws against offending others just seems silly on it's face. Still, if it lands Sasha Baron Cohen in jail, I guess I'll have to rethink my opinion.
posted by Avenger at 8:22 PM on July 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


What from Ireland can I boycott? Or do I despise all of it already?
posted by Brian B. at 8:23 PM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Colin Farrell?
posted by darkstar at 8:26 PM on July 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


I like how the Atheists have to have further discussions to finalize their blasphemous statement. Why not just stick to something simple, like "God doesn't exist".
posted by smackfu at 8:29 PM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


What we need are laws that promote blasphemy.
posted by fearthehat at 8:30 PM on July 13, 2009


I like how the Atheists have to have further discussions to finalize their blasphemous statement. Why not just stick to something simple, like "God doesn't exist".

But Jesus Christ is really Satan, obviously.
posted by Brian B. at 8:39 PM on July 13, 2009


I like how the Atheists have to have further discussions to finalize their blasphemous statement. Why not just stick to something simple, like "God doesn't exist".

Because they need to test the full limits of the new law, and they are probably trying to do it in a way that will set up a nice, productive lawsuit. Not a bad idea, actually.
posted by The World Famous at 8:41 PM on July 13, 2009


Excuse me for sort-of-self-linking, but we now have KildareStreet.com if you'd rather be able to read your parliamentary transcripts without getting a headache.

The relevant parts of the debate linked above, chronological search results for 'blasphemy' in both Houses.
posted by genghis at 8:47 PM on July 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Scotch whisky is infinitely superior to Irish whiskey. Now if that's not Irish blasephemy, I don't know what is.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:48 PM on July 13, 2009


Also, God told me to tell you that Bono doesn't exist.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:50 PM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Feck
posted by tellurian at 8:51 PM on July 13, 2009


Any god who can't stand a bit of blasphemy certainly doesn't warrant any reverence.
posted by yesster at 8:53 PM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know what we need a law against? Stupid fucking laws.
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:00 PM on July 13, 2009


tellurian's Youtube link, amusingly, is unavailable in Ireland.
posted by genghis at 9:02 PM on July 13, 2009


I read somewhere (no idea where, unfortunately) that a government official had said something to the effect that this had been passed to make the law it's part of impossible to prosecute. The reasoning is that this law is enshrined in the constitution and can't simply be repealed without a constitutional referendum. This could all be lies, it's from the internet. Anyone know?
posted by feloniousmonk at 9:04 PM on July 13, 2009


See, God is very insecure and if you say mean things about him Him (sorry, big guy), he may cry or get angry and throw a tantrum and see we really don't want that because he He (Wow.. I'm such an idiot! We're still bff's tho rite?) is also omnipotent and could really fuck up our shit and prove to us how kick-ass He (See? I'm willing to work on this relationship. Please don't armageddon us. Again.) really is.
posted by LordSludge at 9:06 PM on July 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Also, prayer is completely necessary to convey useful information to omnipotent beings. Just because they know everything doesn't mean they know everything. Psssh, duh!
posted by LordSludge at 9:07 PM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


No intelligent person has ever thought for a minute that criminalizing speech would make the world a better place.

Yeah, everyone who isn't American is stupid. All those countries with hate speech laws are populated by idiots.
posted by ssg at 9:13 PM on July 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


All those countries with hate speech laws are populated by idiots.

Yes, they are. So are all the other countries, too, though.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:15 PM on July 13, 2009 [11 favorites]


That's for blasphemy.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:18 PM on July 13, 2009


FECK! ARSE! GIRLS!

::gets sued::
posted by armage at 9:33 PM on July 13, 2009


Since presumably any religion's beliefs are blasphemous to members of some other religion, I am going to go with the theory that the Dáil intended to outlaw the practice of any religion. It is, in fact, illegal in Ireland to state any belief at all.

Is it possible that this is some back-door tax scheme, with the idea being that everyone can be found guilty of blasphemy and then fined €25,000?
posted by craichead at 9:38 PM on July 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


I remember us having a long debate about hate speech laws a while ago. Some of those in countries who had them, valued them. Some of those in countries without them liked their freedom to speak. I guess it's up to each country to decide.
posted by jsonic at 9:46 PM on July 13, 2009


fearthehat: "What we need are laws that promote blasphemy."

Given that hordes of industrious Irish Atheists are hard at work on the blasphemous fulmination of the age, I'd say dear old Eire's already got you covered.

Won't this more or less cause any remaining locals-only pubs to just close up shop?
posted by mwhybark at 9:51 PM on July 13, 2009


craichead: "It is, in fact, illegal in Ireland to state any belief at all."

Exactly! Therefore, any expression of belief via speech is necessarily blasphemy, and we owe it all to the Dáil! I am IMPRESSED!
posted by mwhybark at 9:54 PM on July 13, 2009


I read somewhere (no idea where, unfortunately) that a government official had said something to the effect that this had been passed to make the law it's part of impossible to prosecute. The reasoning is that this law is enshrined in the constitution and can't simply be repealed without a constitutional referendum. This could all be lies, it's from the internet. Anyone know?

Sort of. The Constitution (a backwards looking bit of wishful thinking, but let's not start on that) requires the existence of a blasphemy law, but up until now, blasphemy had never been defined, thus effectively leaving those evil blasphemers off the hook. The minister claims that by leaving blasphemy out of the new Defamation Bill (which excepting blasphemy is generally regarded as overdue), the whole thing is unconstitutional.

Now he could have gone through with it anyway, thus passing the buck to the President, who would have to decide whether to refer it to the Supreme Court. We really need an "I'm a Bill"/"I'm an amendment to be" style animation explaining the wacky world of Irish law.
posted by kersplunk at 9:54 PM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


also, craichead, your name made me laugh out loud. I swear it did. Ooh! Dammit! Oh, now look what happened! They'll never let me in now!
posted by mwhybark at 9:57 PM on July 13, 2009


Stewart Lee is a rather underrated comic, I loved the bit with Alan Moore "If you shoot him from weird camera angles you can make him look very sinister. But he isn't really".
posted by Grimgrin at 10:04 PM on July 13, 2009


"Bugger the constabulary", rasped Padraig, his voice heavy with smoke.
posted by boo_radley at 10:06 PM on July 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


More blasphemy from Stewart Lee.
posted by bokeh at 10:09 PM on July 13, 2009


In summary, rather than the "rip it up and start again" approach taken by the US, when Ireland gained independence (in reality, gradually from 1921 to 1949), we kept all the existing institutions except for:

A president, who is basically an elected king/queen and has mostly the same ceremonial/quite limited powers/role as that other queen in Britain.

A written constitution, drafted in large part by a Yank who wanted it to embody his own backwards, cutesy version of what Ireland should be.

We've been steadily fixing the constitution via referendum ever since, removing the special role of the Catholic church, banning the death penalty, that sort of thing, and the same could be done to fix the blasphemy provision, but Dermot Ahern is too lazy to organise a referendum/thinks the cost can't be justified right now.
posted by kersplunk at 10:10 PM on July 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


They ought to've riverrun this past Joyce.
posted by ford and the prefects at 10:12 PM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


They ought to've riverrun this past Joyce.

I look forward to Bills that start and end mid sentence, wrapping around as they go. Maybe they should be printed on a Möbius strip.
posted by kersplunk at 10:18 PM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


They ought to've riverrun this past Joyce.

As if political documentation wasn't interminable enough.
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:31 PM on July 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I like Stewart Lee a lot, so many thanks for pointing me to that documentary.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:43 PM on July 13, 2009


I absolutely cannot wait for the Atheists to release their test-statement, designed to offend all religions in Ireland. I only wish there was a firmer street date! Waiting is bad enough - not knowing how long I must wait makes it that much worse.
posted by EatTheWeak at 10:48 PM on July 13, 2009


klangklangston said: Great, now I've got Depeche Mode stuck in my head.

Oh. damn you. damn you to hell!
posted by dejah420 at 11:02 PM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pope Buddha Shit Muhammad Dog Jew Virgin Martin Luther Cock Shinto Balls Fuck Jesus Christ Piss His Holiness Wanker Trinity Ayatollah Bible Wicca Arse, III walks into a pub....
posted by Avenger at 11:05 PM on July 13, 2009


religion IS blasphemy!
posted by Leon Backwards at 11:18 PM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


No intelligent person has ever thought for a minute that criminalizing speech would make the world a better place. Anyone who seeks to criminalize speech is an idiot of the highest caliber and should probably be ground up for fertilizer.

Many have, and do. In fact, in your own country much speech is criminalized and/or restricted for very, very good reasons. How about doctor-patient confidentiality, for starters? Top secret government data?

Blanket statements are stupid.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:03 AM on July 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Careful now.
posted by lucidium at 2:05 AM on July 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


So, let me get this straight: In Ireland I can spend decades being paid to care for orphans, because I'm a man of the cloth, and instead actually totrue and rape them. For this, my punishment will be zilch. My name will protected, I will never face trial, I will spend not a day in jail, and the group to whom I belong will get to keep its ill-gotten gains.

If I say something that some fuckhead claims offends his religion, I can be fined enough that it would cheerfully, say, cost me my house.

Nice country you got there.
posted by rodgerd at 4:09 AM on July 14, 2009


All those countries with hate speech laws are populated by idiots.

Their legislatures certainly are. Nobody has ever come up with a rational argument demonstrating that suppressing speech does anything to combat "hate". Freedom of speech is a human right, no matter who you offend.

Blanket statements are stupid.

Notice that those statements are restricted because of voluntary employment that a person has entered into, not criminalized as a background matter. And I don't pretend that the US has it completely right on freedom of speech, either: the SCOTUS has bunted when it could have hit a home run too many times to count.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 4:26 AM on July 14, 2009


Jesus was a goddamn commie. Also, not Irish.

of course he was - he lived at home until he was 30, had no visible job and had 12 drinking buddies
posted by pyramid termite at 4:42 AM on July 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


In all seriousness, what's interesting about the Irish law is that it presumably protects all religions from blasphemy. So it's illegal to lampoon the both the Catholic church and Islam.

Not to mention other religions, such as, say, Scientology. The Clams will have a field day with this.
posted by acb at 4:50 AM on July 14, 2009


Not to mention other religions, such as, say, Scientology. The Clams will have a field day with this.

Maybe not. From Wikipedia: "In Ireland, the Church of Scientology has not been successful in its attempts to achieve tax-free, charitable status in Ireland." Whether such status is a necessary (though not sufficient) condition of being recognized as a religion in Ireland I don't know.
posted by jedicus at 6:10 AM on July 14, 2009


So, let me get this straight: In Ireland I can spend decades being paid to care for orphans, because I'm a man of the cloth, and instead actually totrue and rape them. For this, my punishment will be zilch. My name will protected, I will never face trial, I will spend not a day in jail, and the group to whom I belong will get to keep its ill-gotten gains.

If I say something that some fuckhead claims offends his religion, I can be fined enough that it would cheerfully, say, cost me my house.


Would it be comforting to note that it'd cost you your house quite slowly, as €25k wouldn't buy you more than 10% of one in pretty much any part of the country, even now?
posted by carbide at 6:37 AM on July 14, 2009


it presumably protects all religions

Yup, "any religion"

from blasphemy

Not quite - the act claims "blasphemous matter" to be defined as "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 "intends, by the publication or utterance of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage". It looks like they've worded things carefully enough that trinitarian Christianity is not criminal blasphemy against monotheistic Judaism, etc; most religions may find each other mutually blasphemous but their adherents aren't (currently) too outraged about it. You're probably still allowed to say "Damn it!", too.

say, Scientology

"In this section “religion” does not include an organisation or cult—
(a) the principal object of which is the making of profit, or
(b) that employs oppressive psychological manipulation"

Of course, Scientologists will swear up and down that neither (a) nor (b) apply to them, whereas a lot of people claim at least (b) applies to many mainstream Christian sects. So that'll be fun to see hashed out in court.
posted by roystgnr at 6:38 AM on July 14, 2009


All those countries with hate speech laws are populated by idiots.


Blasphemy is 'hate' speech? I would prefer 'Inciting to Rationality' or "Contributing to the Free-Think-cracy of a Minor."

Or go realistic: how many charges would be brought if the official crime printed in the paper was, "Getting the Bishop's Panties in a Twist."

No one has the right to not be offended. It is not a basic right, despite our more brainless left-wing idiots trying desperately to make it so. And I am a left-wing idiot. I just think that if I offend you then...to quote Steve Mariuchi, of all people...'bummer.'
posted by umberto at 7:02 AM on July 14, 2009


Brian B.: "What from Ireland can I boycott? Or do I despise all of it already?"

Jameson?
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:52 AM on July 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I read somewhere (no idea where, unfortunately) that a government official had said something to the effect that this had been passed to make the law it's part of impossible to prosecute. The reasoning is that this law is enshrined in the constitution and can't simply be repealed without a constitutional referendum. This could all be lies, it's from the internet. Anyone know?"

If you are saying that someone included this in a bigger bill to render the bigger bill void, I doubt it. Usually laws passed have a thing a the bottom that says "if any part of this law is later found to be unenforceable, the rest of the law still applies."


Blasphemy is just a special case of libel, right? Why can't god just file suit like the rest of us? Are the religious saying that god is all-powerful and deserving of respect, but also can't find his way to the courthouse?
posted by gjc at 7:58 AM on July 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


someone wrote: Jesus was a goddamn commie. Also, not Irish.

pyramid termite wrote: of course he was - he lived at home until he was 30, had no visible job and had 12 drinking buddies

...and believed his mother was a virgin. (At least, that's how I heard it!)
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:44 AM on July 14, 2009


Some of you are gonna get smote so bad.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:44 AM on July 14, 2009


So can we push to officially call atheism a "religion", as it's often labeled by religious folk? Imagine the lulz as a thousand churches are instantly fined out of existence...
posted by LordSludge at 8:46 AM on July 14, 2009


Blasphemy is 'hate' speech?

No one is suggesting that. Hate speech is a separate issue. I wish that I hadn't reacted to Inspector.Gadget's trolling.
posted by ssg at 8:52 AM on July 14, 2009


I suspect Len Bishop Brennan is behind this.
posted by cereselle at 9:09 AM on July 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


No one is suggesting that. Hate speech is a separate issue. I wish that I hadn't reacted to Inspector.Gadget's trolling.

I'm not trolling at all. "Hate speech" is a stupid concept, as the normative arguments made by American legal scholars looking for justifications outside the Constitution have amply illustrated. Briefly: It's stupid on a moral level because it's possible that one time in one million, even the most loathsome hate group is making a good point, and it's stupid on a practical level because it does nothing to improve understanding between groups who can't hear each others' criticisms to rebut them. Additionally, it's one of many convenient mechanisms for SLAPP-like suits or other methods of shutting down debate by crying wolf. Finally: you do want to know your enemy, right?

I think (solely my own argument here, as far as I'm aware) that even the most loathsome bigot ought to retain their human right to free speech as a moral matter, even if they do other things that causes them to forfeit other freedoms.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 3:06 PM on July 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I absolutely cannot wait for the Atheists to release their test-statement

Can we pay them to run a global bus-banner campaign?
posted by mwhybark at 3:46 PM on July 14, 2009


Brian B.: "What from Ireland can I boycott? Or do I despise all of it already?"

Jameson?


Boycott Jameson? Blasphemy.
posted by thivaia at 9:43 PM on July 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I suspect Len Bishop Brennan is behind this.

Ya never know. Pat Mustard or Richard Wilson might still want some long overdue revenge....
posted by arishaun at 5:43 PM on July 17, 2009


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