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Friday, July 10, 2009

Blasphemers beware! Ireland's House of Representatives (Dáil Éireann) has joined most Middle Eastern countries in passing legislation criminalizing blasphemy. The UK's Guardian asks the appropriate question, "Who asked for Ireland's blasphemy law?"

The short answer: no one. As far as I can tell, the politicians have taken it upon themselves to pass legislation no one wanted in an effort to prevent the kind of outcry seen in other European countries over religion. However, like efforts to legislate morality, it is not the proper role of government to prevent members of any religion from taking offense or becoming outraged.

Micheal Nugent with Atheist Ireland explains that the legislation updates the 1961 Defamation Act, which was stricken down by the country's Supreme Court in 1999. The Dáil has argued this new legislation is necessary to fill a "void". Free expression is not a void. Liberty is not a void. Liberty is a boundary, marking the grounds where government must not extend its reach.

Nugent details some of the problems with the new legislation:

The proposed law does not protect religious belief; it incentivises outrage and it criminalises free speech. Under this proposed law, if a person expresses one belief about gods, and other people think that this insults a different belief about gods, then these people can become outraged, and this outrage can make it illegal for the first person to express his or her beliefs.
Furthermore, if convicted under the new blasphemy law, the 'victim' (because anyone convicted under this law is certainly a victim) will be fined €25,000 and his/her home and office will be searched for blasphemous material which will subsequently disposed of by the government.

HT: Paliban Daily (full text of the legislation available here)

Posted by Eleutherian

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