Jane Donnelly and I have been working yesterday and today with David Nash from Oxford Brookes University on the Atheist Ireland submission to the Constitutional Convention on blasphemy. We will be meeting the secretary of the Convention tomorrow for feedback on how best to formalise the submission, and we will then finish the final report.
The Irish blasphemy law has two components – Article 40.6.1 of the Constitution, which makes blasphemy an offence that is punishable in accordance with law, and Section 36 of the Defamation Act 2009, which defines the offence and makes it punishable.
We are recommending (a) removing the offence of blasphemy from Article 40.6.1 of the Constitution, which would enable the Oireachtas to remove the offence from the Defamation Act, and (b) including a clause in the Constitution prohibiting blasphemy laws, which would oblige the Oireachtas to remove the offence from the Defamation Act, and would also protect the Irish people from future blasphemy laws.
We are preparing the detail of the submission under these headings:
1. Blasphemy laws generally are bad for the following reasons:
1.1 They endanger freedom of speech and deny equality
1.2 They have been condemned by reputable bodies
1.3 They are used to infringe on human rights around the world
2. The Irish blasphemy law in particular is bad for the following reasons:
2.1 It reinforces the religious ethos of the 1937 Constitution
2.2 It brings our parliament and our laws into disrepute
2.3 It is used by Islamic states to promote universal blasphemy laws
We should have a final draft ready by the end of this week or early next week.