Preparing the Atheist Ireland constitutional submission on blasphemy law

by Michael Nugent on June 12, 2013

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.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Declan Chellar June 12, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Hi, Mick.

I have some observations on the headings but you probably have them covered in the details under those headings. I’ll wait for the draft and if my observations are still valid, I’ll comment.

Regards,

Declan

2 Janet White June 12, 2013 at 4:50 pm

To me the overarching reason for not having a blasphemy law in the constitution is that there is supposed to be complete separation of state and church, that the state is a secular body, therefore there should be no religious-specific laws, such as blasphemy, in the constitution.

3 Sebastien June 12, 2013 at 5:06 pm

I have a better reason for banning blasphemy laws :
Blasphemy laws are useless because god does not exist!

4 John Moriarty June 12, 2013 at 7:06 pm

The Constitution could go further to state it has no interest whatsoever in influencing the philosophic opinions, supernatural or naturalistic or otherwise, of the citizenry, except to say no man or body of opinion may harm another person. That would imply the outlawing of circumcision without consent for non-medical reasons. But parents could/might then disingenuously argue for circumcision for health reasons.

5 David Leech June 13, 2013 at 11:46 am

Can the blasphemy law be acted upon given that Ireland is a member of the EU.

6 David Leech June 13, 2013 at 11:49 am

Can the blasphemy law be acted upon given that Ireland is a member of the EU?

7 Unitarian "Blasphemer"* June 13, 2013 at 3:04 pm

I am still basking in the untold glory of being falsely accused of blasphemous libel by American Unitarian Universalists. Who would have thought that Unitarians would ever accuse anyone of any form of blasphemy for any reason whatsoever, let alone shamefully try to suppress blog posts about Unitarian Universalist pedophiles and rapists by threatening someone with prosecution under Canada’s poorly defined blasphemy law?

8 Unitarian "Blasphemer" June 13, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Thanks to years old Unitarian Universalist censorship efforts I had difficulty posting my comment using my real name and email address, or including pertinent URLs to blog posts supporting my claim. You should find my previous attempts to post my comment in your SPAM folder. I would appreciate it if you posted one of them with the two URLs provided in it.

In the meantime just run a Google search for –

“Robin Edgar” UUA “blasphemous libel” “Stikeman Elliott”

to find pertinent blog posts, Tweets and YouTube videos etc.

9 Michael Nugent June 14, 2013 at 2:07 am

There is an update on this submission here

http://bit.ly/10gO9AQ

10 Ophelia Benson June 14, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Like other commenters, I too think the reasons for opposing blasphemy laws are even more basic than the ones listed – but I’m guessing there are tactical reasons for not citing them.

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