Opposing blasphemy law in light of Charlie Hebdo massacre – my debate at UCD Law Society

I debated the Irish blasphemy law, in light of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, at UCD Law Society yesterday. Above is my contribution, and below is the full debate. The speakers were James Green, Fionnan Long and Adam Boyle for the blasphemy law, and me, Barry Hickey and Julien Mercille against.

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7 Comments

  1. So as far as I can see the argument for an Irish blasphemy law is ‘Israel’.

    Israel exists, that pisses off Muslims, therefore Ireland needs a law that will prevent Muslims from rioting, and if that law can be used to protect the Catholic Church from criticism, well that’s Israel for you.

  2. Phil Giordana FCD January 22, 2015 at 7:20 am
    Very good.
    Blasphemy laws have no place in a modern, secular society.

    Mmmm….
    I may not agree with this assertion were I a Bishop.
    Or a Nun. Or a Pope. Or an Immam. Or a Rabbi. Or a Pastor, Priest, Mother Superior(!), or a Curate, Brother, Clergy, Deacon, Minister, Rector, Canon, Vicar, Monk, or श्रमण.

    Or any other theologically oriented parasite.

  3. Excellent work, Michael! The other side had no coherent case to make, which is not surprising.

    It horrifies me that the pro-blasphemy-laws side were all youngsters, of an age that I would expect to be pushing boundaries and questioning the wisdom of earlier generations. That is how societies evolve, surely; the teens and 20s are the years during which we question and test the status quo. Horrible to see the yoke of religion holding them down.

  4. One of the opposition seemed to be arguing for a ban on the Koran near the end there (at 44.49, in response to the audience question on homosexuality). Are these trainee lawyers? Bit worrying if so.

    I’m aware that it’s easy for me to say from the comfort of my computer, but I would have preferred if you had gone in a bit stronger on whether the opposition really wanted to potentially ban the Bible and Koran and, if not, what is the basis for giving publishers of those books an exemption from prosecution. There are certainly many passages in both that fulfil the criteria they gave for a thing to be blasphemous – intention is clearly to insult, deride, mock and threaten unbelievers. (I seem to remember a bit in the Koran where believers are described looking down from heaven and mocking those being tortured in hell below them.) All it would take would be a significant number of some religious groups – the Jedi, perhaps, or the Spagetti people – to express offense about these books and an interesting test case might result.

    But what counts as a significant number? How many people need to be offended for blasphemy to be applicable? You seem to only get the protection of this law if you are part of a large group of equally offended people – that seems to contradict the constitutional right to be treated equally under the law: but then there’s the get-out clause that allows restrictions in the interests of public order or morality. It does seem that the current Blasphemy Law and Constitution provide not only an incentive for offense, but also for violence and public disorder, as opposed to reasoned debate and peaceful protest – at least if I’m reading it correctly.

  5. @Carrie,

    It used surprise me that so often I’d find that the most vociferous theists/’pro-lifers”/anti-divorce etc advocates were to be found among the young, but I think that there are three factors leading to that:

    * They are young and have energy and passion and time to burn.
    * They don’t have the life experience which acts to round your views and which creates sufficient doubt as to allow you to question your beliefs.
    * They take comfort in remaining in the cosy embrace of the absolutes which were imposed on them from youth.

    That said, I still find it creepy to have someone young lecture me on morality. I’m old enough at this stage to take it with a wry grin.

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