I went to see Kate Smurthwaite’s solo show Clit Stirrer at the Workman’s Club in Dublin last night, introduced by Margo Carr. The show is a roller-coaster of darkness and laughs, mixing intelligent political commentary with creative puns, and reminding us which is more important.
Kate starts by sharing a disturbing true story that makes us forget we are at a comedy gig, then segues into a biting satire of television adverts and the politics of injustice, together with a video compilation of some of her best television appearances.
Like many of us who speak out about anything, Kate gets a ridiculous amount of online abuse, and this show responds to that. Clit Stirrer highlights that, while some call Kate controversial, what should be more controversial is the reality that her material describes.
Atheist Ireland is today launching our ‘One Oath For All’ campaign, to enable conscientious atheists to hold the office of President, Judge, Taoiseach, or other members of the Council of State.
Today Michael D Higgins will begin his second term as President, after fourteen elections or uncontested nominations since 1938, all of which have excluded conscientious atheists as candidates.
This is because, in order to take office as President, Judge, or Taoiseach, we would have to swear a religious oath that would force us to dissemble about our beliefs, and breach our human right to freedom of conscience and belief.
The case in which a woman was convicted in Austria for describing Muhammad as a paedophile, and in which the European Court of Human Rights did not overrule the judgment of the Austrian Courts, is both dangerous for human rights and widely misunderstood by many critics.
It is ironic that the judgment of the European Court came in the week that Ireland was voting to remove the offence of blasphemy from our Constitution, following a decade-long campaign by Atheist Ireland to have a referendum held to do this.
The task now for those of us who support Freedom of Expression is to strengthen the growing consensus within Europe (and elsewhere) that laws should protect people from harm, but should not protect beliefs from criticism, including harsh and unreasonable criticism, and that laws and treaties should be interpreted in light of that modern perception of human rights rather than historic ones.
The IHEU Freedom of Thought Report 2018 ranks the best and worst countries in the world to be an atheist, based on restrictions or discrimination in four areas: constitution and government; education and children’s rights; family, community and society; and freedom of expression.
The IHEU is the International Humanist and Ethical Union. Atheist Ireland is a member, and we contributed to the analysis of Ireland in the Report.
The report concludes that the three best countries in which to be an atheist are Belgium, the Netherlands, and Taiwan. The four next best are France, Japan, and the small island States of Nauru and Sao Tome/Principe.
The three worst countries in which to be an atheist are Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The four next worst are Iran, Maldives, the United Arab Emirates, and Mauritania.
Ireland ranks at 115th out of 196 countries, although we should move up the rankings when our blasphemy law is repealed following last Friday’s referendum.
One of the arguments that Atheist Ireland has made, in support of removing the Irish blasphemy law, is that repressive regimes have used our law to politically justify their use of blasphemy laws, and to attempt to spread blasphemy laws around the world.
Here is the most significant example of this in action, in which the 56-State Organisation of Islamic Cooperation at the United Nations, led by Pakistan as their spokesperson, proposed that all United Nations States should adopt the wording of Ireland’s blasphemy law.
On 9th July 2009, the new Irish Defamation Act was passed, containing the new Irish blasphemy law.
From 19th to 30th October 2009, a Committee of the United Nations Human Rights Council held a session to discuss complementary standards among UN States to collectively combat racial and other discrimination.
Ireland was present at that session, just months after we had passed a new blasphemy law that did not comply with our international human rights obligations.
Atheist Ireland welcomes today’s unopposed vote in the Oireachtas to hold a referendum on 26th October to remove the offence of blasphemy from the Irish Constitution. We have been campaigning for a decade to get this referendum called, and we will campaign for the next six weeks for a Yes vote.
We support the right to freedom of religion or belief, the right to freedom of speech, and the separation of church and State. The Irish blasphemy law infringes all of these principles. It has no place in a modern democratic republic.
The Irish blasphemy law is harmful. In Ireland, it has caused media outlets to self-censor themselves. Globally, it has emboldened States with more authoritarian blasphemy laws, who have cited the Irish law at the UN to support theirs.
We agree with the many bodies that have called for the removal of the Irish blasphemy law, from the 1995 Constitution Review Group and the 2008 All-Party Committee on the Constitution, to the United Nations Human Rights Committee and the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission.