Referendum on blasphemy

Atheist Ireland welcomes the announcement today by An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, that our campaign for a referendum on blasphemy has been successful. There will be a referendum on the blasphemy provision within the Irish Constitution during October of 2018 and Atheist Ireland will be campaigning strongly to reform, update and modernise Article 40.6.1(i). This is one part of the continued lobbying by Atheist Ireland to secularise the Irish Constitution.
In February 2015, Atheist Ireland arranged a meeting with the Department of Justice officials looking at a possible blasphemy referendum, to which we brought the international expert on blasphemy law, Professor David Nash. One focus of this discussion included an outline from Professor Nash of the likely difficulties that can arise from time-to-time, when a blasphemy law remains on the statute book. This was a prescient anticipation of the Garda investigation into Stephen Fry, after his interview on RTE attracted a formal complaint about blasphemy. The meeting also discussed several possible approaches to the reform of Article 40.6.1(i), which included both the deletion of the blasphemy provision entirely, and also the replacement of that provision with one supporting the right to free expression. Atheist Ireland will continue to lobby on this issue in advance of the wording for the referendum being proposed.

Also in 2015, in the context of our meeting with An Taoiseach that included further lobbying on the blasphemy issue, Atheist Ireland published an open letter on this topic. The letter was signed by more than 40 high-profile academics, scientists and intellectuals, providing some very welcome extra weight to our lobbying efforts at that time. Atheist Ireland is grateful for the support of Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, Lawrence Krauss, Maryam Namazie, Carolyn Porco, Jerry Coyne, Sean Carroll, Daniel Dennett, Andrew Copson, Patricia Churchland and many others for their help and support in this regard. The full list of signatories is available here.

Since then, Atheist Ireland has continued to lobby and campaign on this issue. Our petition for a referendum on blasphemy has exceeded 5,000 signatories. Atheist Ireland is also a member of the International Coalition Against Blasphemy Laws. Our work on this topic outside of Ireland, has included presentations on the international problems caused by the Irish blasphemy laws to the United Nations in Geneva and the OSCE in Warsaw. Following this attendance to lobby at the examination of the Irish delegations, we also lobbied at the UN on blasphemy issues when the Pakistani delegation was being examined.  Specifically, Pakistan has copied the precise wording from the Irish blasphemy law verbatim, as part of the OIC efforts to have such provisions accepted by the United Nations. The repeal of the Irish blasphemy laws will certainly help to undermine these OIC efforts, which would be a very welcome outcome, not least for those who are victims of draconian blasphemy laws within OIC jurisdictions.

3 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Paulo September 28, 2017

    I have always wondered if Article 208 of the Brazilian Penal Code, from 1940 but still in force, would be considered a blasphemy law. It is pretty short, I will do my best to translate:

    It is a felony to 1) Mock someone publicly by reason of belief or religious duty, 2) to impede or disrupt a religious ceremony or 3) to revile publicly an object of religious worship.
    Penalty – 3 to 12 months incarceration, or fine. If violence is used, one year is added.

    As you see, it applies to all religions equally, from Catholicism to African cults.

    From your tracking of such laws, would you include this one?

    Reply
    • Avatar
      John Hamill September 28, 2017

      Point 3 certainly sounds very like blasphemy to me!

      Reply
  2. Avatar
    Paulo October 03, 2017

    I bet the Clonskey brigade will be getting a nice injection of cash from Saudi soon.

    Reply

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