Justice Minister to Amend New Blasphemy Law

The Minister for Justice is proposing to amend his new blasphemy law by providing, as a defence, that a person accused of blasphemy can “prove that a reasonable person would find genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value” in the blasphemous matter.

He is not proposing to reduce the fine of €100,000, the onus of proof is on the defendant to prove this new line of defence, and the police may still seize and destroy blasphemous statements. The Minister’s proposed blasphemy law now reads like this:

  1. A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €100,000.
  2. For the purposes of this section, a person publishes or utters blasphemous matter if (a) he or she publishes or utters matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion, and (b) he or she intends, by the publication or utterance of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.
  3. It shall be a defence to proceedings for an offence under this section for the defendant to prove that a reasonable person would find genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value in the matter to which the offence relates.

The revised amendment has been published on the Oireachtas website. The All-Party Committee on Justice will discuss it tomorrow, Wednesday May 20. We in the campaign against the blasphemy law would welcome your opinions on this development as we consider our response to it.

3 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Michael Nugent May 19, 2009

    This amendment reminds me of Haughey’s “Irish solution to an Irish problem” back in 1979, when he passed a law allowing people to buy condoms if they had a doctor’s prescription saying they needed them for bona fide family planning purposes.

    Ahern just doesn’t seem to get that the problem lies in the idea of a blasphemy law, not in its detail.

    Reply
  2. Avatar
    josephine b July 21, 2009

    How interesting, everybody agrees with each other. Ever heard of “the other side of the argument”, or are all your minds closed? You need to get some sort of discussion going. The usual words like “fundamentalist” and “outdated” and “biaised” being trotted out just doesn’t do it for me I’m afraid.

    Reply
  3. Avatar
    David July 28, 2009

    Dear people,

    I’m not an Irishman and I’m trying to understand why this law was invented in the first place. Can anyone explain to me?
    I see this article was written on May 19th, now it’s July 28th. Hasn’t this law been altered in the mean time? For I can’t see how a democracy can oppose freedom of speech like that.

    I’d like to be blasphemous whenever I want, for whatever reason. We wouldn’t want the law to forbid anything that could offend atheists too, would we? How come the religious should have more rights than others?

    Sincerely, a scared and foreign poet

    Reply

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