Dail to Vote on Blasphemy Law Tomorrow
The Defamation Bill is scheduled for debate in the Dail tomorrow morning, Wednesday 8 July. The debate for the entire Bill is restricted to one hour or less. This means that there will be little or no time to properly discuss the blasphemy sections.
Here is the full wording of the blasphemy sections, and the amendments that are being proposed to them. Please contact your TDs today and ask them to vote for amendments number 22 and 26, which would delete the blasphemy sections from the Bill.
Proposed amendments to the blasphemy sections:
Overall, there are 33 amendments proposed to the Defamation Bill. Five of these relate to the blasphemy section. They are amendments numbers 22 to 26.
Amendment 22 would delete the entire section on the offence of blasphemy. This is proposed by Charles Flanagan of Fine Gael and Aengus O Snodaigh of Sinn Fain.
Amendment 23 would change the fine from €100,000 to €1,000. This is proposed by Pat Rabbitte of the Labour Party.
Amendment 24 would change the fine from €100,000 to €25,000. This is proposed by Dermot Ahern, Minister for Justice, who said at Committee stage that he would do this.
Amendment 25 would exclude from the definition of “religion” an “organisation or cult (a) the principal object of which is the making of profit, or (b) that employs oppressive psychological manipulation (i) of its followers, or (ii) for the purpose of gaining new followers.” This is proposed by Pat Rabbitte of the Labour Party.
Amendment 26 would delete the entire section on the seizure of blasphemous material. This is proposed by Charles Flanagan of Fine Gael and Aengus O Snodaigh of Sinn Fain.
The wording of the blasphemy sections:
Section 36 of the Bill covers publication or utterance of blasphemous matter. Section 37 covers seizure of copies of blasphemous statements. The full text of these sections is:
36. Publication or utterance of blasphemous matter.
(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.
37. Seizure of copies of blasphemous statements.
(1) Where a person is convicted of an offence under section 36, the court may issue a warrant (a) authorising any member of the Garda Siochana to enter (if necessary by the use of reasonable force) at all reasonable times any premises (including a dwelling) at which he or she has reasonable grounds for believing that copies of the statement to which the offence related are to be found, and to search those premises and seize and remove all copies of the statement found therein, (b) directing the seizure and removal by any member of the Garda Siochana of all copies of the statement to which the offence related that are in the possession of any person, (c) specifying the manner in which copies so seized and removed shall be detained and stored by the Garda Siochana.
(2) A member of the Garda Siochana may (a) enter and search any premises, (b) seize, remove and detain any copy of a statement to which an offence under section 36 relates found therein or in the possession of any person, in accordance with a warrant under subsection (1).
(3) Upon final judgment being given in proceedings for an offence under section 36, anything seized and removed under subsection (2) shall be disposed of in accordance with such directions as the court may give upon an application by a member of the Garda Siochana in that behalf.