Open Letter to The Minister for Justice and Equality on the Blasphemy Referendum Wording
Dear Minister Fitzgerald,
Following the Constitutional Convention, your government has announced that there will be a referendum held during 2015 in relation to the clause on blasphemy within Article 40 of the Constitution. While the specific question to be asked on the ballot paper has yet to be announced, Atheist Ireland requests that the referendum should seek to remove this clause from Article 40.6(i) entirely.
There is a suggestion within the report from the Constitutional Convention that Article 40.6(i) should be replaced with a provision on incitement to religious hatred. However, we already have extensive legislation on incitement to hatred based on religion, race, nationality, membership of the travelling community, ethnic origin and sexual orientation. To select one of these criteria and afford it special consideration in the Constitution would again provide religion with a legal privilege that secular belief systems do not enjoy. Such discrimination is an infringement on the human rights of atheist citizens.
Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (to which Ireland is a signatory) guarantees the right to freedom of expression, including the right to criticise the tenets and doctrines of religious faiths. In fact, the Rabat Plan of Action (2012) considers this right not only to be important to atheist citizens but also to be a prerequisite for a healthy dialogue between the religious.
We will look forward to hearing your view on the wording for the referendum and we remain willing to meet with you at your convenience, to discuss the reasons why we believe that the blasphemy clause within Article 40.6(i) should simply be removed without replacement. In the mean time, we have attached some extracts from our submission to the Constitutional Convention in this area, for your convenience.
Campaign Against Irish Blasphemy Laws,