If the Irish Constitution is meant to be taken seriously, then blasphemy remains a crime. Article 40.6.1 includes this passage:
The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.
How punishable? Up to $30,000 per incident.
But that may finally change this October when citizens will have a chance to remove the blasphemy law from the Constitution. The referendum will coincide with Ireland’s presidential election as well as another referendum to remove a sexist clause from the Constitution that celebrates housewives over career women. In other words, with liberals out in full force, there’s a good chance blasphemy will finally be abolished.
It would no doubt be a symbolic move more than anything, since no one’s been prosecuted for blaspheming in recent years, but that’s not to say it’s unimportant. Other nations have cited Ireland’s law in defense of their own blasphemy rules.
That’s the backdrop for a recent article by Freedom From Religion Foundation attorney Andrew Seidel. He visited Ireland not too long ago, and while there, he made sure to blaspheme for good measure. Specifically, he sent this postcard saying “there’s still no God” to his colleagues back home.
I’m guilty. I admit it. I broke the law. I did so knowingly and deliberately. But in my defense, the law is terrible.
[The blasphemy law] is a recipe for mob rule and oppression. It encourages people to give in to reactionary outrage rather than reason and debate and it incentivizes religious leaders to whip up fury instead of tolerance and understanding.
It’s not easy for a country to overcome its past. History can weigh us down, like a millstone around the neck, to borrow from the gospels. America struggles mightily with its past, so I understand — and commend — Ireland’s battle with its blasphemy law. The rule is outdated, tyrannical, and a ticking bomb suitable for nothing but exploitation.
That law and the sentiments the blasphemy ban embody do not reflect my experience in Ireland. I found a beautiful country full of lovely conversationalists. It seemed to this traveler that this restriction is unworthy of Ireland and the Irish people and it’s time it was repealed.
Just to state the obvious, his postcard isn’t blasphemous. But his point is that someone could get offended by it, report it to the authorities, and have him charged with a violation of the law. That shouldn’t even be an option. Getting offended shouldn’t be the basis for a crime. It shouldn’t matter if Andrew said Jesus was imaginary, or urged people to throw away their Bibles, or drew a picture of Muhammad.
That should be common sense. But the current Constitution of Ireland isn’t there yet. It could be if voters support a repeal of the blasphemy law this October 26.