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News – Irish blasphemy law

February 2010

Irish blasphemy law

 

The Government of Ireland passed a law on 1 January making it a punishable offence to blaspheme, whether in plays or in public, against any religion.

     The blasphemy law, already in existence in the country, had previously only covered Christianity. Now it encompasses a wider realm, defining the act as: ‘Publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion, with some defences permitted’. Should a court find that any alleged blasphemy was indeed intentional, then the punishment is a fine of €25,000.

     Although the amendments to the blasphemy law seek to provide better protection for religion, it has already met with some criticism, such as how to legislate when there is a casual debate between two or more proponents of different religions, or how to define ‘intentional outrage’.

     According to reports in the Independent, the Atheist Ireland Association has put forward a list of historical statements that would fall foul of the new laws, including comments from the Koran and from the Bible.

     The UK repealed its blasphemy laws in 2002 as it was found impossible to uphold any charges for blasphemy.

 

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