The Irish Government’s new proposed blasphemy crime combines the oppressive religious thinking of 1950s Catholic Ireland and modern Islamic fundamentalism. This proposal should be opposed for three reasons.
One, it does not protect religious belief. Instead, it encourages outrage and it criminalises free speech. Two, it treats religious beliefs as more valuable than secular beliefs and scientific thinking. Three, we should be removing 1930s religious references from the Irish Constitution, not legislating to enforce them.
The bill’s first test of blasphemy is that religious adherents express outrage. Instead of encouraging outrage, we should be educating people to respond in a more healthy manner than outrage when somebody expresses a belief that they find insulting. More worryingly, this law would encourage the type of orchestrated outrage that Islamic fundamentalists directed against Danish cartoonists.
Many atheists find it insulting that the Christian Bible suggests that women must not teach and must learn in silence, or that effeminate people are unrighteous, or that people should worship a God who threatens to make you eat your own children. But we do not believe that the Bible should be banned, and neither should discussion of the Bible in terms that cause Christians to be outraged.
Blasphemy is not the only anomaly of running a 21st century state with a 1937 Constitution. You cannot become President or be appointed as a Judge unless you take a religious oath under God asking god to direct and sustain you in your work. We should be amending our Constitution to remove these theistic references, not creating new crimes to enforce provisions that were written in the 1930s.
If you live in Ireland, please lobby your local TD, the Justice Minister, and the members of the Oireachtas Justice Committee that is considering this proposal. Contact details here: http://tr.im/k4Mq
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