A new law has been passed in Ireland. It’s being called a blasphemy law, because this is a Catholic country and voters will suppose that it is intended to protect the Church. But the real effect is to allow the establishment to silence any criticism of whichever powerful and noisy groups it pleases. Who these groups are, who are to be above criticism, remains to be seen.
Atheist site Palibandaily has the legal text here:
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. [Amended to €25,000]
(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, © 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.
I’ve marked a couple of key words in bold. The law says that if a well-organised group get upset (and the poster intended them to get upset — but I imagine this caveat will have no meaning) that makes it blasphemous.
Note also 36c; this means that members of the establishment will be excluded from this law, under the usual “it’s art, innit” pretext.
The atheists at Palibandaily say that they are worried. This must be because they imagine themselves as the intended victims. They could be, so broad is the scope — they’re right there — but it’s unlikely I think. The establishment hardly ever worries about atheists. Indeed in Britain it would be hard to find a figure more at the heart of the establishment than Richard Dawkins. Indeed an atheist in Scotland is an avid campaigner for laws to ban “hate” — no different in principle or effect.
Likewise an article in the Guardian is here. The anger in the comments will provoke a wry smile or two from Christians in the UK, about to be jailed if gay pressure groups want them to be.
No-one really knows who the intended victims are. It is pleasing, in a way, to see these intolerant people now feeling threatened by the sort of laws for which they have so assiduously campaigned. But it is a pleasure that passes, and I doubt these laws will. It will only need a small change of political temperature for the same approach to be applied to others.
We live in a period when special interest groups get the government to pass laws allowing them to drag before courts anyone who expresses any objection to them, or their views. This has happened in Canada, where Ezra Levant is leading the fightback, it is happening in Britain, it is happening here in Ireland. When I was young, any very strong expression of opinion was likely to be greeted with “It’s a free country.” No-one says that any more.
All these laws that criminalise opinion or speech or feelings, are evil. They are always selective, always biased, always political. To me, government is a utility; a way to get the roads built and the drains to work, and the police to restrain thugs, and the army to defend us from the likes of Kim Il Sung. I do not want the powerful telling me what to think, what to say, what to write; I do not want them equipping my fellow citizen with the means to drag me into court, pretending “outrage.”
In days gone by, censorship was justified by protecting us from a torrent of filth. Today we have the torrent of filth. So… why do we have so much censorship?
FREE SPEECH. NOW.