Ireland has just, as of Jan 1st, put into place a law that the UK effectively ditched in 2008. It is now illegal to blaspheme against any religion on penalty of a very painful direct debit from your bank account. Up to â‚¬25,000. Ouchies.
Freedom of expression? Nope, no more. In fact, this “law” is just setting itself up to be repealed. It’s difficult to practice some religions without defaming (and therefore blaspheming) against others as their beliefs are at odds with each other. Who decides what classes as a religion in Ireland? If someone writes bad press about Scientology will they be fined? And how about the Flying Spaghetti Monster?
The Irish Atheists have put up a web page containing 26 blasphemous quotes (at the time of writing, their server was down but Google have a cached copy of the page or there’s a re-published version on their blog) by people such as Jesus Christ, the Pope, Salman Rushdie, Bjork and – oh – the Irish Minister For Justice who put this law into force in the first place.
This law protects religions, but criminalises any body who isn’t religious if they voice their own opinions. Some may even argue that school textbooks containing information on evolution could, technically, be blasphemy. Are they going to take all the publishers to court? As a couple of the quotes on that page mention, Jesus himself blasphemed against the Jews. The quote itself is in the Bible. So they should all be removed from public reach and the printers fined appropriately.
Am I being over-reactive? I don’t think so. I’m purely saying that if you’re going to act on the law then it has to be a level playing field. Everyone must be treated equally regardless of why they’re blaspheming.
After all, why should some people be protected for having religious views at the detriment of a completely harmless group who now face prosecution simply for not having a belief at all?
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