Friday, July 10, 2009

When God and Government Mix

I don't see how this could possibly go wrong:

Irish atheists are horrified by new legislation making blasphemy illegal, and punishable by a 25,000-Euro fine. Christians of all stripes should be, too.

As part of a revision to defamation legislation, the Dail (Irish Parliament) passed legislation creating a new crime of blasphemy. This attack on free speech, debated for several months in Europe, has gone largely unnoticed in the American press.

The text of the legislation is provided at the end of this post.

How does this impact free speech? Just don’t be rude.

* Atheists can be prosecuted for saying that God is imaginary. That causes outrage.
* Pagans can be prosecuted for saying they left Christianity because God is violent and bloodthirsty, promotes genocide, and permits slavery.
* Christians can be prosecuted for saying that Allah is a moon god, or for drawing a picture of Mohammed, or for saying that Islam is a violent religion which breeds terrorists.
* Jews can be prosecuted for saying Jesus isn’t the Messiah.

Is it really THAT big a deal?

Ireland’s Blasphemy Bill not only criminalizes free speech, it also gives the police the authority to confiscate anything deemed “blasphemous”. They may enter and search any premises, with force if needed, upon “reasonable suspicion” that such materials are present.

* The local Freethinkers society, with its copies of Hitchens’ God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.
* The video store, with copies of The God Who Wasn’t There.
* The history teacher, who uses The Dark Side of Christian History to teach her class.
* The library, with its collection of books deemed blasphemous.
* Even the homeowner who lets the wrong person know he has a copy of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses could find his door broken in by the Thought Police, his bookshelves ransacked, and his books burning in the front yard!

Satirizing religion in any way, shape, or form, if it “causes outrage”, is now a prosecutable offense in Ireland. Saying anything negative about a religion, if it “causes outrage”, can now be prosecuted as a crime. Just like in Muslim countries.

Witness the return of the Dark Ages.

The text of the legislation:

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.


Paul C. Quillman said...

As a Christian, specifically conservative Presbyterian (Reformed, Calvinist) my concern is who decides what is blasphemy and what is not. In Reformed Theology blasphemous? Is Roman Catholic theology blasphemous? Should we all be Baptist?

I think I would like to see a little bit more clarification before I sign up for that.

Paul C. Quillman

Aaron Kinney said...

Paul, would you be ok with this law if it conformed to YOUR version of blasphemy, or do you believe that this law is unjust, regardless of what religion's notion of "blasphemy" it conforms to (even yours)?

Sguffalo Bill said...

Fuck all churches, ravish the holy virgin.

Sgufala is the right way.

Sguffalo Bill

Sarah said...

This legislation scares the crap out of me. If it is referring to blaphemy of any religion, then, at a very long stretch, it could make practicing Christianity illegal itself. Jesus said "I am THE way, THE truth and THE life." To claim that your way and your religion are the only right way and religion could be seen as blaspheming in that it devalues all other religions and ways of life.
I'm probably just thinking too much at 4 in the morning, but I am completely against this legislation. God will deal with blasphemy in the end anyway. Why involve government in this religious issue? Why sacrifice this free speech?
"I [may] disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

breakerslion said...

What's the difference between YW and a steaming pile of bullshit?

You can use real bullshit to grow food.

Laws like this one are disgusting and have no place in a civilized country. It's telling that religious sects always focus on the control they gain from this kind of coercion and not what is lost. The general opinion seems to be, "It's ok as long as my flavor of delusion is protected from criticism. It's too bad that more people don't think it through the way Sarah did above, but she need not worry that the law will ever be applied with such an even hand.

Anonymous said...

Finally good news.

However, i would personally go further and sentence all atheists to death by torture.

I want to kill and maim atheists, dammit!