Pharyngula

Ireland proposes a blasphemy law

I need details of this law against blasphemy. If “Begorrah!” and “Saints preserve us!” are outlawed, then Irish stereotypes will be utterly demolished. On the other hand, one Irish fellow I knew used the peculiar expression “fewkin’” as every other word…I presume charming references to sexual acts will not be regarded as blasphemous? Otherwise, the charm of the Irish vernacular will be lost to us forever.

Here is the only definition I’ve seen so far.

“Blasphemous matter” is defined as 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 he or she intends, by the publication of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.”

Wait, they’re going to make this work in Ireland? So the government plans on censoring every mention of “Catholic” and “Protestant” because they’ll spark outrage in some subset of the population? I think that, in general, prohibiting things because some fraction of the population will feel outraged at the concept would effectively mean that everything should be outlawed. I know I could stand outside any church or cathedral, stamp my foot, and fulminate at length — if only I were Irish, I could stroll the land, casting the priestly snakes off the island.

Comments

  1. #1 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 29, 2009

    If “Begorrah!” and “Saints preserve us!” are outlawed, then Irish stereotypes will be utterly demolished.

    I can think of one Irish stereotype that will live on especially if I have anything to do about it.

    Wait, they’re going to make this work in Ireland? So the government plans on censoring every mention of “Catholic” and “Protestant” because they’ll spark outrage in some subset of the population? I think that, in general, prohibiting things because some fraction of the population will feel outraged at the concept would effectively mean that everything should be outlawed. I know I could stand outside any church or cathedral, stamp my foot, and fulminate at length ? if only I were Irish, I could stroll the land, casting the priestly snakes off the island

    So when a catholic priest makes a claim about the only true way to worship god is the catholic way and that offends protestants, what now?

  2. #2 WarrenS
    April 29, 2009

    Despite being a lifelong atheist I recently realized that I still tend to use Xtian blasphemy for emphasis. This has forced me into a search for expletives that have the requisite force and klang but which are not deistic. The best I’ve found yet is “big-BANG-it!” which has a nice feel in the mouth, but I’m still pretty far from the perfect atheistic cussword.

  3. #3 TechSkeptic
    April 29, 2009

    I hear that the pastafarians recently became offended by the words potato, car, and, dinner plate if used in a sentence that mentions other Gods that clearly do not exist.

    I have also heard that, mentioning any fake god while performing any of the following acts are highly offensive:

    Driving
    Eating
    sex
    Taking a crap

    But the most offensive is to mention any other fake god while in pain. Man, I hope they get this law passed as soon as possible.

  4. #4 Mumon
    April 29, 2009

    What about fack?

    Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said that everyone was entitled to his opinion, but not his own facks.

    Pretty facked up, right?

    (In Japanese, fack is translitterated as the f-word.)

  5. #5 Sigmund
    April 29, 2009

    There’s an interesting segment on Dermot Ahern the minister for Justice and ‘Equality’ who has proposed this ridiculous legislation.
    “Following his appointment as minister responsible for equality, it was reported that Ahern had in 1993 voted against the legislation of homosexuality. Furthermore he agreed with a statement by Fine Gael TD, Brendan McGahon when he said; “I regard homosexuals as being in a sad category, but I believe homosexuality to be an abnormality, some type of psycho-sexual problem that has defied explanation over the years. I do not believe that the Irish people desire this normalisation of what is clearly an abnormality. Homosexuality is a departure from normality and while homosexuals deserve our compassion they do not deserve our tolerance. That is how the man in the street thinks. I know of no homosexual who has been discriminated against. Such people have a persecution complex because they know they are different from the masses or normal society. They endure inner torment and it is not a question of the way others view them. The lord provided us with sexual organs for a specific purpose. Homosexuals are like lefthand drivers driving on the right-hand side of the road.”

    Ahern himself added to those comments; “Will we eventually see the day in this country when, as has happened in the USA, homosexuals will seek the right to adopt children? We should think seriously about this possibility”. Following his appointment as minister responsible for equality, Ahern has refused to be drawn on this matter and has not given an answer as to whether he still holds those opinions.”
    By the way PZ, there’s no real problem between catholics and protestants in the Irish Republic where this legislation is being proposed. The problem is between the extremely conservative catholics (think Bill O’Donohue types but with less critical thinking skills!) and everyone else.

  6. #6 Bill Dauphin
    April 29, 2009

    Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! Whatever can these boyos be thinkin’??

  7. #7 Jason R
    April 29, 2009

    Ahh you have to love it.

    “that is grossly abusive or insulting”

    They definitely need to define “grossly”, in a legal sense.

  8. #8 Quiet Desperation
    April 29, 2009

    one Irish fellow I knew used the peculiar expression “fewkin’” as every other word

    You are a treasure, PZ. I have me a new swear word! :-) The more British “fook” was getting a bit old. As for frak, well, not after that BSG finale.

    Pronounced as it’s spelled, I assume? “FEW-KIN” as in “I have a few kin in the old country?”

  9. #9 arekksu
    April 29, 2009
  10. #10 SLW13
    April 29, 2009

    *claps excitedly and gets popcorn*

    Ooooh, it would almost be worth it to see what would happen if they actually go through with this.

  11. #11 Glen Davidson
    April 29, 2009

    Unfortunately, this tends to follow from the restrictions on speech that many otherwise “liberal democracies” have. So-called “hate-speech laws” make about as much sense as saving delicate ears from hearing that somebody’s god is a violent wanker.

    Speech needs to be free. The US lags behind other nations in many things, like having adequate health care. But the First Amendment is one of the best things ever, fortuitously in a nation with a large sector of citizens who are factually opposed to it.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  12. #12 Abdul Alhazred
    April 29, 2009

    Times have changed considerably.

    This is about Muslims, not Catholics and Protestants.

  13. #13 Rick R
    April 29, 2009

    Jebus H Fuckin Begorah.

    “homosexuals deserve our compassion they do not deserve our tolerance.”

    “That is how the man in the street thinks.”

    “I know of no homosexual who has been discriminated against.”

    “Such people have a persecution complex”

    “Homosexuals are like lefthand drivers driving on the right-hand side of the road”

    Wow. Just fuckin’ wow.

  14. #14 JackC
    April 29, 2009

    WarrenS – I am SOO thankful that I am not the only one!

    and yeah – I have taken to using Frill, Frak (not my favourite, cause I just can’t stomach Battlestar Galaxative) and such. I have even tried to get some of the apparent Chinese from Firefly…

    There’s always… say it quietly… belgium….

    I apologise for the profanity… (Hey! Wait!!)

    JC

  15. #15 Matt Heath
    April 29, 2009

    This almost makes the crudest type of economic determinism tempting. Ireland was known as poor and priest-ridden. then it was the Celtic Tiger rushing toward liberal modernity. The economy crashes (really HARD in Ireland’s case) and it’s criminalising anti-God thought-crimes.

  16. #16 Rick R
    April 29, 2009

    “As for frak, well, not after that BSG finale.”

    Indeed.

  17. #17 littlejohn
    April 29, 2009

    Don’t worry about this legislation. The micks will just get drunk and forger about the whole thing.
    P.S.: I’m allowed to say this stuff because my family is Irish. And drunk.

  18. #18 Penguin_Factory
    April 29, 2009

    Wait what? I live in Ireland and this is the first I’ve heard of it.

    It will probably never come to anything. No one here gives a damn about religion any more.

  19. #19 Alex
    April 29, 2009

    No one has the right to not be offended.

    Only simpletons and cowards find any virtue in laws like these.

  20. #20 daniel m
    April 29, 2009

    wow, that’s…awesome. right, folks. we’re all going to move to ireland, pick up either pastafarianism or discordianism, and roll about picking up a loooonnnggg list of words we find offensive to mention, like…deadly offensive. we’ll make it a deadly sin to say the word.

    so, first we’ll start with uttering the names of false gods or their prophets. we’ll add words like “chocolate” and “beer” and especially “murphy’s” or “guiness” and we will go on adding words that are offensive to us until they get the goddamn point…

  21. #21 Sigmund
    April 29, 2009

    Somehow I predict this thread is only going to descend into a place for people to post links of their favorite Father Ted clip.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zc5QvjGHOjw

    See? I told you!

  22. #22 Steve LaBonne
    April 29, 2009

    This would never work in Quebec. If the Quebecois couldn’t use blasphemous curse words they’d be reduced to sign language.

  23. #23 Anonymous
    April 29, 2009

    #12 – That’s what I was thinking. This sounds like a way to censor both disparaging commentary and visual depictions of Muhammad.

  24. #24 Mike in Ontario, NY
    April 29, 2009

    But how does one actually define “blasphemy”? And how in Christ’s name can you know whether or not your words will offend somebody? What shall the standard be?

    Can any of the knowledgeble bible experts around here tell me if it’s blasphemy to use God as a marketing device? You know, like when you’re going through the yellow pages and see how many businesses are flyin’ the Jebus fish?

  25. #25 Anonymous
    April 29, 2009

    or is it Mohammed?

  26. #26 Stogoe
    April 29, 2009

    Unfortunately, this tends to follow from the restrictions on speech that many otherwise “liberal democracies” have.

    Yer a fewkin liar, ya fewkin cockbiter. Feck the feck off and stop deliberately conflating nonexistant (in the US) ‘hate-speech’ laws with ‘hate-crimes’ legislation, which simply gives you a longer prison sentence when you assault/murder/rape/beat someone because of their sex/race/religion/ethnicity (which includes whiteness and straightness and christianocity).

    And fuck, you people are still whining about the BSG finale? Jesus effing spank! It was good enough, in a narrative sense, and that’s the only sense that matters when you’re judging narrative.

  27. #27 JackC
    April 29, 2009

    al dente. I have always found that blasphemous.

    Maybe because I just can’t achieve it.

    JC

  28. #28 Stogoe
    April 29, 2009

    The BSG whining reminds me of a saying – “If you give a nerd a $10 bill, he’ll complain about the way it’s folded”.

  29. #29 Dale O'Flaherty
    April 29, 2009

    Goddammit! I’m Irish. This shit will not stand. Time to email my government representitive.

  30. #30 Fred the Hun
    April 29, 2009

    An certain Irishman taught me this while I was at Catholic school…

    There were two girls from Birmingham
    with a terrible story concerning them

    The had lifted the frock
    and tickled the cock

    of the bishop who was just confirming them…

    Now this Bishop was nobody’s fool
    He had been to a great public school

    He let down his britches
    and fucked them two bitches

    With a six inch long episcopal tool.

    Ah twill be a very cold day in hell when the Irish quit blaspheming…

  31. #31 Qwerty
    April 29, 2009

    I wonder what Father Ted will think about this on Craggy Island?

  32. #32 Richard Harris
    April 29, 2009

    Where’s Father Ted when we need him?

  33. #33 ygyzys
    April 29, 2009

    “”Blasphemous matter” is defined as 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 he or she intends, by the publication of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.”

    Do you suppose it would have applied when James Joyce called Ireland “the sunken cunt of the world”? (Ulysses)

  34. #34 NewEnglandBob
    April 29, 2009

    If they pass that law, then atheists need to star a religion to therefore outlaw the following words:

    God
    Christian
    Catholic
    Protestant
    Jew
    Muslim
    Hindu
    Buddhist
    Jesus
    Mohamed
    Yahweh
    pious
    religion
    Creationism
    Intelligent Design
    …you get the idea.

  35. #35 JackC
    April 29, 2009

    Fred the Hun @ 30 – the word “long” in the last line entirely ruins the meter of an otherwise nice piece. Where’s Cuttlefish these days?

    JC

  36. #36 JRQ
    April 29, 2009

    Confession: On reading the title of this post, I clicked and scrolled down immediately to scan the comments for Father Ted clips…

  37. #37 cervantes
    April 29, 2009

    Those harps had better not say anything against Pastafarianism.

  38. #38 Father Ted
    April 29, 2009

    #31- “I wonder what Father Ted will think about this on Craggy Island?”

    Down with this sort of thing!

  39. #39 Reginald Selkirk
    April 29, 2009

    I don’t have a problem with this, with one provision: charges of blasphemous libel can only be filed by the deity who has been blasphemed, no filing on their behalf by third parties allowed.

  40. #40 Richard Harris
    April 29, 2009

    A statement about this blasphemy proposal, from father Jack, is called for. But they’re not making any more episodes, so I’ll have to do it for him.

    Feck that feckin’ god. Feck Yahweh, feck Allah, feck Brahma, feck …. the whole feckin’ lot of ‘em. Feckin’ edjits!

  41. #41 Fred the Hun
    April 29, 2009

    JackC @ 35,

    I didn’t compose it and was writing from memory.
    Possibly if I had tried to recite it then the “long” would have been left out.

    I guess “a six inch episcopal tool” would be better, eh?

  42. #42 Abby Normal
    April 29, 2009

    Given the number of people in the region who identify themselves as Jedi, would this law prevent the Star Wars prequels from being shown in Ireland?

  43. #43 Howsit goin Len?
    April 29, 2009

    Just like to point out that in the last census, JEDI was the preferred religion of 6% of the country. This was in reference to the movie Clerks which is huge amongst Irish students. It is above the threshold for religious recognition (and all the tax breaks that go along with it). Just something for all those Yoda Damning eejits to consider

  44. #44 Random
    April 29, 2009

    Sound like what was tried in England a few years back but was squashed by the House of Lords (I think). Trying to get everyone to be nice about religion and say nothing bad about it. English comedians like Rowan Atkinson were peeved. Don’t be messin’ with the Black Adder! Are there Irish commedians that might say boo at this?

  45. #45 Cathal
    April 29, 2009

    ygyzys @ #33:

    It did. Ulysses was banned in Ireland upon its publication.

  46. #46 Don
    April 29, 2009

    #39 Genius. Everybody wins.

    BTW, PZ, did you ever get those DVD’s of Father Ted?

    But the clergy in Ireland are going the way of Morris Dancers in England – they have further to go but every move they make to reassert the old dominance just lays them open to more disregard.

    (Not that Morris Dancers are trying to assert some sort of moral authority over the rest of the population. They’re just dying out and nobody much cares.)

  47. #47 Matt Heath
    April 29, 2009

    (Not that Morris Dancers are trying to assert some sort of moral authority over the rest of the population. They’re just dying out and nobody much cares.)

    I care slightly. But no, not much.

    As for the priesthood, mass unemployment will help them a bit.

  48. #48 JackC
    April 29, 2009

    FtH@41

    I guess “a six inch episcopal tool” would be better, eh?

    Bingo. The meter is spot on like that.

    Good job on the recital though. I do the same thing with Bryan Bower’s “The Scotsman”

    I will take pity on all concerned and NOT do it here.

    JC

  49. #49 PZ Myers
    April 29, 2009

    Yes, I own the full Father Ted series, and if I weren’t locked into meetings until late tonight, this thread makes me want to watch some of them again.

  50. #50 Sili
    April 29, 2009

    I didn’t realise the Irish loved their potatoes that much. Spuds are nice, yes, but I do prefer to have them accompany some pork or beef – shrimp’s not really my thing, though. Not so in Ireland then?

  51. #51 Spiffity
    April 29, 2009

    The law is already in the constitution and has been since the 30′s. They’ve had trouble deciding exactly how to interpret it since it could be very problematic (as most everyone here has noted). Blasphemy was not defined by the law, so it was not prosecutable, but they are now endowing it with a meaning. The sense in which they want to interpret it is to help prosecute religious hate crimes, for example anti-semitism. The main property of “blasphemy” they are pointing to here is “intent”.

    Giving blasphemy a legal definition is not actually going to change anything in Ireland.

    Constitution quote (from the Irish Bill of Rights):

    “Article 40: 6. 1° The State guarantees liberty for the exercise of the following rights, subject to public order and morality:

    i. The right of the citizens to express freely their convictions and opinions. The education of public opinion being, however, a matter of such grave import to the common good, the State shall endeavour to ensure that organs of public opinion, such as the radio, the press, the cinema, while preserving their rightful liberty of expression, including criticism of Government policy, shall not be used to undermine public order or morality or the authority of the State.

    The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.”

  52. #52 Anonymous
    April 29, 2009

    Blasphemy laws are really “We get to say anything we want about you but you aren’t allowed to answer back.”

  53. #53 Anonymous
    April 29, 2009

    christ on a bike. I live 10 minutes from the retard proposing this but haven’t heard about it in the news. It will pass into law with few objections.

  54. #54 'Tis Himself
    April 29, 2009
  55. #55 Longtime Lurker
    April 29, 2009

    The definition of “Blasphemous matter” which is injurious to the members of a particular sect should be limited to Semtex and similar substances.

  56. #56 Cappy
    April 29, 2009

    Estre’s tits, this is an outrage!

  57. #57 MickyW
    April 29, 2009

    This will never work, especially now that support for the government is at an all time low. And the Catholic Church is a shadow of its former self too. Taking the Lord’s name in vain is a national pastime, even for the religious.

    DRINK!! ARSE!! FECK!! GIRLS!!

    Now those things are far more important, thanks be to Jaysus!

  58. #58 'Tis Himself
    April 29, 2009
  59. #59 Noadi
    April 29, 2009

    I’m fully compelled now to go watch some Father Ted.

    I’m not sure there are enough jails in Ireland to be able to enforce this law. Irish cursing is predominantly religious in nature so this just really isn’t going to work. BTW cursing in Irish gaelic sounds really pretty, too bad even most of the Irish population know longer speaks the language (for that I can’t forgive the Brits).

  60. #60 mark
    April 29, 2009

    What I like about the new Irish definition of blasphemy is the “any religion” bit. What about some of the zany african religions, isnt there thousands of them? Should keep the Gardi busy there for a while.

  61. #61 Newfie
    April 29, 2009

    Mustn’t offend the precious non existent sky fairy.

    Fuck religion in its lying, money grubbing, corrupt, bronze age myth arse. If God has a problem with my language, he can fucking well show up at my door and tell me. He’s got my address, right? No, he needs sanctimonious pricks to speak on his behalf. All powerful indeed. Religion offends me, can I have it fined?
    How about Odin? Can I curse that bastard? Vishnu?

  62. #62 Pierce R. Butler
    April 29, 2009

    “Blasphemous matter” is defined as matter “that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion…

    Unless my esteemed cousins have redefined “matter” to be utterly verbal &/or otherwise symbolic, this clearly pertains to anything physical, or perhaps everything physical that isn’t energy.

    Given the attested presence of Moslems (who do tend, after all, to pay high respects toward that which is green), and no doubt some fraction of Hindus from that other island over eastwards, it would seem that the substances known as pork and beef are on the verge of outlawry.

    I predict the early 21st century will be known in Irish history as “The Troubles Only More So.”

    Sigmund @ # 5: … Ahern had in 1993 voted against the legislation of homosexuality.

    Er, was he opposed to mandating it, or regulating it?

  63. #63 Kevin
    April 29, 2009

    I am Irish and had I not glanced at the Irish Times during lunch I would have missed out on this. There was no mention of it on the news and no one seemed to be talking about this. I am delighted that PZ Myers is keeping an eye out for us at least.

    As has already been mentioned this is part of the constitution and the Justice Minister Dermot Ahern is using this as an excuse to propose this law. This is errant nonsense a court case in ’99 established that there was no definition of Blasphemy and others had noted that the constitution should be amended to bring us in line with European agreements on Human rights

    “Last year the Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution, under the chairmanship of Fianna Fáil TD Seán Ardagh, recommended amending this Article to remove all references to sedition and blasphemy, and redrafting the Article along the lines of article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which deals with freedom of expression.”
    (from http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/frontpage/2009/0429/1224245599892.html)

    The only explanation that I can think of is that given the current unpopularity of the Irish government Dermot Ahern thinks there is nothing to lose by putting such a bill forward, they are likely to lose the next election so why not go nuts.

    The real surprise is the lack of response from the Labour party whose leader Eamon Gilmore who is publicly an atheist

    The best the Labour spokesman on justice Pat Rabbitte did is propose an amendment to this section which “would reduce the maximum fine to ?1,000 and exclude from the definition of blasphemy any matter that had any literary, artistic, social or academic merit.”

    This does take the sting out of it but this is the wrong response we should hold a referendum and join the real world not travel back 80 years in time.

    The other question this raises is if all religions will be able to use this Islam is an obvious example but what about the church of Scientology who have a branch in Dublin. They are notoriously litigious and I can see them jumping at a chance to fine the hell out of critics.

    I have emailed the idiot responsible for all the good it will do and will be emailing my local Labour representative and some in the green party but I don’t know if that will do any good. As I mentioned this madness seems to be going under the radar especially with everyone concerned about the economy and Swine Flu.

  64. #64 JohnnieCanuck
    April 29, 2009

    Speaking of Swine Flu, http://www.jesusandmo.net/2009/04/29/bacon/ has some fun with the Israeli Health minister who is offended on behalf of Jews and Muslims and suggests it be called Mexican Flu, instead. No offence to any Mexicans, of course.

  65. #65 Walton
    April 29, 2009

    Unfortunately, this tends to follow from the restrictions on speech that many otherwise “liberal democracies” have. So-called “hate-speech laws” make about as much sense as saving delicate ears from hearing that somebody’s god is a violent wanker.

    Yes! I absolutely agree.

  66. #66 Darthcynic
    April 29, 2009

    Sweet fracking, goram, jebus!

    My head must be too buried in books, I have not heard anything bout this lil gem till I came on here. Like every erosion of our rights and freedoms, it goes unmentioned in the background whilst the populace are distracted by something else.

    What annoys me is that these nasty little fuckwits are elected over and over and over in large part by unthinking sheep that vote for em coz their damnating fathers / mothers and grandfathers / mothers did?

    The stupid burns and I wanna leave.

  67. #67 Anonymous
    April 29, 2009

    Perhaps the best statement concerning the preponderance of inflammable material in the Goidelic lands.

    Also, a quaint historical/anthropological document.

  68. #68 John Kingman
    April 29, 2009

    This law is probably related to the UN Resolution on the topic. Check out CFI Condemns United Nations Resolution on ?Defamation of Religions?

  69. #69 MadScientist
    April 29, 2009

    A non-blasphemous Irishman? Is there some evil conspiracy to make the Irish boring or something?

    All I said was “that piece of halibut looks good enough for Jehovah”.

  70. #70 Jason S
    April 29, 2009

    Irish readers (and perhaps others) may wish to contact their local TD, contact info is at http://www.dail.ie/documents/members_emails/30_Dail20090421.doc

  71. #71 Benjamin Ridge
    April 29, 2009

    All I did was say to my wife, “That piece of halibut was good enough for Jehovah!”

  72. #72 whitebird
    April 29, 2009

    Oh, ok, #21.Here you all go.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzYzVMcgWhg

  73. #73 whitebird
    April 29, 2009

    Plus, I thought Irish Blasphemy (besides maybe being G’nR’s next album title)was more along the lines of ordering a Guinness in Cork or a Beamish in Dublin…

  74. #74 Lynnai
    April 29, 2009

    This would never work in Quebec. If the Quebecois couldn’t use blasphemous curse words they’d be reduced to sign language.

    Pretty reduced sign language at that… I can recall watching a guy cross himself with one hand and grope himself with the other, it was clearly meant to be as obscene as it sounds like.

  75. #75 Krystalline Apostate
    April 29, 2009

    As I understand it, “Aye faith and begorrah” (I always see Chief O’Hara in the old TV show saying it) is actually Irish theater (kinda like all Frenchmen say “Sacre Bleu”, or cockneys say “Strewth!”), IOW, it tends to irritate them mightily.
    A more likely exclamation is “Faith & jaypers!”

  76. #76 scooter
    April 29, 2009

    PZ

    if only I were Irish, I could stroll the land, casting the priestly snakes off the island.

    Hmmm, I never heard of a Scandanavian reluctant to sack Ireland before

  77. #77 JeffS
    April 30, 2009

    In PA there is a law that businesses cannot have blasphemous words in their names.

    Its been applied inconsistantly too. Currently, a company with the aid of the ACLU is suing to get it gone.

  78. #78 Pat
    April 30, 2009

    I was floored when Ireland went no-smoking. But are they serious considering disowning both James Joyce and the movie “The Commitments”?!

    “The Commitments” is a personal favorite in which utterances of “blasphemous, seditious, [and] indecent material” is part of its music. I watched the edited-for-TV version and it was a betrayal of my people.

  79. #79 Michael Nugent
    April 30, 2009

    As chair of the advocacy group Atheist Ireland, I was on RTE radio’s Liveline show for almost an hour yesterday discussing this dangerous proposal. Almost every caller – including most religious callers – were opposed to it. It combines the oppressive religious thinking of 1950s Catholic Ireland and modern Islamic fundamentalism.

    The background is roughly this: Under the 1937 Irish Constitution, blasphemy is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law. In 1999, the Supreme Court found that the existing law against blasphemy was unenforceable, as there was no definition of blasphemy.

    Last year an all-party parliamentary committee on the Constitution recommended removing the reference to blasphemy from the Constitution. Instead, this proposed new law creates a legal definition of blasphemy, in order to make the offence punishable in law.

    It should be opposed for three reasons. One, it does not protect religious belief; 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.

    Here is some elaboration on these three reasons:

    http://tr.im/k3tn

    If you are Irish, or know anyone in Ireland, please ensure that the members of the Oireachtas Justice Committee that is discussing this proposal are lobbied. You can get their details here:

    http://tr.im/k4Mq

  80. #80 Ugly American
    April 30, 2009

    I’m offended by the Bible, the New Testament and the Qur’an.

    They’re full of hate speech.

    They call for the murder of non-believers (even the women & children).

    Can we expect them to be banned under this new law?

    I ask because in Canada, despite the fact that hate speech is already banned the books mentioned above are still in wide circulation and often provided to children and quoted by government officials.

  81. #81 Clemens
    April 30, 2009

    For fine Irish writing, read Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. It’s so funny and yet quite sad. And teaches you a lot about Irish catholicism. St. Peter up me arse.

  82. #82 Emmet, OM
    April 30, 2009

    Introducing a blasphemy law in the 21st century? Bloody marvelous ? not only have the gombeens squandered the money made in the Celtic Tiger years, but now they’re making the place look like a medieval backwater into the bargain. What anachronism is next, a new witchcraft statute?

    Oh, and the ?stage Irish? stereotypes (above) are making me nauseous.

  83. #83 Arlene
    April 30, 2009

    Dermot Ahern is a right wing smegma and this smacks of a smokescreen. There is a detailed report coming out in the next few months about the clerical abuse in this country and THEN the shit will truly hit the fan, and you can be sure there will be plenty of swearing and blasphemy no matter how much Ahern whistles through his gills.
    Most of us Irish are mortified by this ridiculous carry-on.

  84. #84 Gavin McBride
    April 30, 2009
  85. #85 Sigmund
    April 30, 2009

    They tried passing a law like this in Norway too. It resulted howls from just about every newspaper, blogger and author in the country, and within days of the story reaching the public the prime minister had to publically grovel and withdraw the proposal.

  86. #86 Sigmund
    April 30, 2009

    So I suggest the Irish who disapprove of this gather into a massive online mob, it may very well work.

  87. #87 Sigmund
    April 30, 2009

    So I suggest the Irish who disapprove of this gather into a massive online mob, it may very well work.

  88. #88 Nadia Williams
    April 30, 2009

    As I understand it, “Aye faith and begorrah” (I always see Chief O’Hara in the old TV show saying it) is actually Irish theater (kinda like all Frenchmen say “Sacre Bleu”, or cockneys say “Strewth!”), IOW, it tends to irritate them mightily.
    A more likely exclamation is “Faith & jaypers!”

    Having lived in Ireland for four years, I’d say a much, much more likely exclamation is “Jaaaaysus Christ!” The first thing that sprang to my mind when I read this. And an expression a Charismatic (born again… that is charismatic, isn’t it? I get confused, there are so many) Christian would consider blasphemous.

    Ever spent a few minutes in an Irish pub on a busy night? A charismatic Christian could have pretty much every member of the population arrested if this stupid law goes through.

    This is fucking insane. I still keep clicking back to the article to see again that it isn’t some weird nightmare.

  89. #89 Sigmund
    April 30, 2009

    So I suggest the Irish who disapprove of this gather into a massive online mob, it just might work.

  90. #90 Sigmund
    April 30, 2009

    Oi! this board ain’t big enough for two Sigmunds.
    As for combating the proposal itself I would suggest that atheism and free speech is not the angle to use in Ireland (I grew up there so I know that these are not big priorities in that country).
    What would work is using sectarian bigotry to our advantage.
    Suggest that the first target of the law will be the Orange Order branches in the republic. While these are sectarian in nature they are really too small in numbers to cause any reaction other than bemusement within the Republic. On the other hand the idea of banning or prosecuting them is both entirely within the remit of this particular law and would cause an absolute disaster in terms of relations with the ruling parties of Northern Ireland.

  91. #91 gazza
    April 30, 2009

    Are Americans, or indeed any commenters outside of the UK, aware of the popular Father Ted comedy series? Has it been on your network or cable TV? PZ seems to know about it.

    Written by Irishmen, acted by Irishmen (and Mrs Doyle) it’s a mercilessly devestating satire of the Irish Catholic church! When I was last in Ireland several years ago DVDs of the series were on widespread sale at supermarket checkout tills, so obviously popular there too. But if any programme deserves to be done for blasphemy it is surely Father Ted. I’d love to see that attempted just to see the prosecution case ridiculed.

  92. #92 Paul Browne
    April 30, 2009

    With every passing week the chances of my ever returning to my homeland get smaller and smaller (Sigh!!)

    A tanking economy, continual faliure to legalize aboution and now this.

    Still I imagine theat the eejets proposing this will soon be told to feck off in no uncertain terms…so there’s hope yet.

    I also agree with gazza that Father Ted is one of the most wonderful comedies ever broadcast, sheer unadulterated comedy genius. Any effort to ban it might actually trigger an armed revolt.

  93. #93 Lilly de Lure
    April 30, 2009

    Paul browne said:

    Still I imagine theat the eejets proposing this will soon be told to feck off in no uncertain terms…so there’s hope yet.

    Judging by the number of Irish posters here who hadn’t heard anything about this until now, I’m wondering if they knew that most people would be against this moeasure and were trying to pass it on the sly before anyone realised what was happening.

    If so, that strategy has clearly now been blown out of the water, hopefully sense will now prevail and you may yet be able to return home.

  94. #94 kmann
    April 30, 2009

    See this article in today’s Irish Times. I can’t imagine that this will go anywhere considering that we have more important things to worry about now that our country is in economic meltdown.

    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2009/0430/1224245681506.html

  95. #95 Sigmund
    April 30, 2009

    I left Ireland over 20 years ago and I have no desire to return.
    Things have changed a lot since I’ve been gone – now the current majority religion is Roman Capitalism.
    There is very little regard for the basic idea of freedom of speech in the population as a whole. It is certainly not seen as a priority in any sense.
    Here’s the only reports I’ve seen from Ireland that show any sort of opposition to the bill (politically its looking like a majority are in favor of it).

    “SEANAD REPORT: THE LAST thing Ireland needs is a restoration of the offence of blasphemous libel to the statute books, according to Ivana Bacik (Ind).

    ?I am very concerned about that. We have seen enough religious domination in this country,? she said.

    John Hanafin (FF) said a debate on the proposal could be useful in highlighting the ?tyranny of the liberals, in particular Irish liberals who seem to be some of the most intolerant people in the world?.

    Rónán Mullen (Ind) said the introduction of the offence would seem to be quite reasonable. It was significant that the proposal drafted by the Minister required that there would be an intention to cause outrage.”

    Remember Lilly, the Irish who are commenting on this thread are most likely Irish liberals – “some of the most intolerant people in the world?. Apparently we are worse than the KKK and Al Qaeda.

  96. #96 Anonymous
    April 30, 2009

    See also:
    ‘Crime of blasphemous libel proposed for Defamation Bill’
    Irish Times 29/0/09
    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/frontpage/2009/0429/1224245599892.html

    and

    ‘Ahern defends blasphemy changes’
    Irish Times 29/0/09
    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2009/0429/breaking79.html

  97. #97 shonny
    April 30, 2009

    Posted by: Bill Dauphin | April 29, 2009 2:48 PM
    Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! Whatever can these boyos be thinkin’??

    Uh-uh, no. Wrong. It is ‘fucking jesus, bloody mary and dopey joseph’! Don’t forget this is a place for non-godbots.

  98. #98 Don Martin
    April 30, 2009

    I am a bit surprised that Catholic Ireland is willing to defend “matters held sacred by any religion,” and I credit their broad-mindedness. However, I wonder what problems of enforcement this may generate: given the multiplicity of religions in the world, practically any English word, other than conjunctions and articles, has the potential to upset _some_ believer or other.

  99. #99 Lilly de Lure
    April 30, 2009

    Sigmund said:

    Remember Lilly, the Irish who are commenting on this thread are most likely Irish liberals – “some of the most intolerant people in the world?. Apparently we are worse than the KKK and Al Qaeda.

    Ah, the Tony Blair spirit strikes again I see! :-\

  100. #100 Sigmund
    April 30, 2009

    The defense of “matters held sacred by any religion” is pretty much the official stance of the Catholic church.
    As the proposed statute is currently worded then it is very unlikely that any major religion will fall foul of the legislation. Likewise for those in this thread making jokes about Irish people blaspheming by saying “Jesus, Mary and Joseph” type explamations, that kind of language is not regarded as blasphemy in Ireland.
    What would certainly fall foul of this sort of legislation is material by the new atheists. The God of the Old Testament section from ‘The God Delusion’ by Dawkins and numerous sections from Christopher Hitchens’ ‘God is not Great’ would certainly be liable for banning and the authors and publishers fined.

  101. #101 Rowanth
    April 30, 2009

    I’m an Irish Atheist and I just want to clear up a few things with regard to this new “Law”. Ten years ago the last blasphemy case was taken up by the supreme court they basically said that they could not prosecute due to the fact that blasphemy was not well enough defined. Due to this fact there is a duty on the legislature to address this.
    There are two options here, either a nationwide referendum to remove all mention of blasphemy from the constitution which for quite pragmatic and cynical reasons, cost of doing it, etc., will not happen or to define the term more clearly.
    The latter was chosen and the wording is such that no one will ever be charged and convicted with blasphemy. EVER. It will not happen and on that I’d quite happily bet my family’s lives.
    It is I admit quite embarrassing but behind it is not some evil cabal of religious bigots but just another example of a silly archaic law raising it’s ugly head.
    It’s simply a pragmatic response due to the fact that the Irish government would not conduct a constitutional referendum on something so silly and trivial. It is dreadfully silly though.

    Rowanth.

  102. #102 imokyrok
    April 30, 2009

    This is the email address of the Minister for Justice who proposed this legislation:

    dermot@dermotahern.ie

    Please email if you have the time. We need all the help we can get to keep Ireland on the right road towards a truly secular society. No going back to a theocracy for us!

    Heres a link to a discussion on the topic in Irelands main politics forum for anyone interested :
    http://www.politics.ie/justice/64231-new-crime-blasphemous-libel-proposed-defamation-bill-goodbye-free-speech.html

    You will see from the posts that almost everyone is furious about the proposed legislation.

  103. #103 Sigmund
    April 30, 2009

    Rowanth, I agree that a national referendum for this purpose alone is quite unnecessary but why not simply add it as a separate question on a different referendum? There have been about six or seven opportunities to do this in the past decade and there will probably be another opportunity within the next year when the EU referendum question is put before the electorate once again.
    Looking at the comments of some members of the Dail or Senate they certainly don’t seem to take it as lightly as you do and rather see it as a reasonable and necessary legislation to prevent offense against religious sensibilities.

  104. #104 imokyrok
    April 30, 2009

    “Posted by: Quiet Desperation | April 29, 2009 2:51 PM

    one Irish fellow I knew used the peculiar expression “fewkin’” as every other word

    You are a treasure, PZ. I have me a new swear word! :-) The more British “fook” was getting a bit old. As for frak, well, not after that BSG finale.

    Pronounced as it’s spelled, I assume? “FEW-KIN” as in “I have a few kin in the old country?”"

    No QD – it’s spelt feckin as in – this legislation is a feckin travesty so it is.

  105. #105 Sigmund
    April 30, 2009

    On the matter of pronunciation of swear words “fewkin” is almost definitely the word “fucking” pronounced in a Dublin accent.
    I think the word “Feck” (as in Father Jack’s “Drink”-”Feck”- “Girls”) is a more specifically Irish swear word. Its generally regarded as a milder form of “Fuck” without the sexual act connections (you would never ‘feck’ someone in an act of lust and to say ‘feck me now’ during a moment of bodily congress would undoubtedly result in your partner falling out of the bed in peals of laughter).

  106. #106 Emmet, OM
    April 30, 2009

    one Irish fellow I knew used the peculiar expression “fewkin’” as every other word

    I was born in Dublin, lived there for 34 years, and never heard anyone from any part of the country say anything that could be reasonably approximated phonetically by ?fewk?. Not once. Ever.

    An inordinate fondness for ?fuck? and ?feck?, yes, but ?fewk?? Never heard anything even remotely like it, not even when I imagine how ?fewk? might be pronounced in a variety of American accents.

  107. #107 Petzl
    April 30, 2009

    Why isn’t Ireland going for the Full Taliban? Along with the blasphemy proscriptions, throw in the laws saying a husband may compell his wife to have sex, to use makeup; they cannot leave the house without husband’s permission; take away the wife’s property rights, etc. I mean, why stop with just blasphemy laws?
    Cheers.
    Oh, and death to America.

  108. #108 patrick
    May 1, 2009

    ?Blasphemous matter? is defined as 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 he or she intends, by the publication of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.?

    WELL YOU KNOW WHAT?

    F U C K G O D!

  109. #109 ObsessiveMathsFreak
    May 1, 2009

    For context, the Irish State has effectively been bankrupted by the global financial crisis and the Tánaiste is currently on a trip to the Persian Gulf seeking funds.

    You can expect to see Irish Government support for UN anti-blasphemy resolutions in the near future.

  110. #110 Peter
    May 3, 2009

    This could sort a few things out once and for all.

    Any reasonable law must work on the principle that “he who asserts must prove”
    Further to that there will be a need to prove that the comment actually caused offence to god.

    Having said that, for the offence to be proven then god will need to give evidence in person that he is actually offended by the remarks as any alleged representative could only give hearsay evidence making it inadmissable in court.

    Let me know when the first case is on, I have some issues to sort out with the old bugger if he fronts.

  111. #111 Fintan Stack
    May 4, 2009

    Look, this is all about trade, nothing to do with religion
    Ireland is not going to let a situation like the Danish cartoon fiasco happen to her. We have massive trade with the middle east and one idiot publishing something that the muslim world would find offensive would be damaging to Ireland’s economic interests in that region.Denmark has paid, and will continue to pay a heavy price for how it handled the situation. No one will be prosecuted under this law, unless they grossly offend the muslims,andwho is going to do that with a E100,000 fine.this is just a case of looking out for number 1.