back to article Ireland bucks trend with anti-blasphemy law

Take the Lord’s name in vain and if the lightning bolt doesn’t get you, the Irish Government soon will. That’s the fond hope of Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern, who last week proposed the insertion of a blasphemy clause into the Defamation Bill, currently before the Irish Parliament. The clear intention behind this move is …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Just like the Middle Ages

    Nice to see that we're all taking a step back in terms of human rights. At least they won't be burning us at the stake. Yet.

    Paris, 'cause of the blasphemous things she does so well.

  2. Third Man

    So what is a religion...

    Anything offensive to any religion. Better not deny the 'force' - how much is a dislike of Star Wars going to cost you in Ireland?

  3. Ash
    Thumb Down



    No-one expect the Irish Inquisition.

  4. Anonymous Coward


    Jesus H Christ!

    Can't Governments stay out of religion for Gods sake?

  5. Wize

    If a religion's claims are not compatible with another religion...

    ...are all the followers breaking the law?

  6. Random Noise

    Strike me down.

    Jesus Christ! that's the most ridiculous thing I've read in ages. When will these idiots learn? I mean for god's sake!

  7. Neil Hoskins

    "...any religion..."

    You insulted my light sabre, you bastard.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Blasphemy is a ridiculous excuse for a law

    Just because a bunch of naive followers of the great sky-fairy don't like being told a few home truths doesn't mean there should be a law against it.

    It's one thing I can agree with our American cousins on. Religion (or church) and state should be separate in a country which purports to be a democracy. Sadly, even the UK fails that test.

  9. Anonymous Coward


    it'll be the end of us all religeon godsdammit

  10. Philip J.F. Quinlan

    Ahern is trying to court the religiouos right vote

    Unfortunately the majority of the population are small minded half wits, (Ireland has this in common with every other democracy however, as Churchill put it "democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried"). Ahern's party (Fianna Fail) are about as popular as a flatulent pit-bull with swine flu in a lift at the moment and so he resorts to this blatant attempt to shore up FF's core vote. He's also positioning himself for a leadership challenge within FF. This legislation won't pass as FF's coalition partners (Green Party) would never support it.

    Expect it to quietly disappear after European and local elections.

  11. Michael

    Classic distraction method..

    They'd rather do this rather than face any questions about the economy.

    ......oh, and by the way, how's the Redress Board going?

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Obvious problems with this

    The most obvious problem with this is if I was to say "There is no God but Allah and Muhammed is his prophet" in a newsletter and post it to every house in a neighbourhood.

    That would be "grossly abusive and insulting" to matters held sacred by Christians, Mormons etc. It would also probably cause "outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion". I might not "intend" to cause outrage but I would have to know that it was going to happen and since I take no steps to prevent this, I would be responsible for knowlingly causing outrage! A big hefty fine.

    Most religious types believe that their religon is self-evident and that no others are real.

    Let's just pretend that I worship a god. Let's call him Cthulu. Anyone who put any God-bothering nonsense through my front door would quickly end up in court. I would claim that since I worship Great Cthulu and know all other gods to be false, any attempt to persuade me otherwise must be an action which is calculated to cause outrage. I mean it's self evident that Cthulu exists and denial of him is blasphemous.

    Idiots. How can anything like this become law?

    If it was up to me I would change the law to say. "Religon is a private matter. Don't tell anyone else your stupid beliefs unless they ask or they have voluntarily turned up at a religous gathering".

  13. Matthew Ellen

    Government's opinion

    Does this mean that the government consider the various religious group to be stupid and fat people clever enough to figure out how to kill the bullies and get away with it?

    What if you're fat and religious? Do you get caught for ABH, but let off on grounds that your weight means that God cares more about you (more of you to love)?

  14. Steve

    When do we start burning witches again?

    This is ridiculous! What about my rights to express my opinion as an atheist?

    I have come to terms with (but not accepted) that as a white male atheist I am basically bottom of the barrel in all this absurd PC rubbish but I don't expect to be fined for my (non)beliefs.

  15. Dennis
    Thumb Up

    That's what I like to see

    Ireland bang upto date.

    The economy is falling apart and people are losing their jobs left and centre, but never fear there will be no taking our Lords name in vain as we drown in America's debt.

    Nice show.

    Abair ach beagan agus abair gu math e

    Can I have a icon which says that I'm from Ireland and I still don't know what they are going on about.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    So given:

    `It then defines "Blasphemous matter" as "grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion`

    Can we now get rid of all the critics against Star Wars.

    See what I did there, I mean why build weapons when the otherside can build them for you and you can get them to hit themselfs with said weapons.

    All religion to some extent or another contradicts each other to a level were at least one party would feel offended if they were anal about it.

    i'm sick of people dragging others back into the stone ages just because they believed a book that nomater what you say would never stand up in court as proof of any form of God.

    Small detail but its as simple as that, People insult Scientologists but when you look at it then they have in comparrision to other religions been one of the best behaved and when you look at the facts like that, you realy have to ask, why!

    If people want to believe in a god, fine, just respect the fact I reserve the right to believe that there is equaly no god and if you piss on my grass I'll cut ya knob of :).

  17. Sooty

    shot themselves in the foot

    "held sacred by any religion"

    The any bit is the problem, in that most religions are contradictory and the majority of their content is blasphemous to another religion. (I can't imagine that I am the one true God bit in christianity, going down well with poeple who worship other gods)

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns






  19. Manic


    Surely this goes against free speech and/or human rights?

    I respect religions and understand that they place structure to today's world but discriminating a minority who have an opinion is just wrong.

    I guess this had to come from the Irish, who else would be so stupid???

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wouldn't this law mean...

    .. that no-one could worship?

    A christain saying jesus is the son of god could be blasphemous to a jewish person but the jewish person saying he isn't the sun of god is blasphemous to the christian. It could be see as inciting hatred.

    Meanwhile the kid in teh playground who is shorter than everyone else has to fend for himself again the bullies as hes a aethist!

  21. M7S

    "a substantial number of the adherents of that religion"

    Is it that, or perhaps a substantial proportion? Hopefully the latter as then everyone can set up their own one-person church and be offended by anything. Particularly politicians. That would show the law for the ass it seems to be becoming in this instance.

    If its the former then it will be interesting to see at what level a substantial number is set, presumably as a result of case law. It could be seen as rather discriminatory against religions with very small numbers of followers, at present. Should a currently established church fall below that number, it could be very upsetting, although despite current trends I think someone could work the numbers so as not to upset the status quo. (There's a religion in itself. Rock on.)

  22. Michael
    Thumb Down


    It's been said before, but I'll say it again.

    You don't have to right to NOT be offended. If you are going to fine me a silly amount of money for saying something derogatory about your beliefs then I demand it be transfered directly to your chosen deity (and I don't mean its bank account on Earth).

    There seems to be some crazy ideas of what being offended or insulted is worth at the moment. If i'm found caught downloading a song then i could be sued for 4000% of what it's worth and if i say something you don't agree with you're going to fine me 100,000!

    We need to stop making concessions to idiots not giving them more power.

    I'm all for sensible laws that try to prevent voiolent or hateful act against someone based on their beliefs (even if those beliefs are stupid), what the wear, their hair colour. I don't see why those who worship a deity get more protection than someone who wears some eyeliner and has pink hair. The former is the one who needs the least protection. If god's on your side why worry?

  23. Suburban Inmate
    IT Angle

    Lest we forget...

    It seems to me that stupidity is by far the most profitable part of human nature. Or it may be a desire for love and companionship. Or the search for answers to the Big Unanswerable Questions.

    Organised religion is adept at harnessing all three.

  24. Dale

    @Wouldn't this law mean...

    So the short kid in the playground needs to become a Christian, tell the bully about it, and once the bullying because of his new belief starts... instant remediation.

  25. The Jase


    His Noodliness the Flying Spaghetti Monster does not really care if he is blasphemed against, the Irish need to lighten up.

  26. DirkGently

    Defender of the Faith

    Obviously Ahern is taking it literally. Let's face it, their god is so impotent he needs legislation to defend him now. Maybe they need the money to buy their god a new hearing aid, wheel chair and an eternity's supply of incontinent pads.

  27. David Simpson

    Satanist ?

    So as a satanist can i have catholic priests arrested for insulting my god ? (the Devil)

    Being from Ireland myself I find it hilarious how easily government ministers make all those irish jokes completely true.

    Run for the hills, ALOT of people will be in court for a LONG time if this one passes.

    At least on the Register I can still say screw Jesus and all his little minions.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Re : Dale

    Absolutely correct.

    Except if the short kid has ginger hair in which case the shortarsed bastard deserves everything he gets (and he probably started it as well, the little thug.)

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Scientology is NOT a religion. The Law courts have said as much, so I don't know why that was given as an example.

  30. Roger Heathcote

    The devil is in the details...

    A statement's legality depends on your intent so I can say "Anyone who believes in God these days is a baby feltching dog molesting arse pervert" with total impunity because I don't mean to offend anyone by it, really I don't, I consider that a compliment, you may try and prove otherwise.


  31. Ferry Boat

    Look over there....

    Yep, look at that. Wow. No, stop looking at the economy, look over there.

    Welcome to Ireland, local time is 1483.

  32. Suburban Inmate

    And another thing....

    The anti-thinking other-people's-lives-dictating creationist fuckwittery is NOT mainstream Christianity, it just looks that way at the moment because of the noise it's making. (See previous post)

    Now... Imagine the Armed Pursuit of the International Standards Organisation. Put on a .com on the end, and ask: "did darwin kill god". Enjoy 746.79 MB of a Christian chap who *doesn't* have his head up his arse.

  33. Paul
    Jobs Horns


    Surely most religions are blasphemous against most others? :D

    Hearing folks bang on about God is Blasphemy against my braincells.

  34. Sam Liddicott

    What is religion?

    What set of beliefs count as a religion anyway?

    This is all one big distraction to set the democracies against each-other instead of against their despotic anti-democratic Lords and Masters.

    We asked for it though! We wouldn't even let "environmental science" trump democracy, and this is what we get!

    Wretched Lords and Masters, but we're on to you now!

  35. ElFatbob


    I don't think that blasphemy laws achieve anything useful and indeed are counter-productive.

    However, those with mainstream religious views are certainly being marginalised in today's society.

    The comments such as 'naive followers of the great sky-fairy ' and 'Don't tell anyone else your stupid beliefs' typify the pejorative terms used of those with religious views of any flavour.

    It seems that we spend most of our lives these days 'being offended'.

    May just be me, but I seem to have missed the great Utopia brought about by the current post-religious society. Maybe i blinked and missed it.

  36. robbie

    Peace, Love and Plaster

    I feel your hate, brothers. You must know that Ireland has the highest Virgin Mary consumption in the world? With that strongly inculcated national background of chronic idolatry, blasphemy is a terrible danger, especially from the young, and must be fought from the cradle to the grave.

    Benny the Bull, St Peter Gypsum Co., VC, Rome.

  37. Ash


    I'm an athiest and I am insulted by the very IDEA of religion.

    I offend EVERYBODY!

    Guess I'll be sticking away from O'Neills' this evening.

  38. Anonymous Coward

    Would you like to see...

    .. Britannia Rule again, my friend?

    All you have to do is follow the Worms.

    Would you like to send our colored cousins

    Home again, my friend?

    All you have to do is follow the Worms.

    Would you like to see non-right wing Christians

    being jailed, my friend?

    All you need to do is follow the Worms.


    Stop! I want to go home!

    Take off this uniform and leave the planet!

    I'm sitting here on El Reg cause

    I have to know (have to know)

    What the fuck is going on... (going on)


    (Of course, when the politicians get home at night, their fat and psychopathic wives would thrash them within inches of their lives...)

  39. Anonymous Coward


    It's not just for Taliban anymore!

  40. Sillyfellow

    income generating

    this is probably just a way for the irish gvt to make some extra cash..

    they'll have under cover officials staking out every pub, with their fine book at the ready.. ka-ching!$!

  41. Anonymous Coward

    I cannot possibly comment...

    ...That would be an ecumenical matter.


  42. Pyrrho Huxley

    Why stop at "blasphemy"?

    What about the other non-existent crimes which the priests used to use to bolster their power? Heresy, for example. Or witchcraft. We need more non-existent crimes. Now!

  43. Dennis

    Re: Wooo!

    I too am an athiest. And every morning I wake up and thank God I'm an athiest.

  44. Richard Kay

    blasphemy laws discredited long ago

    Considering that the one charge against Jesus at his trial that stuck, (i.e. of blasphemy in declaring Himself to be God), isn't it time to get rid of these laws ? I'm all in favour of freedom of speech and minority rights which mainly originated within Christian societies and scarcely elsewhere, so have no problem with laws against incitement of hatred if sensibly discussed and carefully drafted based upon these objectives. But this central premise of my own Christian faith was blasphemy to those who didn't accept this then as it is to those who don't accept it now.

    Thankfully it is possible to discuss these matters with those of other belief systems respectfully of the views of others, but the idea of blasphemy was discredited when God became man and was crucified for it.

  45. Luther Blissett

    Religions - an IT angle

    > [Sooty] most religions are contradictory and the majority of their content is blasphemous to another religion.

    That seems a common view. In fact religions are more like software systems. There can be a lot of backward compatibility, if designed sensibly (lol). Blasphemy happens when you try to load current data into an old version of a program. Notice: it is *always* someone else's data and your old program, not the other way around. Note also that hacking up something composed of the best bits of your 6 favourite apps is not itself an application in any meaningful sense.

    Intelligent design, anyone?

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    He's a very naughty boy....

    Would that now be illegal to view "Life of Brian? or even discuss it openly, to be sure?

    Given the massive popularity of that film, you could reasonably guarantee to upset a "substantial number" of anything.

  47. Anonymous Coward

    Stupid government

    This comes from the same Government that outlawed all mobile communications devices only to realise that emergency services could no longer operate their radios and had to change the law.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I usually stay out of religeous arguments but:

    The article said:

    'It then defines "Blasphemous matter" as "grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion'

    "Grossly" would be the key word here so:

    I could criticise Star Wars

    I could follow another relegion

    I could utter the Muslim call to prayer

    I could state that I don't believe in God

    I could state that I don't believe in Xenu (subject to it becoming a religeon)

    To convince a court that a insult was "grossly insulting" would likely be extremely difficult, so please make comments a bit more intelligent than 'but I'm a Pastafarian' etc.

    That said, I have yet to be convinced that laws against blasphemy are a good idea.

  49. Tanuki
    Jobs Horns

    A matter of faith.

    At las.! A means by which us true believers and followers of vi can at last get our own back against the heretical bunch of latter-day cultist Emacs-users!

    [Mac-users beware as well: your apostasy and worshipping of false-idols puts you next in the crosshairs of the Windows Inquisition.]

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As a free speaking Irish man..

    I plan on questioning gods existance in public and insisting I be charged under this ill concieved law. I then plan on forcing the government to prove gods existance or to explain why it is not blasphemous to bcall into question the existance of unicorns or elfs.. after all there are plenty of D&D players who have been caught praying to them at some point or other..

    Or maybe I will insist they arrest the priest on sunday for offending many other religions..

    Seriously.. how dumb do you need to be to come up with these silly laws.. we have a big enough public finance crisis with out having to pay out to prosecute and then compensate perfectly sound minded and scienticically informed people. I would never tell some one not to believe in god or to talk about their belief and I expect the same treatment in return.

  51. John Ozimek


    Thanks ac for asking why scientology is brought in to this piece. The short answer can be found here:

    That is a relatively authoritative report that suggests that the CPS have decreed that scientology SHALL be treated as a religion.

    Also interested - perhaps because it just got a para ast the end - why no-one much has picked up on the Equality Bill. Loads of scope there for special pleading and special group rights relative to everyone else.

  52. Paul Anderson


    They have clearly never heard of the Church of Raymond:

  53. Anonymous Coward

    What if....

    what if I have an affair with a girl...get her to dress as a nun..have some s&m and giver her some verbal abuse?????

  54. ThinkingOutLoud
    Paris Hilton

    Cautious agnostic here

    I agree with @Lest we forget 13:07 on the grip religion has on the faithful masses.

    What if there is something to us as we are to an ant? We consider ourselves as Higher Beings but ants may well share the same opinion from their perspective. We occupy the last few seconds of our universe's existence and I expect we'll be out before the next minute or two is over.

    See you all on the other side if there is one!

    Paris because this thread is about as far from her mind as we can imagine.

  55. Dimitri
    Thumb Down

    Jesus Christ what a stupid idea

    Good God, For Christ's sake I can't believe what a stupid law this would be.. oops looks like I already broke it.

  56. Mathew White

    Other Way

    The big question is are they going to class atheism as a religious belief?

    I'd love to bring a blasphemy charge against a priest for telling me I'm going to burn for all eternity.

    Rot - yes; Burn - no (well maybe for a few minutes depending on your funeral package).

  57. Nagy, Balázs András
    IT Angle

    Hey guys

    Let's begin a religion that holds the following doctrine:

    1. Anything that any other religion finds blaspheming is OK.

    2. Everything else is grossly blaspheming for us.

  58. Dylan Fahey

    I often wake-up to a beautiful world...

    And then, I read crapola like this. I used to Irish and Catholic, I'm distancing myself as much as possible now. I know you can get a name change, but how do I 'un-gene' myself, so no one knows that I'm Irish?

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Burning Witches

    Witchcraft is a protected religion, you can't burn them, or even joke about it. Where are your papers, citizen?

  60. Toastan Buttar
    Thumb Down


    ...the one true victimless crime.

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I wonder what a "substantial number" of adherents is? Is it defined as a fraction of the total followers or an absolute number? I hope it's the latter so we'll all be free to make fun of really unpopular religions.

  62. Anonymous Coward

    Irish after the limelight.

    With the UK constantly inventing laws that prevent freedom of speech, I guess the Irish are a little jealous?

  63. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let The Games Begin

    Children, let me tell you about the time your Uncle Sam tried something similar. This was in the six or seventh decade of the last century when the US postal service was a federal agency, not the quasi-public one it is today.

    Mailing soft porn magazine from places like Intercourse, PA gravely offended the sensibilities of god-fearing folks. Thus it became illegal to mail pornographic material - and carried a mandatory minimum fine and other penalties.

    Well, it didn't take long before satan fought back. Seems that anyone could claim material was pornographic. And they did.

    Thought your credit card interest rate was obscene? File an obscenity complaint!

    Didn't like that dirty D grade mailed from your school? Sic the feds on the nasty school district. After all, there was no minimum age for filing complaints and no operational definition of porn. Anyway, sending porn to minors is particularly naughty.

    Angry about junk phone calls or junk mail? Have them mail details and then cite them for sending obscene material. Sure beats "opt out" requests that were routinely ignored. Remember, this was before the Do Not Call registry or the "Opt Out" registry were available.

    And like any good bureaucracy, all claims were treated uniformly regardless of circumstances. So the mailed photo spread on "Grannies And Their Randy Goats" received the same treatment as unsolicited junk mail promoting pet products.

    "Don't Get Mad, Get Even" became the national mantra. Unfortunately, the party ended when language was added to make the definition of pornography less subjective.

    So boys and girls, embrace all the wonderful opportunities that blasphemy affords you.

  64. jake Silver badge


    "A means by which us true believers and followers of vi can at last get our own back against the heretical bunch of latter-day cultist Emacs-users!"

    Uh, Tanuki, I think you'll find vi & EMACS[1] were both born in the same year, that year being 1976. I remember swearing at Bill Joy in person over vi, and at rms via email over EMACS.

    That said, in the long-haul, I chose vi for general text editing. It just makes sense. I almost never use EMACS ... It's an interesting kludge, I know it well, and use it when appropriate, but appropriate times almost never occur.

    This reply is being typed in vi on an IBM 3151 terminal & a model M keyboard plugged into a serial port on my lap-top's docking station which provides a Slackware login prompt :-)

    [1] Eight Megs And Constantly Swapping![2]

    [2] c. 1985(??)

  65. Lukin Brewer

    The original point of having blasphemy laws...

    ...was so that once the religious authorities had decided that someone had been blasphemous, they had the option to hand them over to the civil authorities for punishment.

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This news is a relief to

    The followers of the Church Of The Third Coming of The Seventh Repentist Episcopal Lesbian Celery, whose devout followers flagellate themselves with sharpened parsnips and carrots after bathing for hours in warm vegetable soup.

  67. Barry
    Paris Hilton

    Careful now! Down with this sort of thing.

    Only Jeebus can save us now.

    Or, possibly Father Jack Hackett.

    Paris, 'cause she's called out His name plenty of times of an evening, and probably thinks that the smock+sandle look is 'hot'.

  68. Toastan Buttar

    Re: Church of Raymond

    Absolutely marvelous ! Thanks for that, Paul.

  69. Suburban Inmate
    Thumb Up

    RE: Cautious agnostic - 8th 17:21 GMT

    My view exactly!

    As any true scientist (even Dawkins!) admits, with no evidence either way, we just don't know. Nobody can *know* WTF is beyond what science has so far discovered, so nobody has the right to use whatever beliefs they may or may not have about that mystery to dictate to others. I was careful to use the term "organised religion" as opposed to "belief in a supreme being". Gods are man made both as individual characters and as a concept. To me the "god(s) or nothing" debate makes about as much sense as political left/right bickering.

    What Lies Beyond is simply one of our eternal unanswerable questions. 'Tis a three spliff puzzle, nothing more.

  70. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward



  71. skeptical i
    Thumb Down

    Such obvious pandering to the lowest common denominator ...

    ... should be met with a robust flogging at the next election. If this ill-conceived idea becomes law, we will see Pastor Bigot and Reverend Homophobe spew their bile with renewed vigor, knowing they can play the "blasphemy" card against anyone who calls them on their hate -- this is progress?

  72. storng.bare.durid

    It's all a conspiracy ya know

    We all know Ireland's broke - this is a guaranteed way to fill the coffers. It'd get anyone above the age of 3. Repeatedly no less

  73. Mithvetr

    Complex and difficult

    Ooh, an El Reg article on religion. The joy. I do love some good IT news.

    Maybe I'd better start by declaring my interests: Yes, I'm religious. No, I'm not Christian, and I'm not Muslim. In fact, no, I'm not a monotheist. Yes, I love the sciences and absolutely respect the scientific method as a way to answer those questions that science can answer. Yes, I believe that there are limits to science, and that there are some questions that science can't and doesn't attempt to address. No, I don't want you to believe as I do. Yes, I'm happy to tell you about my beliefs IF you ask me. No, I really don't care whether you believe as I do. No, I don't want laws protecting my beliefs from your scorn, and no, I don't want schools to teach your kids my religion - although I believe that teaching them about religion in general is crucial if they're to understand the world.

    Okay, so.

    Putting aside the rather sneery tone of the article (which isn't unusual for the Reg when dealing with the primitive superstitions of us religious idiots) the problem is straightforward enough: the Irish Constitution makes reference to punishments for blasphemy but doesn't actually back that up with any laws defining blasphemy or setting out the punishments for it.

    The suggestion - and if I understand it correctly this is as yet merely a suggestion - is to draft a law that would resolve that inconsistency by defining an offence of blasphemy.

    This means making reference to religion in law: something that is automatically deeply offensive to some atheists. But let's stop and think about it. I noticed one telling little phrase in the article:

    "It may appear strange that the Irish are looking to introduce such a law at the very moment that other governments – in particular the UK government – are doing away with specific provisions on blasphemy".

    Firstly, it's worth highlighting that part about 'other governments' which are ditching blasphemy rules. Obviously that's not supportive of the anti-religious picture of religion creeping into legislation and exerting more and more control over what we can say and do. But why should this be suggested in Ireland particularly? Well, considering the history of Ireland, I don't think it's unreasonable to say that religion has been something of a tinderbox issue there, just as it has in the UK. Perhaps with that in mind the idea of a universal law preventing *deliberate religious provocation* (which is what the proposed law would be, as I read it) doesn't seem quite so ridiculous.

    Such a law is going to be complex and difficult to perfect, because European principles demand that all religious views (including those who reject religion) have to be given equal attention. Nevertheless there are some in every category - atheists included - who're so convinced of the superiority of their position that the idea of *not* slagging off the others seems quite distasteful. Some people build their whole outlook on this issue based not on their own beliefs (or absence thereof), but on their views of other people's. Take for example the poor, weary Flying Spaghetti Monster. The FSM's original intended use was highlighting the inconsistency in Creationist demands that their religious views should be given equal weight in science classes. However, the Noodly One has now become a staple tool of the anti-religious campaigner. He's no longer a way to illustrate the logical inconsistency of an argument. He's now a clumsy 'reductio ad absurdum' argument against religion in general.

    At the moment there are no blasphemy laws to speak of. The existing UK laws about inciting religious hatred deal with just that: they don't ban you from telling me I'm a fking idiot because I'm religious - but they *do* ban you from exhorting a mob of angry anti-religionists to go round to my house and set fire to it. Similarly, I couldn't stand in the street and demand that people start burning atheists in wicker men. But is that an *oppressive* law? An unreasonable one? Of course not: it doesn't prevent me from doing anything I would expect a civilised person to want to do. It doesn't prohibit religious debate or debate about religion; it doesn't stop me from telling other people about my faith (even if I were inclined to do so), and it doesn't give me recourse to law just because the Jehovah's Witnesses turn up at my door and tell me I'm wrong in my beliefs. It doesn't even prohibit criticism of religion in general. Instead it seeks to prevent what often happens when people don't have the wit to discuss or debate something like sensible adults, and instead react based on unrestrained emotion - something the British have become ironically good at.

    The article does make a good point at the end, though:

    "A person bullied for their intense belief in Scientology, then, will receive strengthened protection under this law - someone bullied because they are obese, dress like a Goth, or for no apparent reason will have to stick up for themselves."

    This is certainly an inconsistency. But how do we get round it? There are two routes: the first is to generalise legal protections so that they cover bullying on any grounds whatsoever. The second is to remove all laws dealing with any such offence and let people deal with it on their own. Given the number of people who derive pleasure from witnessing or causing the suffering of others, it's difficult to argue that we're a mature enough society to take the second route. But then, the first option either requires bullying to be defined at epic length in order to include all possible forms of and bases for it, or it requires a truly nebulous definition such as "anything that causes offence" - in which case we could make every citizen a police officer and there still wouldn't be enough to handle the workload.

    The only other alternative is to have different laws for different sorts of bullying in different areas of life, and define them so that they are specific or general depending on what they're seeking to deal with. A law prohibiting incitment to religious hatred (call it 'blasphemy' if you like, for all the inherent meaning the word actually has) would seem to serve that purpose.

  74. Cortland Richmond

    Ire in Eire

    Moslems pray to Allah "la sharikka lak" -- you have no partner -- just as as Jews pray "Adonai Echod" -- God is One -- firmly denying that Trinity son of God Christians revere and they renounce. We have now established that all faiths commit offensive blasphemy daily. We might add Protestant renunciation of the reverence given saints.

    There'll be ire in Eire.

  75. Anonymous Coward

    Ireland's burning witches now?

    Hmmm. I got twenty bucks on me. I'll pass the hat 'round at the office tomorrow -- we should be able to get Nancy Pelosi a first class ticket by half-past eight tomorrow.

  76. Anonymous Coward

    UK laws no better

    The UK laws are no different, say anything about Islam and you go to jail or they dont let you in the country. Free speech no longer exists, we are just here to pay our taxes to give to our Labour loving friends.

  77. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Religion is a mental disorder and anyone beliving in noncorpoal beings should be forced into treatment. Religion is a deciese and should be treated as such.

  78. Stephen Lacy

    My 2 cent

    You have to intend to offend in order to break the law. So having another religion could not be proven to be blasphemy.

    This is most likely to protect against a denmark (mohammed cartoons) situation especially given that no one wants to piss off iran now that Obama has openned communication than to protect Christianity.

    Criminal and libel law are still important in a recession so bringing up the ecomony is pointless.

    This law probably won't get through anyway because its likely to be unpopular, unconstitutional and ridiculously difficult to enforce.

    Personally I think this law is a bad idea politically, if it could possibly be put in place it wouldn't do any harm but all it will serve to do is make the nation, the government and the politician responsible look ridiculous.

  79. Wayland Sothcott

    seditious comments

    Seditious accusations are both true and hurtful. Calling a politition a thef for fraudulently stealing thousands of pounds is seditious. It's not the same as other libel in that seditious stuff is true.

    Would that be making this illegal?

  80. Anonymous Scotsman

    excerpt from the Catechism of the Autoculus of Mars...

    Toll the Great Bell Once!

    Pull the Lever forward to engage the

    Piston and Pump...

    Toll the Great Bell Twice!

    With push of Button fire the Engine

    And spark Turbine into life...

    Toll the Great Bell Thrice!

    Sing Praise to the

    God of All Machines

    Puts the acceptable use policy back into perspective <.<

  81. Britt Johnston

    four stars

    **** for this attempt.

    I'm all for self-control, except for pr0n, ****- ****, ****** , ...

  82. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Jesus Christ.

    If Jesus Christ is thinking about coming again, he'd do well to avoid Ireland this time.

  83. Anonymous Coward

    I love this!

    Maybe I should move to Ireland. Or USA should adopt this law as well.

    I mean really if holocaust deniers have a law that in some countries to say it is a crime to say there was no holocaust then this should equally appliad as so no neocon can take the Lords name in vain.

    I have seen way to many youtube videos where jewish people commit blasphemy.

    If they feeel attacked then they should know we feel attacked as well.

    What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

  84. Mithvetr

    @ "Pfft" (AC 06:16)

    << Religion is a mental disorder and anyone beliving in noncorpoal beings should be forced into treatment. Religion is a deciese and should be treated as such. >>


    Now there's a well-worn bit of wishful polemic. Show me the definition in DSM, if you please?

  85. Eddie Edwards

    @ Norman

    "If Jesus Christ is thinking about coming again, he'd do well to avoid Ireland this time."

    Did he get a bit on Ireland last time?

  86. philbo

    So let me get this straight...

    There's this all-knowing, all-powerful God who knows what we're thinking and has the almighty puissance to snuff out any or all of us or drown the entire world with a snap of his celestial fingers...

    ..yet for some reason needs protection from people saying nasty things about him. The poor wee soul.

    Why isn't there a "bashes head on wall" icon?

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