Thursday, July 30, 2009

Stamping Out Blasphemy in Ireland

Two editorials about the new Irish blasphemy law were published yesterday in the Danish press, and our Danish correspondent TB has kindly translated both of them for Gates of Vienna.

The first is from 180grader:

Irish Blasphemy

Ireland has just adopted a new blasphemy law intended to prevent the Irish from offending the sentiments of religious people in writing and in speech. From now on it can cost you up to 190,000 kroner (approximately $35,000 to $40,000) if you insult or criticise the religions of the world. And that’s not all: The Irish police are now legally allowed to break into people’s homes and confiscate books which contain blasphemous elements.

It really does sound like a law from the Dark Ages, not from 2009. The fact that a Western democracy is using an idea as insane as this to tighten the country’s blasphemy laws is enough to make one dizzy. Unfortunately, that is what reality looks like in Ireland. So, just for the sake of argument, let’s summarize why this law must never be allowed to spread to the rest of the Western democracies.

If one adopts a law which punishes blasphemy, then it is of course a restriction on freedom of speech. And as we have all learned in recent years, freedom of speech is not worth much if it cannot be used to say the things that people do not want to hear. For example, one cannot undertake critical research if there is no freedom to collect information and question established perceptions. Also there will be no just trials if one is not allowed to speak up freely in a court of law. And there will be no democratic debate if people cannot argue, discuss, and challenge one another. Important core elements of enlightened democracy are being undermined by a tough blasphemy law. That is a very high price to pay for protecting peoples religious feelings.

Apart from that, one can ask whether or not it really is that bad to express one self “blasphemously”. After all, is there anything really wrong in encouraging intense resistance against a religion if that religion so irrational, freedom-depriving, and dangerous that it deserves to be met with intense resistance? None mentioned, none forgotten.

Finally, it is worth noting that blasphemy is a constant source of fun for all of us who think that it is reason that one should respect, and not random religious idiosyncrasies. The world would simply be a much poorer place without blasphemous comics and blasphemous animated cartoons.

The second editorial is from Jyllands-Posten:
- - - - - - - - -
Irish Self-Censorship

Without any notice, leading Irish politicians have removed the freedom which the Irish people have achieved through centuries of strife and suffering. With a single stroke the president of Ireland, Mary McAleese, has removed a large portion of freedom of speech and introduced de facto self-censorship. The president’s signature on the blasphemy law means that it is no longer legal to mock, deride, and ridicule religion. The fact the Irish minister of justice, and thereby the government, have more or less let themselves be caught in a technical legal trap does not make the blunder smaller.


Of course this is not sustainable, and one has to wonder why this new law is not tested at the Supreme Court as suggested by the more thoughtful part of the Irish population. But then again, it might not be so strange that the president does not use this obvious opportunity. A few years ago she criticised the publication of the Mohammed Cartoons on completely mistaken premises.

Ireland will experience almost nothing but problems with this new blasphemy law, since it does not relate to consequences. It is only about punishing words — that is, freedom of speech — if someone perceives what is being said or written as an insult or as grossly offensive to an ill-defined group of people who happen to have a religion in common.

On that point the new blasphemy law in looks like a rubber paragraph which can be extremely difficult for the courts to uphold. According to Irish observers, the law actually encourages people to feel offended. And since some groups have a certain talent for cultivating the role of victimization, the criminalization of freedom of speech can end up in juridical nonsense.

But while the blasphemy law it self is a rubber paragraph then the punishment is real enough: A fine of up to 190,000 kroner (approximately $35,000 to $40,000).

One could of course pretend that the new Irish blasphemy law is an internal Irish matter. But in the long run, this view does not hold. Ireland is a member of the EU, and has until now been considered a part of Western civilization, which is built on democracy.

Unconditional freedom of speech is a cornerstone of democracy, and if you remove it completely or partially, you undermine democracy. Put in another way, Ireland is on a dangerous slippery slope. Without freedom of speech there is no democracy.

Irish society is very influenced by Catholicism, but it is hardly because of, or out of consideration for the Catholic Church, that they have now implemented the criminalization of criticism of religion. If that were the case, it would have happened long time ago.

On the whole, Christian religions are not as sensitive anymore, and they have found their role in democratic societies. In fact, Christian religions thrive in democracies.

But Ireland is not the first country tinkering with freedom of speech. No matter how hard it is to understand this defeatist position towards one’s own values, freedom of speech has been subjected to pressure in a number of democracies in our Western civilization.

Great Britain almost adopted a law similar to the one now being implemented in Ireland, but thanks to the brave efforts of the British actor and comedian Rowan Atkinson, among others, British democracy and the British people are off the hook.

Had Atkinson’s Irish colleague Dave Allen been alive he would have most definitely protested against this violation of freedom of speech. As a punishment, the lawmakers, with the president in the lead, should be confined and forced to watch every single one of Dave Allen’s shows, which were built on mocking, deriding, and ridiculing religion more than anything else.

The rest of us would just like to enjoy intelligent humour at its best.

18 comments:

Homophobic Horse said...

A vague law is the worst because it encourages people to zealously self-censor.

Avery Bullard said...

A vague law is the worst because it encourages people to zealously self-censor.

Not only that but it provides an incentive to be offended.

Fritigern said...

I belief that Adolf Hitler was sent by God to unite the Aryan races and that Mein Kampf was divinely inspired. Presumably no one in the Irish Free State is now allowed to deride or mock these beliefs.

Shieldline said...

I don't understand where it came from. There was no strong lobby for it and it got very little press. I suspect the EUs fingerprints are on this. The Irish Government party Fianna Fail are EU puppets. The EU says jump, they say how high.

James Higham said...

If it's like that now, imagine what it will be like after the EU takes over on October 10th.

mace said...

Presumably this piece of legislative lunacy was instigated by "you know who".Surely laws like this can be used against Islamisation,as well as by Moslems.It's easy, we kufars should protest loudly every time some mad mullah criticises us and drag him into court,because we're deeply offended.

Sean O'Brian said...

mace,

Surely laws like this can be used against Islamisation,as well as by Moslems.

In theory yes, but according to what I've read about this law so far the 'crime' of blasphemy will be determined by the level of public outrage. This virtually guarantees that the only people who will benefit from it are Muslims who reside within Ireland.

This opinion piece in Spiked magazine gets its correct:

"The reintroduction of blasphemy as an offence isn’t evidence of Ireland backsliding into traditional religious superstition – in fact, it shows just how up-to-date Ireland is when it comes to contemporary conceits."

[...]

"In fact, the new law is a very modern phenomenon. Rather than harking back to the days of God-fearing, or at least priest-fearing, Ireland, the blasphemy law has more in common with contemporary politically correct measures of social control."

mace said...

Sean O'Brian,

Thanks for the info, grim news indeed, I was rather naive and assumed there would be an objective legal test.Apparently it's just another of those 'anti- discrimantion' laws,that infest the Western world,we have similar daft legislation in my home state in Australia also. I hope the non-Moslem public is not as apathetic as you suggest. The pernicious propanganda ploy of equating criticism of religion with racism has been very effective.

Robin Shadowes said...

After this it is probably the next step for the irish to vote yes to the Lisbon-treaty. After that we're cooked.

christian soldier said...

RE; your post --"Hellish.." 7-29-09
Do you know the name of the artist whose work you used of horse and rider executing a nearly perfect piaffe?…
Thank you---
Carol-Christian Soldier….

Baron Bodissey said...

Carol --

Unfortunately, I can't answer your question. I found this image at a Life Magazine archive, and the artist's name is not given. It appears to be a late Victorian engraving, and is not signed. It's probably based on a painting.

Watching Eagle said...

Well, well, to all of you who had thought that the Leftists aren't a problem, and we just have to deal with the Muslims, I ask, "Do you think that this was supposed to happen?"


Leftists have passed a Blasphemy law with HEAVY FINES and police break-ins, all to further "diversity" and 'struggle' against "Western Hegemony".


When this kind of stuff happens, you know is behind it. The Left has got to keep the Leaders of "community resilence"[the UK government actually uses this term to label people like Qatada, Hamza, and Choudary] happy in order for the Left to maintain their power (which has become an end in itself).

Now, I realize that a $35 K fine is NOT a beheading, but it is not bad for a start.

The Left needs to be driven from power fast, or we are toast.

christian soldier said...

Thank you for the Life Magazine link...
C-CS

DP111 said...

More worrying is this

Summary

This consultation document seeks your views to inform the UK Government’s further consideration of a proposed European Commission (EC) Directive to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, disability, age and sexual orientation outside the areas of employment and vocational training.

The UK Government wishes to consult in particular on the impact of the draft Directive in those areas where its proposals are, or might be, at variance with the current and proposed law, and on the impact of the proposals on individuals, business and others.

UK Consultation on the European Commission Proposal for an Equal Treatment Directive

DP111 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DP111 said...

Christian Concern for Our Nation (CCFON) response to the above consultation document is below

LINK

The response illustrates far better the reality of what is couched in the legalise of the EC consultative document.

VH said...

@ James Highham: Unfortunately, there is already a similar blasphemy law on its way in the EU. It is a "Protocol" (extention) to the Cybercrime Treaty. The Protocol provides for "the possibility to limit the criminal offense to behavior aimed at a group of people or a member thereof on the basis of race or religion." This is/will become the EU blasphemy law and for the moment is still primarily aimed at "violations" on the internet. And with internet, the EU also means everything that is connected to a computer.

The Dutch ministers of Justice and Foreign Affairs (both Christian Democrats) earlier this year stated in an introduction to the Protocol: "Racism and xenophobia deserve great disapproval. […] Those who are guilty of racism and xenophobia, step on people's soul [sic]. They discriminate, stir up hatred, and seriously disrupt society and thereby create conditions for radicalization and ultimately terrorism." That is the latest: after "the society causes crime" of the 70's, we now have "the offender of terrorists causes terrorism"…

Anyway, what makes this Protocol even the more dangerous is that a "suspect" who is a citizen of country "A" can be persecuted:
• In country "A" for violations in country "B" when its is considered an offense in country "A", but not in country "B";
• In country "B" when its is considered an offense in country "B" and be extradited for this reason by country "A" to "B", even if there is no extradition treaty between those two countries.
• In country "A" when the violation took place outside the territorial jurisdiction of a state (on a Cruiser at sea, oil platform or in the Space Shuttle for instance).

It is a additional Protocol to the Convention on combating crimes connected with electronic networks, on the criminalization of acts of racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems [Strasbourg, January 28, 2003]. (The "Convention" has also been ratified by the USA, but with the restriction that it does not violate the Constitution)
There has been an article on this Protocol in the Dutch language here

And this all is not meant to be passive (waiting for a complaint), but also active: in the Netherlands the VVD (centre-right), supported by the CDA (Christian Democrats) and PvdA (Socialists) requested to investigate the possibility to ajust the law to be able to research computers of "suspects" by placing trojans in them (yes indeed: the Dutch elite goes hacking).

VH said...

@ James Higham: Sorry for the typo in your name.