Friday, July 10, 2009

Ireland goes medieval

Last year, the UK abolished the archaic offence of blasphemous libel, and New Zealand will almost certainly follow suit if anybody has the courage to actually bring a bill on it. Meanwhile, Ireland is moving in the opposite direction, with the Dail passing a new defamation bill which included the following:

36. Publication or utterance of blasphemous matter.

(1) A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €100,000. [This has now been amended to €25,000 - I/S]

(2) For the purposes of this section, a person publishes or utters blasphemous matter if (a) he or she publishes or utters matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion, and (b) he or she intends, by the publication or utterance of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.

(3) It shall be a defence to proceedings for an offence under this section for the defendant to prove that a reasonable person would find genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value in the matter to which the offence relates

So, in Ireland, the easily outraged religious now get a veto on free speech. Say that "god doesn't exist", make a great TV comedy mocking the Catholic church, tell those people worshipping the latest slightly Virgin Mary-shaped object that they're credulous fools, and get a whopping fine. Because their right not to be offended apparently outweighs your right to express the blatantly obvious.

This is a medieval law. And by passing it, the Dail have marked Ireland as a medieval country, on a par with Afghanistan, Iran and similar backwards places.