About Me

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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ireland to hold referendum on blasphemy law ... probably

H/T PZ Myers. Ireland will probably be holding a referendum in October to remove from its constitution the requirement for a law prohibiting blasphemy.

If all goes well, this could be a major victory for freedom of speech. Meanwhile, since this is only "probably" going to happen, do anything you can to keep up the pressure, if only by blogging about it and passing on the message.

According to the Sunday Times (as quoted by Atheist Ireland):

A final decision on a blasphemy referendum rests with the cabinet, but if [Dermot] Ahern remains justice minister after this month’s reshuffle, he is likely to propose that it be added to the autumn list. The government is already committed to referendums on children’s rights and establishing a permanent court of civil appeal.

I'm not especially interested in whether Ahern was planning something like this all along; whether he's acted in good faith; whether or not, in some Machiavellian way, he's a friend of free speech after all; or whatever. The Irish can worry about that - he's their politician to vote against at the next election if that is justified. They'd know much better than me.

What matters most, I suggest, is that this medieval law be removed from the criminal code of what is supposed to be a modern Western democracy. Strategically, as we struggle to attain or regain freedom of speech, including the freedom to criticise or satirise religion, this doesn't only affect Ireland. Ireland's blasphemy legislation provides a terrible precedent for all of us, one for enemies of free speech to gloat about, and to cite in other countries and in UN debates. It has to go.


Kristjan said...

Having been in Ireland a few times, I'd say that there would be a good chance of the blasphemy law passing an referendum. The Irish are quite religious - much more so than most other Europeans.

Rory_ said...

Unfortunately we still have Victoria's religious vilification laws, which aren't much better...I guess we can take solace in the fact that Australians tend to care less about religion than the Irish, so aren't as inclined to follow up on the laws.