Atheist Ireland is campaigning for the repeal of the Irish blasphemy law. For up-to-date details of this campaign, see our campaign website at http://blasphemy.ie/. Here is a quick overview of the blasphemy law and its impact on society.
The Defamation Act 2009 makes blasphemy a crime punishable by a €25,000 fine, after the Minister for Justice signs the commencement order in mid-October. Blasphemy 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” with safeguards to make it harder to prosecute.
Regardless of the detail, it is wrong in principle for a modern democratic republic to have any type of blasphemy law. Theological thought-crimes belong in the past. Religious and nonreligious people alike should be protected from harm and incitement to harm, but religious and nonreligious ideas alike should be open to any criticism. That is how human knowledge progresses. Blasphemy laws discriminate against nonreligious citizens, by protecting the fundamental beliefs of religious citizens only.
This law also has serious international impacts. Irish citizens could face blasphemy charges elsewhere under the European Arrest Warrant. Also, Islamic States are lobbying at the UN to make defamation of religion a crime internationally. Ireland has voted along with the other EU States against this, because Islamic States can use blasphemy laws to justify religious persecution. These Islamic States can now point to a modern pluralist Western State passing a new blasphemy law in the 21st century.