Crime of blasphemous libel proposed for Defamation Bill

Discuss church-state separation issues that are relevant in Ireland.
washington
Atheist Ireland Member
Atheist Ireland Member
Posts: 77
Joined: Fri Mar 21, 2008 5:39 pm

Re: Crime of blasphemous libel proposed for Defamation Bill

Post by washington » Thu Apr 30, 2009 1:24 pm

Here is a question for the minister Dermot Ahern:
If the proposed bill is passed into law will the State be taking a case against the rev. Dr. Ian Paisley, past moderator of the Free Presbyterian church, for calling the Pope and all previous Popes 'The Anti-Christ'?
I imagine a 'substantial number' of Roman Catholics were and are 'outraged' by that 'intended' offense. So what's the story Dermot...will you be charging the Doc? :D
Ahern has shot himself in the foot here. Atheist Ireland could not have been handed a better issue on which to launch itself...the defense of secularism and free speech!...Thank you Dermot/FF . Let's get cracking!
Neil
Posts: 97
Joined: Sat Feb 23, 2008 2:27 am
Location: Dublin

Re: Crime of blasphemous libel proposed for Defamation Bill

Post by Neil » Thu Apr 30, 2009 2:27 pm

I'm still in shock. This is completely ludicrous...

I definitely agree that it's the perfect issue to launch AI on.
"The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they've found it."
- Terry Pratchett
lostexpectation
Posts: 1993
Joined: Wed Feb 07, 2007 11:28 pm

Re: Crime of blasphemous libel proposed for Defamation Bill

Post by lostexpectation » Thu Apr 30, 2009 3:54 pm

we must campaign for group of secular amendments, to be proposed at referendum off the back this, re the judges declarations etc.

some say it'll never be prosecuted, but the threat would be there, that s enough to chill free speech, they might never win in court, but you can't argue that with gardai kicking down your door.

note ahern is congratulating himself for removing the jail term.

“The Minister has been told by the Attorney General that he has to have a law in relation to blasphemous libel, so he is amending the existing law to remove the jail term," he said. "The alternative in not having the law is for the country to hold a referendum removing that article from the Constitution.”

it is disappointing but i actually havn't seen many other people suggesting a referendum...

the argument is cost, but hey if you need a referendum you need referendum, cost isn't an issue.( although ere going out of way to avoid the children rights one) but that what this constitutional committee is for it will propose a tidying group of referendums soon enough.
test
adamd164
Atheist Ireland Member
Atheist Ireland Member
Posts: 1004
Joined: Sun Oct 29, 2006 11:58 am
Location: Cork
Contact:

Re: Crime of blasphemous libel proposed for Defamation Bill

Post by adamd164 » Thu Apr 30, 2009 4:25 pm

I did mention the need for a referendum in the email I sent.

So far I've only got a reply from Brendan Howlin, who said he's no longer on the committee but would pass on the message.
BillyCan
Posts: 11
Joined: Sun Apr 22, 2007 2:28 pm

Re: Crime of blasphemous libel proposed for Defamation Bill

Post by BillyCan » Thu Apr 30, 2009 5:23 pm

I just got this from Pat Rabbitte's office...

"Thank you for communication concerning the government decision to include a section on blasphemous libel in the Defamation Bill. The Bill is at Committee stage and the proposed new section has not yet been reached.

The Labour Party is opposed to the inclusion of such a section. We support the proposal from the Constitutional Review Group to remove the reference in the constitution by way of referendum.

Tactically we have taken a "belt and braces" approach i.e. if the Minister refuses to excise the reference in the Bill our amendment will seek to constrain the government's proposal. According to this morning's newspapers, the Minister intends to press ahead.

Sincerely"
lostexpectation
Posts: 1993
Joined: Wed Feb 07, 2007 11:28 pm

Re: Crime of blasphemous libel proposed for Defamation Bill

Post by lostexpectation » Thu Apr 30, 2009 5:47 pm

BillyCan wrote:I just got this from Pat Rabbitte's office...

"Thank you for communication concerning the government decision to include a section on blasphemous libel in the Defamation Bill. The Bill is at Committee stage and the proposed new section has not yet been reached.

The Labour Party is opposed to the inclusion of such a section. We support the proposal from the Constitutional Review Group to remove the reference in the constitution by way of referendum.

Tactically we have taken a "belt and braces" approach i.e. if the Minister refuses to excise the reference in the Bill our amendment will seek to constrain the government's proposal. According to this morning's newspapers, the Minister intends to press ahead.

Sincerely"
i hanv't heard rabbitte demand a referendum

mamampoulet has done some digging on ahern conservative attitudes before they were polished and sanitised.
http://www.mamanpoulet.com/dermot-ahern ... -families/
test
forkevinsake
Posts: 3
Joined: Wed Oct 22, 2008 7:34 pm

Re: Crime of blasphemous libel proposed for Defamation Bill

Post by forkevinsake » Thu Apr 30, 2009 10:49 pm

Don't our TD have enough real crises on their hand swithout wasting time on this rubbish? If blaspmemy is that bad let god punish the offender, ha ha.
ctr
Atheist Ireland Member
Atheist Ireland Member
Posts: 929
Joined: Sun Jun 24, 2007 12:23 am

Re: Crime of blasphemous libel proposed for Defamation Bill

Post by ctr » Fri May 01, 2009 2:18 am

In todays Irish Times

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opi ... l?digest=1
OPINION: Successive governments have been advised to reform the law on blasphemy; the only alternative to legislation would be a referendum, writes DERMOT AHERN .

THE 1961 Defamation Act provides that a person can be both fined and imprisoned for a maximum of seven years for the crime of blasphemous libel. The Government is moving to reform that Act, while respecting our Constitution, which requires that blasphemy must be punishable by law.

My intention is to remove the possibility of prison sentences and private prosecutions for blasphemy, currently provided for in Irish law. The only credible alternative to this move is a blasphemy referendum which I consider, in the current circumstances, a costly and unwarranted diversion.

Reform legislation in regard to our laws on defamation has been long in the making, dating effectively from the Report of the Law Reform Commission in 1991. The Defamation Bill 2006 is the culmination of that process and it has fallen to me to bring the reform to fruition, which I expect to do before the summer.

The Bill was passed by Seanad Éireann on March 11th, 2008. On Wednesday April 29th, in the Dáil, the Select Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Affairs began its consideration of the Bill and of a number of amendments proposed by myself and the Opposition parties. This is a normal part of the legislative process.

Among my proposed amendments was a proposal in regard to the treatment of the issue of blasphemy in our law. It is wrong to state that we have no law in this area and that I am creating a new offence. Currently, section 13 of the 1961 Defamation Act provides for sanctions, both monetary and prison, where a person might be convicted of publishing a blasphemous libel. That section will be repealed, along with that whole Act by the new legislation.

There is no element of surprise here as some of the less informed commentators might have you believe. The requirement to deal with this issue was publicly flagged previously on consideration of this Bill in both the Seanad and the Dáil.

The key point here is that successive attorneys general have advised the various ministers for justice, in the context of the reform of defamation law and the repeal of the 1961 Act, that article 40.6.1.i of the Constitution imposes an obligation to implement the constitutional offence of blasphemy.

That article specifically states that the publication of blasphemous matter “is an offence which should be punishable in accordance with law”. Those who argue that, where the Constitution has ordained an offence, a minister should simply ignore it to suit his ideological positions, seem to me to be arguing for a clear constitutional provision to be wilfully ignored. This would be to undermine the Constitution and its protection. Needless to say, I have no intention of so doing.

Following the 1999 Corway case, the only blasphemy action taken in the State since at least the 1937 Constitution, there is a legal obligation to ensure that article 40.6.1.i is operable. If that article is not to be removed from the Constitution by referendum then it is necessary to ensure that it is operable. To do otherwise would imply an a la carte approach to the Constitution and its precepts and principles.

Indeed, the Law Reform Commission Report pointed out that “the abolition without replacement of the offence of blasphemy would be impossible under the existing Constitutional provision”.

I am repealing the Defamation Act 1961 which purported to provide a punishment for blasphemy. The Supreme Court in Corway pointed out that legislation was necessary to define the offence in relation to blasphemy. In repealing the relevant provisions of the 1961 Act it is necessary for me to provide for such a definition.

In doing so, I have taken the opportunity of ensuring that private prosecutions for blasphemy can no longer be brought by ensuring it is not a summary offence and that all prosecutions have to be brought by the independent prosecutor, the DPP. I have also removed the punishment of imprisonment and instead imposed a fine. The Labour Party in its proposed suggestion in regard to my amendment does not propose deletion of it, but rather to make a proposal as to the penalty involved.

This acknowledges that a provision is required on blasphemy if no referendum to take out the reference to blasphemy in the Constitution is held.

Finally, while the Constitution requires an offence of blasphemy it also, like the position in many other countries, expressly protects freedom of expression. My reform legislation will have to be construed in that context. No innocent conduct will be captured.

The revised provision in regard to blasphemy requires at least three elements to be present: that the material be grossly abusive or insulting in matters held sacred by a religion; that it must actually cause outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion; and, crucially, that there be an intent to cause such outrage. Such intent was not previously required.

It is my intention to complete the reform of our law on defamation as soon as possible. I also intend to comply with my constitutional obligations, where in this case I have to fill a constitutional gap left by the Corway case.
Each of us is here on earth for a reason, and each of us has a special mission to carry out - Maria Shriver
lostexpectation
Posts: 1993
Joined: Wed Feb 07, 2007 11:28 pm

Re: Crime of blasphemous libel proposed for Defamation Bill

Post by lostexpectation » Fri May 01, 2009 2:30 am

so dermot doesn't even take one sentence to consider actually having a referendum.


i think dermot is looking to the UK rather then the UN, for this, i don't see him be worried about the rights of muslims.

to suggest that this has anything to do with UN thing exaggerates the importance of that non-binding resolution but i doubt ahern has much time for either.
test
UDS
Posts: 120
Joined: Thu Jan 22, 2009 7:23 am

Re: Crime of blasphemous libel proposed for Defamation Bill

Post by UDS » Fri May 01, 2009 5:12 am

lostexpectation wrote:so dermot doesn't even take one sentence to consider actually having a referendum.
He obviously doesn’t feel the need to justify the decision not to go for a referendum; he expects people to see that as reasonable and right.

As you note yourself, Pat Rabbitte may say in e-mails that he favours deleting the constitutional provision, but the Labour Party has not taken this opportunity to call for a referendum and appears to be exclusively following “Plan B”, to water down the proposed statutory offence by reducing the penalty. That might suggest that they share Aherne’s view, that public opinion would not favour a referendum, and they don’t want to be seen to be calling for one – they reckon the stance would be unpopular.

I don’t think this means that they think the public reckons blasphemy should be an offence; just that the public doesn’t like referendums, except on issues that they recognise as being of major and immediate importance. And, since no-one has ever been prosecuted for blasphemy or is ever likely to be, this is not such an issue.

They could of course be wrong about public attitudes to a referendum on this topic but, to be brutally honest, I suspect they are not wrong. But, right or wrong, if even the Labour Party is taking this view of matters, there is no realistic prospect of securing a referendum.

And, if there is no referendum, then this Bill pretty well has to regulate the constitutional offence of blasphemy. The only way to get it out of the Bill is to get a commitment to a referendum.

All of which suggests to me that a campaign to get this out of the Bill by having a referendum instead will almost certainly fail.

Which is not to say that it’s not worth mounting a campaign. If nothing else, it will serve as an exercise is raising awareness and drawing attention to issues. This helps to build a support base for the longer term. Plus, the more heat the politicians feel over this episode, the more willing they will be to contemplate a generally secularising constitutional reform programme at some point. Plus, it could lead to the statutory provisiosn being further modified, not just with the “literary, artistic” etc defence suggested by Labour, but with a second defence protecting good faith discourse and debate and – irony of ironies – freedom of religious expression. (What if my religious belief is that Jesus was not the Son of God, or the Pope is the AntiChrist? Do I not have a right to say so?)
Post Reply