Crimes of Blasphemous Libel

According to the Defamation Bill 2006, a person commits the crime of blasphemous libel if he publishes anything 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 he or she intends, by the publication of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.

Anyone convicted of such a crime is liable to a fine of up to 100,000.

Now, let’s examine this in more detail, by breaking the definition into its constituent parts.

A person commits an offence if the material he publishes is

grossly abusive to matters held sacred by any religion


insulting to matters held sacred by any religion

thereby causing outrage

among a substantial number of

the adherents of that religion;


he or she intends, by the publication of the matter concerned,

to cause such outrage.

Therefore, if for example, a police investigator, looking into a case of abduction, expresses in print the view that Scientology is a money-making scam dreamed up by a crook called L Ron Hubbbard, and if that person intends to insult what he believes to be a criminal conspiracy, he would fulfil the following criteria:

His opinions would be insulting to matters held sacred by Scientology

They would cause outrage among many Scientologists

He would have intended to cause such outrage.

Therefore the case against him is proved. He is guilty of the crime of blasphemous libel, no matter how contemptible the organisation he insults.

Likewise, if a geologist writes an article about the formation of the earth, he would cause outrage among large numbers of people in creationist Christian groups, who would find his scientific findings insulting to matters they hold sacred. If a court decided that he published the article with the intention of causing such outrage, he is a criminal, not a scientist.

If a biologist thinks the notion of intelligent design is insanity and says so in a learned paper, he would cause similar outrage among large numbers of people particularly in the Bible Belt of America. They would find his opinions insulting to a matter they hold sacred. Since the Bill does not limit the location of the outraged people to Ireland, it would be sufficient to outrage anyone anywhere in the world, and if it could be proven that he wanted to annoy them, he could be convicted of a crime.

If an atheist states publicly that there is no God, he will cause outrage among large numbers of adherents to every religion on the planet. His views will be insulting to matters sacred, in the minds of many believers, and likewise, if his intention is to offend, then he is a criminal, no matter how sincerely he holds the view that God does not exist.

Why stop there? If the Pope declares that Mary is the mother of God (a ludicrous, but sincerely-held Catholic dogma) he blasphemes against Islam. Will the irish government haul him before a court?

If a rabbi declares that Jesus is not the Messiah, he blasphemes against Christianity. He’d better not open his mouth in Ireland.

The government is now framing a law, placing in the area of logic something that is not tangible or amenable to agreement among reasonable people. This half-witted government is now trying to prevent us, through ill-conceived law, from expressing any opinion that might conceivable offend any lunatic, anywhere in the world, from Antarctica to the Hindu Kush.

The crime is defined by the reaction of the other person. If he decides to be offended, or outraged, as the Bill pompously expresses it, then you are guilty of a crime. It doesn’t matter one jot how nutty his beliefs are or how sincerely-held your opinions are. If you take the piss out of any religion, long-established or founded yesterday, then you are a criminal, under the terms of this ridiculous legislation. It doesn’t matter what sort of crime, scam, abuse, kidnap, mass suicide or plain insanity the religion espouses. You’re not allowed to offend its members ever, anywhere in the world under this new Irish law.

Your accuser decides your guilt.

How about that?

Time to start calling your local representative and expressing your outrage.

Isn’t it just as well we have the European Court?



Define the following:






Substantial number


Previously on Bock:

Blasphemous Libel

National Blasphemy Day


Elsewhere: Ian Poulton


25 thoughts on “Crimes of Blasphemous Libel

  1. Hopefully, the Courts will differentiate between the promotion of reason (like the serious analysis of the world’s creation) and attacking religion.

    This all goes back to Bunreacht na hEireann, which preserved the status of blasphemy as an
    offence – even though it is a continuation of the provisions that preserved the status of the Church of England as the established church – previously the only body protected by blasphemy laws.

    It leaves Ireland in a ridiculous position, because not having laws to enforce the offence of blasphemy is illegal – and it would require a referendum to change this situation.

  2. I think all laws are open to interpretation.

    You can take an extreme view as one commenter on the blasphemous libel post did when he or she suggested that you could rape a child, call it a sacred act and anyone that accused you of raping a child would then be accused of blasphemy or you can take a moderate view whereby you don’t deliberately disrespect people because of their religion in the same way you wouldn’t disrespect them because of their race, colour, or sexual orientation.

    I read that someone (Pat Rabbitte?) is proposing an amendment to this which would exclude from the definition of blasphemy any matter that had any literary, artistic, social or academic merit.

    Again this could be interrupted in many different ways both good and bad but all in all I feel that this law will be ignored, like most laws in Ireland are.

  3. System — When you say “attacking religion” could you clarify what you intend “attacking” to convey?

    For example do you mean ridiculing religion, or criticising it, or dismissing its validity?

    After all, religion is a concept. A belief. I can’t physically attack a concept, but I can ridicule, criticise, challenge or dismiss it. I can also disagree with it.

    There are all sorts of scientific ideas I’m free to ridcule, criticise or challenge. Likewise there are all sorts of political or artistic concepts I can do likewise with, but under this law, I’ll be prevented from doing the same to any religious belief.

    Why would one sort of concept be immune from such things but not another kind?

    Fox –If the law is intended to be ignored, it should not be on our statute books.

  4. I’m not saying ridiculing religion should be an offence either – but I certainly hope that the Courts will not interpret the statute in a way that will stop the promotion of reason, as opposed to desecrating a Catholic biscuit or whatever for purely malicious reasons.

    Something like this should not be on the statute books anyway, but Ireland is in a very absurd situation where not having anti-blasphemy statutes is actually illegal due to Article 40.

  5. There are many provisions in the constitution that have never been legislated for. The last Suprem Court decision on abortion is one example that comes to mind.

    Blasphemy should have been removed from the constitution by way of a referendum, not given expression in this ludicrous bill.

  6. The law as written is NOT open to interpretation. This piece of legislation, a written document, may be challenged on a minor contextual or wording basis, but where it states to the effect that the blasphemed believe their beliefs have been harmed or attacked, then an Irish court must invoke the terms of the act and apply a fine.

    In Ireland when a fine imposed by a court is not paid then the ‘criminal’ must be incarcerated for non compliance with that court order.

    That’s the law as it stands. Not paying a fine, and that is any fine, is treated similar to contempt of court.

    So more jails on the way I reckon.

  7. That’s right. This law won’t be ignored because it opens the door for every nutcase in Ireland to claim their beliefs have been offended, and you can be sure they’ll take the opportunity.

  8. Bock, I think two words sum you up: Thick and simplistic. You really don’t understand the issue at all do you? Yet somehow you think you have it all sewn up and have done as good a job as a professor of law. For you ignorance must be bliss!!

  9. So if I was to give you my opinion of Limerick and the shower of wankers that it produces would you consider that blasphemy?

    Of course you wouldn’t .You would consider it insulting.So please have a little respect for those that get some hope and joy from religion.

  10. Tojo — Well done on providing a rational and reasoned argument. Thank you.

    Garden — As always, congratulations on completely missing the point.

  11. Nietzsche’s works must be withdrawn from publication seems the logical next step.

  12. Talking bout blasphemy, some of the papers have been comparing Leinsters win to over Munster to Munsters win over the All Blacks in 78 – now that’s what I call fucking blasphemy. Polonious & Nietzsche, having read him when I was younger – about a thousands years ago – spending warm summer days indoors, writing frightening verse to a buck toothed girl in Luxenburg as Morrissey might sing – I’d ban the fucker myself

  13. lets make science to a religion! and then press charges against anyone disagreeing with your views. oh, and watch the head of the judge explode after the crationist explained their viewpoint. if i would live in the jurisdiction with this law, i readily would join the sciencereligion and pay some bucks as membership fee :D

  14. Nietzsche said that “God is dead” but then God said Nietzsche’s dead. Old joke. Who knows? To be certain of anything can be dangerous.

  15. its a way to gag the media and the likes of tommy tiernan
    mostly so the media when they uncover anything hot

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