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:
Previously on Bock:
Elsewhere: Ian Poulton