JURIST Supported by the University of Pittsburgh
Serious law. Primary sources. Global perspective.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ireland justice minister proposes blasphemy law referendum
Carrie Schimizzi at 12:04 PM ET

[JURIST] The Irish Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Dermot Ahern [official profile], on Sunday proposed [Atheist Ireland press release] holding a referendum later this year to remove the criminal offense of blasphemy from the Irish Constitution [text, PDF]. Blasphemy is a punishable offense under section 40 of the constitution, but the language of the text had been deemed too vague to hold any prosecutions. Ireland's Defamation Act of 2009 [text], which went into effect in January, redefined blasphemy as publishing or uttering "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" and imposed a penalty of a fine of up to 25,000 euros for those convicted. The Irish public has been very critical [Irish Times report] of the controversial law. Earlier this year, advocacy group Atheist Ireland [advocacy website] publicly challenged the law on their website by posting 25 potentially blasphemous statements [text] from both religious and public figures. The group praised Ahern's proposed referendum:

We reiterate our position that this law is both silly and dangerous: silly because it is introducing medieval canon law offence into a modern plularist republic; and dangerous because it incentives religious outrage and because its wording has already been adopted by Islamic States as part of their campaign to make blasphemy a crime internationally.

Ahern has stated that he only saw the Defamation Act as a short-term solution and that he was under his constitutional duty in reforming the old blasphemy law.

Blasphemy laws have been a controversial issue in several countries. Last month, a Pakistani government official told the Agence France-Presse that the country would begin to revise its blasphemy laws [JURIST report] later this year. Pakistan currently punishes blasphemy against Islam by death, but no one has yet been executed for the offense. Last year, the death sentence of Afghan journalism student Sayad Parwaz Kambaksh [JURIST news archive] for blasphemy was reduced [JURIST report] to 20 years' imprisonment by an Afghan appeals court. Kambaksh was sentenced to death [JURIST report] for distributing papers questioning gender roles under Islam. In 2008, the UK House of Lords voted to abolish [JURIST report] the criminal offenses of blasphemy and blasphemous libel from the UK common law.

Link |  | print | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | Facebook page

For more legal news check the Paper Chase Archive...


 Federal appeals courts split on health care subsidies
1:03 PM ET, July 22

 HRW: FBI stings pushed people to terrorism
10:07 AM ET, July 22

 Obama signs order on LGBT job discrimination
9:07 AM ET, July 22

 click for more...

Get JURIST legal news delivered daily to your e-mail!


Unprecedented Notice of Warrantless Wiretapping in a Closed Case
Ramzi Kassem
CUNY School of Law


Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible, ad-free format.


Paper Chase welcomes comments, tips and URLs from readers. E-mail us at JURIST@jurist.org