To try to raise awareness to this concern, here is a copy of an email sent by me, to Dermot Ahern, regarding the upcoming blasphemy legislation in Ireland http://blasphemy.ie for more details.
I am emailing in relation to the proposed Defamation BIll and the parts of the bill regarding blasphemy.
A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €100,000.”
The definition given of “blasphemous matter” is 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 he or she intends, by the publication of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.”
This is absolutely unbelievable. It is a direct affront to the fundamental human right of free speech. To protect people who have a particular set of beliefs is completely against equality. The definition of blasphemous matter contains the phrase “any religion”. I subscribe to no religion and as such am an atheist, this law would value the opinions of religious people above my own and discriminate against me and the thousands of atheists around the country.
Suppose a religion or denomination of a religion complains that the advertising of equal opportunity jobs is blasphemous, because this religion believes, as many do, that women are inferior to men. By this law, they would be perfectly entitled to complain and fine such a company €100,000.
The main problem with the law is that the definition of blasphemous material is loose and open to interpretation. Because everyone will have a different definition, religious groups will use this to suppress debate and healthy discourse on issues of religion.
People will become scared to voice their opinions because of the fear of a huge fine. I hope I don’t need to explain why that would be a terrifying situation.
The law opens a door to a slippery slope which at the end, results in a police state, where even speech is controlled.
I implore you to rethink this almost Orwellian legislation and be open to new debate and public opinion. I also would urge you to visit http://blasphemy.ie/ to see the opposition to this bill.
A concerned citizen,
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