Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Ireland Abolishes Blasphemy Laws

In a big win for religious freedom in Ireland, the nation has now formally abolished its "blasphemy laws." Humanist groups have been campaigning for the repeal for many years now, leading up to a referendum in 2018 to amend the Irish constitution to remove the relevant clause. The change has now gone into effect, and Ireland is blasphemy-law-free.

The change in law comes after the people of Ireland voted overwhelmingly in referendum in October 2018 to amend its constitution to remove a clause which punished so called “blasphemy”. It was agreed that the following clause would be removed from the Irish constitution: “blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law”.

Atheist Ireland, a member of Humanists International, has spent more than a decade lobbying for repeal of the blasphemy law with the Irish Government and Department of Justice. Atheist Ireland report that the Irish President has recently signed the Blasphemy (Abolition of Offences and Related Matters) Bill 2019.

Humanists International coordinates the global campaign to repeal blasphemy laws. The Board of Humanists International made a direct appeal to the people of Ireland in May 2018 when it passed a resolution calling for a ‘yes vote’ to the proposed constitutional amendment. Also, in August 2018, the chief executive of Humanists International also urged the people of Ireland to scrap its “blasphemy” laws in a speech to the Humanist Association of Ireland in Carlingford.

Blasphemy laws aren't just an issue for atheists and other humanists. They can easily be exploited by fundamentalist religious groups to go after anyone who doesn't share their strict religious beliefs, whether their targets are believers or not. With the recent rise of the Christian Right in the United States, I can only imagine how much damage they could do if they had blasphemy laws at their disposal.

Congratulations to the people of Ireland, for protecting the rights of all people to practice - or not practice - their religious beliefs as they see fit.

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