Rea­sons to keep blas­phemy law

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Letters -

Sir — Ac­cord­ing to Collins Dic­tio­nary, to blas­pheme is to “show con­tempt for God, es­pe­cially, in speech”. One may add to that def­i­ni­tion the per­sonal and so­cial im­pli­ca­tions of gra­tu­itously in­sult­ing and of­fend­ing our fel­low cit­i­zens who con­sci­en­tiously be­lieve in God. Blas­phemy, there­fore, if not pro­hib­ited in the Con­sti­tu­tion or by law, can be a se­ri­ous source of dis­in­te­gra­tion in our so­ci­ety. Be­cause of this many are sur­prised, if not per­plexed, by the cur­rent pro­posal to re­move its pro­hi­bi­tion by ref­er­en­dum. I would hope that the peo­ple of Ire­land will vote No on Fri­day, Oc­to­ber 26.

The wis­dom of the au­thors of Bun­reacht na Eire­ann (the Ir­ish Con­sti­tu­tion) in in­clud­ing blas­phemy in ar­ti­cle 40.6.1. in 1937 is fur­ther en­hanced when one con­sid­ers the so­ciopo­lit­i­cal con­text of the time. Dic­ta­tors, act­ing malev­o­lently, were en­gaged in anti-re­li­gious per­se­cu­tion of the cru­ellest man­ner, es­pe­cially in Hitler’s Third Re­ich and Stalin’s Rus­sia.

In fact, the con­sti­tu­tional recog­ni­tion of the dif­fer­ent reli­gions in Ire­land at the time, in­clud­ing the Jews, is fur­ther ev­i­dence of the at­tempt to en­sure that the State would not be­come fas­cist with the pos­si­bil­ity of re­li­gious per­se­cu­tion. Are we now in dan­ger of get­ting rid of an im­por­tant de­fence against such po­lit­i­cal ex­cesses in the fu­ture by re­mov­ing blas­phemy from Ar­ti­cle 40.6.1?

For the meta­phys­i­cal ag­nos­tic, it is dif­fi­cult to ap­pre­ci­ate the level of of­fence, hurt and anger a be­liever feels when her or his God is pub­licly treated with con­tempt, as hap­pens in the case of blas­phemy. To the be­liever, God is a per­son to be loved and adored. He is real and all life de­pends on Him. For in­stance, in the case in Chris­tians, Jews and Mus­lims, God is a per­son with whom we can talk to in prayer and de­serves true re­spect. The de­ity of other reli­gions must also be re­spected in a true democ­racy.

Be­cause of the re­cent im­mi­grants wel­comed into the Repub­lic of Ire­land, our coun­try is be­com­ing a re­li­giously plu­ral­ist so­ci­ety. This makes the pro­hi­bi­tion of blas­phemy in our Con­sti­tu­tion even more rel­e­vant to­day. It also de­fends us against the scourge of an­ti­Semitism, Is­lam­o­pho­bia or any other prej­u­dice against re­li­gious con­gre­ga­tions in the years ahead.

Micheal MacGreil S.J, Au­thor of ‘Plu­ral­ism and Di­ver­sity in Ire­land’,

Co Mayo

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