Reasons to keep blasphemy law
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’,