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Irish government to hold referendum on blasphemy law

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On June 12, Ireland’s cabinet voted in favor of repealing the Blasphemy Bill; which will “provide for a referendum on removing the crime of blasphemy from the Constitution.” As a result, Irish voters will be given a chance to decide whether to keep or drop the blasphemy law from the constitution in a referendum that will take place in October this year. The blasphemy law was incorporated in the 1937 constitution after Ireland’s independence from the United Kingdom.

Blasphemy law in Ireland

In keeping with this law the: “publishing or uttering matters 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”, are forbidden. Part of Article 40 says: “The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.”

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The Defamation Act of 2009 prescribes a fine of under $30,000 for anyone guilty of the offense, defined as “publishing or uttering matters 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.”

In this regard, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan stated: “In terms of Ireland’s international reputation, this is an important step. By removing this provision from our Constitution, we can send a strong message to the world that laws against blasphemy do not reflect Irish values and that we do not believe such laws should exist.”

Flanagan also compared Ireland to some other countries where blasphemy is punishable by death. He termed such laws as dangerous to the lives of people. He said that such situations are in contrast to Irish values and beliefs. He explained that this specific Bill will ensure that a Referendum Commission gets established.