The Freedom From Religion Foundation applauds Ireland for voting to repeal the nation’s constitutional ban on blasphemy.
The theocratic provision, which dates back to 1937 and was reinforced with a 2009 statute had never been actively enforced. But it was a national embarrassment for Ireland and was lampooned by figures such as English comedian Stephen Fry, who was initially slapped with blasphemy charges that were later dropped. Following Friday’s vote, the Irish may now blaspheme to their hearts’ content.
Atheist Ireland, which worked diligently to educate about the referendum, was thrilled, saying that when the repeal takes effect, “our laws can then protect people from harm, not protect ideas from criticism, and our media outlets will no longer have to self censor themselves.”
FFRF notes the irony that Ireland, whose Constitution begins, “In the name of the Most Holy Trinity,” could recognize the wisdom of outlawing blasphemy, while the United States, which has a thoroughly secular Constitution that vigorously protects free speech, regularly features elected officials who promote Christian nationalism and denigrate nonbelievers.
“Religious freedom encompasses the freedom to criticize religion,” notes FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. “Americans should take note, and celebrate that our Founders figured this one out almost two-and-a-half centuries ago.”
For several years, Congress has failed to pass proposed bipartisan resolutions calling for the global repeal of blasphemy laws. “Freedom of expression and religion are fundamental human rights that are the bedrock of any open society,” Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del, stated upon introduction of this year’s resolution.
FFRF is encouraging supporters to contact their elected representatives and ask them to protect the rights of freethinkers worldwide. Promoting secularism and the right to speak critically of religion is a universal win for freedom of speech and religious liberty.
“Americans should follow Ireland’s lead and insist on protecting the right to critical speech, especially when it comes to religion,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Blasphemy is a victimless crime, but laws against blasphemy punish innocent victims and can become a life-and-death matter.”
FFRF, through Nonbelief Relief, has helped 25 individuals imperiled by their “blasphemous” atheism find a safe port.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 32,000 members across the country and members in every state. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.
Read about FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel’s brush with blasphemy in Ireland.