Civil liberties group: Criminalising blasphemy has no place in a modern democracy

Retaining the word ‘blasphemy’ in our constitution would send out a very negative message to the international community.

Amnesty International and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) have issued a joint call for a ‘Yes’ vote in the blasphemy referendum on Friday.

Colm O'Gorman, Amnesty International Ireland Executive Director

Both groups say that removing the crime of blasphemy from Irish law would support freedom of expression without impacting the rights of followers of religion.

Liam Herrick, director of the ICCL, says Ireland should disassociate itself from countries that persecute those of religious minorities.

"Freedom of expression is at the heart of our democracy and that must include allowing all speech that challenges, or even ridicules, ideas or institutions," said Mr Herrick.

"Criminalising blasphemy has no place in a modern democracy such as ours. Irish people don’t want criminal prosecution for those who call into question the authority of religious teachings.

"This is not to mention the fact that the courts are not equipped to arbitrate what is, or is not, a genuine religious teaching."

Colm O’Gorman, Amnesty International Ireland Executive Director said: "This referendum is about valuing freedom of expression, not eroding freedom of religion or belief.

"Religious freedoms are protected in a different Article of the Constitution, Article 44.2.1. A Yes vote would mean that simply offending people is not a crime.

"Inciting hatred on religious grounds would still have to be prohibited in law.

"The government would still have to ensure people can practise their religion without discrimination, threats or violence."

Digital Desk

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