BREAKING NEWS One dead after cyclist hit by car in Fort Wayne Full Story

Ireland to vote in referendum on 'largely obsolete' blasphemy law

Irish voters head to the polls Friday where they will be asked to vote on removing the offense of blasphemy ...

Posted: Oct 25, 2018 11:43 AM
Updated: Oct 25, 2018 11:43 AM

Irish voters head to the polls Friday where they will be asked to vote on removing the offense of blasphemy from the constitution.

The referendum on blasphemy is the most recent in a series of referendums poised to reflect the nation's continued trajectory into a secular, diverse society.

Celebrities

Continents and regions

Elections and campaigns

Europe

Government and public administration

Ireland

Northern Europe

Politics

Referendums

Stephen Fry

Voters and voting

The referendum, which takes place on the same day as Ireland's presidential election, will ask the public whether to remove the word "blasphemous" from Article 40 of the constitution, which reads: "The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law."

Although the nation's blasphemy ban was enshrined in the constitution in 1937, no one has ever been prosecuted under it.

In 1995, a member of the public lodged a blasphemy case against the Sunday Independent newspaper, which had printed a cartoon of government ministers refusing the Catholic sacrament of communion. Ireland's Supreme Court eventually threw out the case in 1999, ruling that although blasphemy was technically a crime, there was no law to enforce it.

A decade later, the government eventually defined the terms of blasphemy as law under the 2009 Defamation Act. The punishable offense currently carries a fine of up to 25,000 euros (approximately US $28,500.)

A high-profile case in 2017 drew attention to that law, when Irish police opened an investigation into British comedian and actor Stephen Fry after a member of the public complained about comments he made during a 2015 interview on Irish television.

"Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid god who creates a world so full of injustice and pain?" Fry said on broadcaster RTE. "The god that created this universe -- if it was created by a god -- is quite clearly a maniac, utter maniac. Totally selfish," Fry said.

The Fry investigation was eventually thrown out, but the case reenergized the national conversation around the topic.

'A modernizing effort'

Critics of the blasphemy ban argue that the law is obsolete and reflects an Ireland long-gone.

David Kenny, Assistant Professor of Law at Trinity College Dublin told CNN that the vote signals "part of a modernizing effort on the constitution."

At the time that the constitution was drafted in the 1930s, it was standard practice across European constitutions to include language that paid "homage to an almighty god," Kenny explains.

The chance to remove some of that language provides "an opportunity to take another step forward in the process of secularization," Kenny says, referencing two recent referendums that legalized same-sex marriage and abortion in the Catholic-majority country.

Although there has been far less public interest into Friday's referendum in comparison, if repealed, the outcome will further reinforce that paradigm shift.

Religious institutions, including the Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland, have not opposed the vote to repeal. Earlier this month, the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference said the article on blasphemy was "largely obsolete."

There is a smaller, yet vocal campaign to keep the constitutional clause as is.

Independent Senator Ronan Mullen called the blasphemy referendum "entirely unnecessary," at the Senate in September. Mullen, who opposed both the 2015 marriage referendum and 2018 referendum on abortion, added that "the real intention" of the vote was to give "more politically correct red meat to the liberal gallery of media supporters that fawn uncritically" over the Irish government.

"I refer, in particular, to the people who cannot help scratching the itch that is the God question," he said.

Ireland's Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanaghan, who has campaigned for a "yes" vote, said that scrapping the blasphemy ban is not just an Irish issue but an "important step" to take on the global stage.

"Regrettably, there are some countries in the world where blasphemy is an offense, the punishment of which is being put to death.  In these countries, such laws are not an anachronism but a very real threat to the lives of those who do not share the views of those enforcing the laws.  Such situations are abhorrent to our beliefs and values.  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," Flanaghan said in a June statement.

A constitutional 'update'

There are 71 countries with laws that criminalize blasphemy, according to a 2017 US Commission on International Religious Freedom report.

Atheist Ireland, who has vigorously campaigned to remove the law, says that repressive regimes around the world have used Ireland to "politically justify their use of blasphemy laws," using Pakistan as an example, where blasphemy is punishable by death. In 2009 Pakistan suggested that all United Nation member states should adopt the wording of Ireland's blasphemy provision.

"It's true that if Pakistan is criticized for its blasphemy laws which is used to repress religious minorities they can say, 'you have a blasphemy law too,'" Ronan McCrea, Professor of Constitutional and European Law at University College London told CNN. "But in reality, it's not like the Irish law," he said.

Conversely, Ireland has supported efforts to eliminate such measures, including a 2013 European Union agreement on religious freedom laws that oppose any attempt to criminalize freedom of speech in relation to religious issues, such as blasphemy laws.

Now, it's time for Ireland to update its constitution to reflect the political reality, McCrea says.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 590211

Reported Deaths: 9310
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion815581297
Lake44306666
Allen31919541
Hamilton28371304
St. Joseph26766371
Elkhart24098341
Vanderburgh18643213
Tippecanoe17422121
Johnson14496284
Porter14399160
Hendricks13870241
Madison10561212
Vigo10483171
Clark10240130
Monroe9076108
Delaware8836132
LaPorte8771155
Howard7897138
Kosciusko787277
Warrick643890
Hancock638797
Bartholomew626694
Floyd6150105
Wayne5933157
Grant5818110
Dubois544372
Boone534367
Morgan516291
Marshall494184
Henry493664
Cass471760
Noble460557
Dearborn458444
Jackson414745
Shelby402179
Lawrence380575
Clinton364539
Gibson356556
DeKalb337363
Montgomery334851
Harrison328542
Knox327839
Miami309843
Steuben306340
Adams295235
Whitley294125
Wabash293045
Ripley292345
Putnam284847
Huntington283557
Jasper282433
White267538
Daviess261672
Jefferson250738
Fayette242348
Decatur242182
Greene233360
Posey232326
Wells229447
LaGrange224161
Clay217932
Scott216937
Randolph208340
Jennings192535
Sullivan189031
Spencer181917
Fountain179725
Washington177118
Starke171341
Jay162821
Owen159537
Fulton159229
Carroll152115
Orange151433
Rush149918
Perry147227
Vermillion144933
Franklin143433
Parke12908
Tipton128232
Pike113625
Blackford107522
Pulaski95237
Newton89421
Brown85530
Benton84310
Crawford7579
Martin70013
Warren6587
Switzerland6205
Union6113
Ohio4677
Unassigned0374

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 826754

Reported Deaths: 10200
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin97493705
Cuyahoga821781012
Hamilton61350439
Montgomery41700399
Summit33399726
Lucas30111597
Butler29721228
Stark24811400
Warren18917139
Lorain18086212
Mahoning16758335
Lake15365135
Clermont15160104
Delaware1382177
Licking12679132
Trumbull12401302
Fairfield1218480
Greene11631133
Medina11128165
Clark10608264
Wood9964154
Allen9511126
Portage8867105
Miami886573
Richland8790116
Marion7319113
Tuscarawas7142174
Columbiana7085124
Pickaway702850
Wayne6781164
Muskingum671242
Erie5886118
Hancock537890
Ross530287
Scioto519662
Geauga483555
Darke457589
Ashtabula439068
Lawrence432651
Union430628
Mercer424287
Sandusky421862
Seneca413555
Auglaize412759
Huron410338
Shelby410221
Jefferson403366
Belmont395640
Washington372040
Putnam364672
Athens36369
Madison339329
Knox336522
Ashland331738
Fulton325943
Defiance319278
Crawford313268
Preble311534
Brown296619
Logan292729
Ottawa282134
Clinton279043
Williams270166
Highland262418
Jackson256943
Guernsey241725
Champaign240927
Fayette225529
Morrow22294
Perry221318
Holmes218662
Henry210247
Hardin204133
Coshocton197420
Van Wert196644
Gallia190926
Wyandot190549
Adams165615
Pike164116
Hocking163423
Carroll149516
Paulding139021
Noble117840
Meigs103221
Monroe95629
Harrison8568
Morgan79128
Vinton67113
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Mostly Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 16°
Angola
Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 30° Lo: 25°
Feels Like: 16°
Huntington
Partly Cloudy
23° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 15°
Fort Wayne
Mostly Cloudy
24° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 14°
Lima
Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 16°
Evening Light Snow Tuesday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events