Posted by George Morrison

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern has proposed an amendment to the Defamation Act 1961 which would introduce the crime of blasphemous libel. This crime would carry a penalty of a fine up to €100,000. The Opposition has suggested the fine be limited to €1,000! Prosecutions cannot be brought privately but would have to be brought by the DPP and require three elements to be present. 1. that the material be grossly abusive or insulting in matters held sacred by a religion: 2. that it must actually cause outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion: 3. that there be an intent to cause such outrage. One has to admire the Ministers courage in stepping into the grubby pool of religions that are available in our multi-faith society. Of course our Constitution required it by stating; “the publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which will be punishable in accordance with law.” (Article 40.6.1) Apparently previous Ministers of Justice have shied away from enacting the necessary legislation and not without good reason if the cacophony of voices protesting in the press is anything to go by. These voices range from those saying that God does not need to be protected to the cry of civil liberty people demanding total freedom of speech. As an interesting aside, the law in Muslim countries is very simple. It is death for “defiling the Holy Qur’an” or “speaking ill of Muhammad or of any other prophet mentioned in the Qur’an, or to claim that there is more than one god or that Jesus Christ (the son of Mary) is the son of God”. (Wikipedia). In Ireland we cannot match this intensity of feeling. Rather when we pray … “Our Father … Hallowed be thy name.” we should acknowledge that we do not mean very much. The Apostle Paul had this to say about his conversion; “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus”. For those of us who so lightly blaspheme the holy Name today the Apostle adds: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst”. (1Timothy chapter 1 verses 13/15) If there is salvation in Jesus for the “worst of sinners” then there is salvation in Jesus for those who turn from their blasphemy today. Trust in Him.