Monday, January 4, 2010

Enchanted Ireland

For more proof that Ireland aspires to be the Oklahoma of the European Union, consider its handling of expression that touches on religion:

It defines blasphemy as publishing or uttering matter grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion, and intending by such publication to cause such outrage.
As definitions of blasphemy go, I must say that is cracker-jack, spot-on, and quite possibly perfect (don't change a word, Ireland!). The question, of course, is why the legislature of a modern democratic state is bothering to offer this definition, and not only that, putting legal teeth behind it.

Why is that? Does Ireland's parliament feel threatened by all the talk of Turkish entry in the EU? Do they worry they won't remain on the bleeding edge of religion-state entanglement if they don't get busy with some aggressive entangling? There is, however, a however:
The Defamation Act states, however, that it shall be a defence to proceedings for the defendant to “prove that a reasonable person would find genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value in the matter to which the offence relates”.
Notice the big thumb on that scale? The act imagines a delicate counterpoise between that which blasphemes against [insert name of one true god or institution] and that which adds "genuine ... value" to the public discourse. If and when the question comes before the enforcement apparatus of the Irish state -- and this law exists to ensure that it can and shall -- it is one of these and only one of these, and a "reasonable person" standard decides which it is. Among other possibilities, "I can't imagine how this is the concern of anyone outside the dispute," "I don't have the slightest idea," and "it depends entirely on your beliefs" are not among the options.

What a disgrace.

(via Normblog)

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