Atheist Ireland: Referendum on blasphemy about freedom of speech

Irish Atheists will today launch their campaign for a Yes vote in October's referendum on removing the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution.

After a decade of lobbying, Atheist Ireland will present their campaign posters at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin this afternoon.

Chairperson Michael Nugent said it is about freedom of speech and the separation of Church and State.

Mr Nugent said: "I'm quite with people to say what they want about atheism, many religious people are quite happy for other people to say what they like about religion.

"If there is a god, the god can take care of itself. In terms of religious people, there are other laws such as the defamation laws and the laws against incitement to religious hatred, that protect people.

"But there is a big distinction between protecting people from harm and protecting ideas from criticism."

Mr Nugent outlined five reasons to vote Yes on October 26.

    Five reasons to vote Yes

  • 1. Vote Yes to support the right to freedom of religion or belief, the right to freedom of speech, and the separation of church and State. The Irish blasphemy law infringes all of these principles.
  • 2. Vote Yes to allow Irish media outlets to deal objectively with religious issues, without having to self-censor to avoid the possibility of a blasphemy case and a €25,000 fine.
  • 3. Vote Yes to support Christians, Ahmadi Muslims, atheists and other minorities who face persecution in Islamist States. These States have cited the Irish law at the UN to justify theirs. Today 24 people around the world who are victims of blasphemy laws in a dozen countries, have published a letter asking the people of Ireland to remove our blasphemy law. We would like to thank our colleagues in the IHEU for coordinating this letter.
  • 4. Vote Yes to remind ourselves, and show the world, how much Ireland has changed since 1937. We are now a modern pluralist State that respects freedom of belief and speech.
  • 5. Vote Yes to agree with the many bodies that have called for removal of the Irish blasphemy law, including the 1996 Constitution Review Group, the 2008 All-Party Committee on the Constitution, the 2013 Constitutional Convention, the United Nations Human Rights Committee, and the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission.

The organisation also issued an open letter from 24 victims of blasphemy laws.

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