Is it really a crime when someone decides they're offended?
'Of course,' you say, 'the government does that all the time.'
True, but in this case whilst the government are discussing newly proposed 'blasphemous libel' laws, they are not the ones setting the boundaries–the religious are. They will define what offends them.
Ten years ago the supreme court found they were unable decide exactly what blasphemy is, and left it at that. But now(†) the Minister for Justice thinks he knows all about it.
And it amounts to biased censorship.
Did the ridiculous charade which was the political enforcement Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act do us any good whatsoever? Trained actors playing Gerry Adams for fear that his musky charisma and siren song might somehow bewitch the Plain People of Ireland?
How could banning blasphemy possibly be good for the country? Do we have an epidemic of God-hating on our hands?
This is the proposed definition:
grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion; and he or she intends, by the publication of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage
To supply extra self-righteousness, notice that the more correct term 'offence' has been substituted by 'outrage.' I mean who could argue in favour of something that is outrageous? It's exactly the kind of weasel word used by rags like The Sun and The Daily Mail to denote some sort of affront against their agreed common decency.
This reminds me of the references to blasphemy in countries such as Pakistan, where Sharia Law prevails.
Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging [my emphasis] the religious feelings of any class of the citizens of Pakistan […] shall be punished with imprisonment […] or with fine, or with both.
Is it any wonder that further into their legislation we find:
Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.
Death and a fine? That's a how-de-do. Back here in Ireland, in addition to prosecution and fines:
the court may issue a warrant authorising the Garda Síochána to enter, if necessary using reasonable force, a premises where the member of the force has reasonable grounds for believing there are copies of the blasphemous statements in order to seize them
This is genuinely outrageous. At a time when Garda resources are strapped, when drugs and gangs dominate the news (however sensationalist), does the minister really think we should divert officers into citizens' living rooms on suspicion of their possessing a Cradle of Filth t-shirt?
I should have the right to suggest that Jesus was (for example) a Nazi/paedophile/furry, and in turn you have the right to 'be offended' and then argue the merits of the case. It's simply the marketplace of ideas.
For example, it offends me that when reports surfaced last week suggesting that Palestinian water supplies are only a quarter of those supplied to Israelis, the Israeli government's Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman decided that he has nothing better in the world to do than release a statement condemning the naming of swine flu.
Because Jews don't eat pork. And according to this paragon of logical thinking
…we should call this Mexican flu and not swine flu
I think that might offend the Mexicans even more. Not to mention people whose religion forbids the eating of Mexicans.
Please join me in fighting any laws which threaten our freedom of expression, merely to placate errant fools like Litzman. Especially those laws which seek to protect invisible magic beings.
Blasphemy is and has always been a victimless crime.
- † Maybe we should just use the old blasphemous libel laws from the U.K. of 1553? Seeing as they only just got around to abolishing them last year. [back ↩]