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Mid West Humanists send submission to the Constitutional Convention to remove the offence of Blasphemy from the Constitution

At meetings in March, April, and May 2013 we have discussed a submission to go to the Constitutional Convention, on removing the offence of Blasphemy.

The Constitutional Convention is due to discuss the section of the Constitution that makes blasphemy an offence (part of Article 40. 6. 1. i) at its meeting on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 October 2013.

The Constitutional Convention website will lead you to the Mid West Humanists’ submission.

The page for an individual submission shows comment of not more than 9 lines, and a link to download the submission’s larger file. Our submission is in a Word file.

When you press that link the download box may say that the file is “AttachmentDownload.ashx” (rather than the name of our submission).
You can download the file – with the Save option (do not choose to open it immediately). When you see your own computer’s dialog box about where to save the file, you can rename this file. If your computer is not set up to open this dialog box, find where the saved file is and rename it.
Put any name you choose, but make its extension (suffix) .doc – “MidWestHumanistsBlasphemy.doc”.
Microsoft Word will open the file – it remained a Word file but the Convention’s website renames it.

How the Mid West Humanists would like Article 40 to be after the change is in a Meeting Report.

Here is what we sent to the Convention: –

from Mid West Humanists 22 May 2013

The Mid West Humanists are people with no religion (people meeting monthly since 2008), in Limerick, Clare, and Tipperary.

To the Constitutional Convention

Removing the Blasphemy offence from the Constitution of Ireland

The Mid West Humanists propose to delete the criminalisation of blasphemy, in addition to a proposal to make the Constitution entirely secular.
Why the blasphemy offence should be abolished
1. Approximately 10% (perhaps more) of the population have no religion – including in this region.
Society, law, and the constitution are biased towards religion.
The Mid West Humanists want the Constitution to guarantee equal treatment for people of all religions and of no religion.
The changes we seek will make it easier for government to deal with the increasing variety of religions (and no religion) to which people in Ireland belong.

2. Blasphemy is an offence, Article 40.6.1.i writes. This is the only offence which the Constitution states definitely exists. (Article 39 refers to treason, to state that it consists only of a series of specified actions. I think that this means only that it cannot by statute be made more extensive, not that Article 39 makes treason an offence.) The offence of blasphemy sets limits to freedom to speak about religion(s), in a way that the Constitution prevents any limit on speech about any other subject. This insulates some people who have a religion from having to face ordinary criticism of these ideas, encourages them to be more outraged by the criticism than they might otherwise be, and promotes hatred between people. The existence of the offence increases the chances of civil discord, and on some occasions, violence. There is no positive value in the offence of blasphemy. It does not make the work of the government easier, rather it makes it harder.
3. You could compare the blasphemy clause limiting the right to criticise a religion to a law that would limit the right to criticise a political party. Many people feel just as strongly about their favoured political party, and some of those people look very uncomfortable hearing criticism of it, but they do not expect the law to forbid such criticism. They have to tolerate the criticism; or, they can move away or turn off the radio so that they do not hear it.
Blasphemy as an offence should be removed from the Constitution.

4. There should remain the right of all people to have a religion, or not to have a religion, as long as this does not interfere with the rights of other people.
Most importantly, this change will produce a society that will be better for all people.

We also show here the arguments against certain compromises that some other people may suggest, but which would not advance a secular society, and may actually make things worse.

5. Why people with or without religion should carefully examine any other proposals to change the Constitution, in case these other proposed changes are insufficient or make things worse.

It would not be a good idea to keep the law against blasphemy (either the constitution or the statute law) but to change it so that there is a protection against criticism of the important ideas of all religions and the correspondingly important ideas of people of no religion. This is because the corresponding idea of people who have no religion is that it should be open to all people to criticise all ideas.

6. How some changes that the secularist people seek may produce a saner society that is easier for the government to administer, and so helpful to people who have a religion just as much as people with none

All the articles in the Constitution, that mention religion as if it is an automatic feature of a person in Ireland (this includes the anti-blasphemy section), mark religious people as standard and mark people with no religion as sub-standard, making it easier for many of the population to falsely think that nearly all (or indeed, all) people have a religion, and so to ignore the atheists and humanists most of the time, and not be aware how there is discrimination against them, and make it easier for the people with religion to blame those with no religion, or of another religion, for any social problem.
Thus it is not solely individual discrimination against people with no religion that argues for deleting the anti-blasphemy section from the Constitution. A cohesive society where there is the minimum of marking of people as belonging to groups also favours removal of the criminalisation of blasphemy, as well as a secular Constitution.

How the new Article 40 would be after the change is in Meeting Reports.

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