Church of Ireland supports repeal of Republic’s blasphemy law

Stephen Fry was investigated but not prosecuted under the Republic of Ireland's blasphemy legislation
Stephen Fry was investigated but not prosecuted under the Republic of Ireland's blasphemy legislation

The Church of Ireland has supported the repeal of the Republic of Ireland’s blasphemy law.

The legislation was used by the Garda to investigate comedian Stephen Fry last year.

Rt Rev Kenneth Kearon, Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe, said that the church found the current reference to blasphemy in the Irish constitution “largely obsolete”.

A referendum on the issue takes place on October 26.

“We recognise that there is grave concern at the way blasphemy laws have been used to justify violence and oppression against minorities in other parts of the world,” he said.

However, the human right of faith communities to contribute to public debate on issues of importance without being subjected to attack or ridicule “must be acknowledged and respected” he said.

The church would have preferred to have seen a proposal to replace the blasphemy section of the constitution “with an article protecting freedom of religion and freedom of speech in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights” he added.

Part of Article 40.6.1 in the southern constitution states: “The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.”

It rose to prominence last year when a complaint was made over Mr Fry making critical comments about God during an interview on RTE, leading to a criminal investigation. No prosecution was brought.

Gay Byrne asked what Mr Fry would say to God if he died and had to confront him. In his imaginary conversation with God, Fry said he would tell Him: “How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that is not our fault? It’s not right.

“It’s utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?”

Five years ago 14 churches, including the Catholic Church, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian Church and Methodist Church, endorsed a submission to government on the issue which said “the current reference to blasphemy in the Constitution of Ireland is largely obsolete”.