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Ireland to Hold Referendum on Potty Mouth

The country is holding a referendum to determine if the blasphemy passage should be deleted from the Constitution
By Janet Cromley,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 14, 2018 3:00 PM CDT
   (Getty/RalphRenz)

(Newser) – The Irish Constitution has a strict prohibition against potty mouth. “The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law,” says Article 40 of the country’s 1937 Constitution. And a 2009 Defamation Act made the act punishable with a $30,000 fine, according to the Washington Post. But that could change. The country is holding a referendum this fall to determine if the blasphemy passage should be deleted from the Constitution, reports the New York Times. The law is not enforced, although a constitutional law scholar said prosecution could occur in an “egregious case,” per the Times. And in fact, a few have run afoul of it, including Stephen Fry, an actor who was reported to the police after saying on TV, “Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?”

The investigation was eventually dropped, but it sparked outrage and drew attention to the 2009 law, which defines blasphemy as a “matter that is 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,” per the Irish Times. In countries where blasphemy is punished harshly, Ireland’s law is held up as admirable. “We became a Western poster boy for Islamic states and their oppressive practices,” Michael Nugent, a spokesman for an atheism advocacy group, told the New York Times. “It’s never a good look when Pakistan, where people are killed for blasphemy, is speaking approvingly of your laws.” Voters will also weigh in on language regarding women. Critics would be happy to see a section deleted that says, “The state shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.” The passage is “very patriarchal,” said one critic. “It never did women any good.” (Read more Ireland stories.)

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