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Europe’s Dangerous Blasphemy Laws Are Ripe for Exploitation

2 6 25
05.11.2018

Blasphemy is not what it used to be in Europe, because Europe is changing its religion. Last week, two cases showed that while Europeans may be acquiring one freedom that Americans take for granted, they are losing another.

On October 25, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) affirmed a 2011 Austrian court decision, which convicted a woman identified as “E.S.” of “disparagement of religious precepts” and gave her a choice between paying a 480 euro fine or 60 days in jail. The precepts she had disparaged were not those of Catholicism, the religion to which the vast majority of Austrians nominally adhere, but of Islam.

The next day, 64.85 percent of referendum voters endorsed the Irish government’s plan to remove the blasphemy clause from Ireland’s constitution. According to the Irish Times, four in five voters under the age of 35 were in favor. The over-65s, less enthusiastic about disparaging religious precepts, still voted 52 percent in favor.

The Irish, once among Europe’s most fervent Catholics, now have gay marriage, legal abortion, and the right to insult the church. The standing and influence of the church, along with mass attendance and Catholic education, are declining sharply. Like most Europeans, the Irish have floated, in Roger Scruton’s phrase, “downstream from Christianity.” Their laws are now catching up.

Only in 2009 did Ireland clarify its murky medieval inheritances on blasphemy into a modern statutory definition. As late as 2017, Irish police investigated the British comedian Stephen Fry under the new statute for calling God “capricious,” “mean-minded,” and an “utter maniac” on television. They dropped the case not because Fry hadn’t broken Irish law, but because not enough people had complained.

The Irish, interestingly, are joining only a minority of Europeans when it comes to the right to deride a deity in whom fewer and fewer of them believe. For in many other European........

© The Weekly Standard