the Irish for rights

Blasphemy from Ireland to Indonesia via South Park

Cover of CoE Blasphemy bookThe Council of Europe has just published the Venice Commission‘s Report on Blasphemy, insult and hatred – Finding answers in a democratic society (Science and Technique of Democracy No 47, 2010) (cover left) (earlier related publications here). Religious accommodation, mutual understanding, and social diversity constitute a significant challenge for modern western democracies. This report argues that “diversity is undoubtedly an asset, but cohabiting with people of different backgrounds and ideas calls for a new ethic of responsible intercultural relations”. The recent Irish response has been to introduce an offence of blasphemy in the Defamation Act, 2009. At its conference last weekend, the Labour Party debated and passed three motions (111, 112, 113) which condemned the introduction of the offence of blasphemy, and called for its repeal, and called for a referendum proposing to delete the word “blasphemous” from the Constitution (presumably as part of its wholesale constitutional revision). This is welcome, but doesn’t go far enough: the entire free speech clause should be thoroughly reformed (especially if there is to be a convention to develop a new constitution). Of course, this might not be necessary in the short term, since the provisions might very well conflict with the current text of the constitution in any event.

This is not the case in Indonesia. On Monday, that country’s Constitutional Court held that a controversial 45-year-old law banning religious blasphemy was constitutional. Mahfud CJ held that the law did not contradict the country’s 1945 Constitution or its national ideology, known as Pancasila, which nominally guarantee freedom of religion.

Later in the week, Islamists – to predictable controversy – warned the creators of provocative TV show South Park that they could face violent retribution for depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a bear suit (BBC | Guardian here and here | Independent | Irish Independent | Irish Times | LA Times | The Daily Show with John Stewart). On Human Rights in Ireland, Liam Thornton considered whether such gratuitous mocking of religion is permitted under human rights law. Starting from David Keane “Cartoon Violence and Freedom of Expression” (2008) 30 (4) Human Rights Quarterly 845, and observing that South Park purposefully courts controversy and seeks to mock all religions and atheism in a gratuitous fashion, he concludes that the purpose of the controversial episodes

… was to show the mental acrobatics which have to be gone through to justify the limitation of freedom of expression from mocking of one groups beliefs, yet allowed to freely ridicule the religious beliefs of others. In the words of the South Park creators, they are “equal opportunity offenders”. To those who are offended by shows like South Park, which does not provoke hatred on the ground of religious belief, the solution is simple, change the channel.

I couldn’t agree more.

Related Tags: [ ]

2 Responses to “Blasphemy from Ireland to Indonesia via South Park”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Eoin O'Dell. Eoin O'Dell said: http://tinyurl.com/2u6gep3 My new blogpost: Blasphemy from Ireland to Indonesia via South Park […]

  2. […] the unresolved issues of blasphemy and abortion in the Irish Constitution receive attention from Eoin O’Dell and Brook Elliott-Buettner, […]

Leave a Reply



Me in a hatHi there! Thanks for dropping by. I’m Eoin O’Dell, and this is my blog: Cearta.ie – the Irish for rights.

“Cearta” really is the Irish word for rights, so the title provides a good sense of the scope of this blog.

In general, I write here about private law, free speech, and cyber law; and, in particular, I write about Irish law and education policy.

Academic links


  • RSS Feed
  • RSS Feed
  • Subscribe via Email
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

Archives by month

Categories by topic

My recent tweets

Blogroll (or, really, a non-blogroll)

What I'd like for here is a simple widget that takes the list of feeds from my existing RSS reader and displays it here as a blogroll. Nothing fancy. I'd love a recommendation, if you have one.

I had built a blogroll here on my Google Reader RSS subscriptions. Google Reader produced a line of html for each RSS subscription category, each of which I pasted here. So I had a list of my subscriptions as my blogroll, organised by category, which updated whenever I edited Google Reader. Easy peasy. However, with the sad and unnecessary demise of that product, so also went this blogroll. Please take a moment to mourn Google Reader. If there's an RSS reader which provides a line of html for the list of subscriptions, or for each RSS subscription category as Google Reader did, I'd happily use that. So, as I've already begged, I'd love a recommendation, if you have one.

Meanwhile, please bear with me until I find a new RSS+Blogroll solution




Creative Commons License

This blog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. I am happy for you to reuse and adapt my content, provided that you attribute it to me, and do not use it commercially. Thanks. Eoin

Credit where it’s due

The image in the banner above is a detail from a photograph of the front of Trinity College Dublin night taken by Melanie May.

Others whose technical advice and help have proven invaluable in keeping this show on the road include Dermot Frost, Karlin Lillington, Daithí Mac Síthigh, and Antoin Ó Lachtnáin.

Thanks to Blacknight for hosting.