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Can Blasphemy be a Crime?

Custom House in Dublin, Ireland Credit: motorito/Flickr/Creative Commons

Custom House in Dublin, Ireland Credit: motorito/Flickr/Creative Commons

If I told you the police were investigating a famous man for blasphemy, possibly resulting in criminal charges, what country would you locate the story in? There is a famous trial in Indonesia, of a man who identifies as a Christian.

Several people in Pakistan are in prison and charged with blasphemy, and Iran and Saudi Arabia, and probably other Muslim majority countries have blasphemy laws. This is one way for conservative Muslims to protect their religion from critics. Christians, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists cannot apply the laws against their critics, in those countries.

But this story is not about Muslims.

Would you believe that the police investigated a man for blasphemy in the Republic of Ireland? And the accuser identified as an offended Christian. It’s all true, and on the surface it seems very strange.

Apparently the police have decided to drop the investigation and not proceed with charges, just today, a few hours before I wrote this. The subject of the police investigation was an English comedian named Stephen Fry.

The Irish anti-blasphemy law was enacted in 2009. There was an old law in Ireland that banned blasphemy against Christians, but it was declared unconstitutional in 1999.

The new law is for “publication or utterance of blasphemous matter” against any religion, and Muslims have asked for protection against their critics. The new blasphemy law will probably be struck down, and many people in Ireland are embarrassed by Stephen Fry’s story.

So, are you offended by these words? “Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?”

Would you like to answer back?

The words are from Stephen Fry when he was interviewed in Ireland in 2015. His comments were designed to annoy people, especially Irish people who have a long history of being talked down to by “their betters” with upper class English accents.

Mr Fry was successful in exploding a verbal bomb and he made himself even more famous.

Some journalists have tried to be fair and professional and a few commentators did the same:

“That’s in the Bible. You should at least try to read the actual Bible if you want answers to how religion handles this question. That’s what the story of Eve and the apple is all about. It sets the rules out right there. Eve had free will. God could not stop her exercise of free will. He can only judge and punish after the act.”

Most other comments are too crude and offensive to repeat.

What’s missing is balanced discussion that might teach us something. Have you noticed that we don’t have public debates anymore?

We have comedians who make themselves famous and rich by mocking us. Mr Fry did not invite anyone to offer a different opinion so he could learn from the discussion, and most of the comments that followed are amplified crude mocking of Christians.

Christians are warned not to follow this example; “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19 & 20) and “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.” (Psalm 1:1)

The most recent troubles in Ireland show that Christians, and everyone else, can never win against one-sided verbal assaults, and comedians are leading public discussion. The Irish police and the man who complained have all decided to drop the investigation, and I agree with them.

Blasphemy laws won’t fix this, but there is a problem, and it won’t go away, it will only get worse.

Recalling what was foretold by the holy prophets and commanded by our Lord and Savior through your apostles. First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. “Where is the promise of His coming?” they will ask. “Ever since our fathers fell asleep, everything continues as it has from the beginning of creation.” (1 Peter 3: 2 to 4)

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