Statement from the Church and Society Commission of the Church of Ireland, on the Referendum to remove the reference to blasphemy in the Irish Constitution
The following statement from the Church and Society Commission of the Church of Ireland, on the Referendum to remove the reference to blasphemy in the Irish Constitution, has been issued by the Chair of the Commission, the Rt Revd Kenneth Kearon, Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe.
We acknowledge that the current reference to blasphemy in the Constitution of Ireland is largely obsolete.
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.
There is a fundamental human right to freedom of religion, but also the freedom of expression (within limits). However, the human right of Faith Communities to contribute to public life, including public debate on issues that are of importance to everyone, without being subjected to attack or ridicule, must be acknowledged and respected. Religious and other minorities, in particular, have a right to expect that they will not be gratuitously offended or humiliated. We remind citizens that some religions and cultures may have different sensitivities for what they find offensive, and this should be, as far as possible, respected.
The psychological impact of hate speech on isolated communities, particularly online abuse, should not be underestimated.
We cannot reflect on these questions without expressing our solidarity with all those, throughout the world, who are experiencing persecution, and human rights abuses, because of their faith or beliefs. We urge the Government of Ireland to make our country a leading example of protection for freedom of religion, freedom of conscience and the human rights of minorities.
While we recognise that this is not an option in the upcoming Referendum, we would have preferred to have seen a proposal to replace Article 40.6.1.i. with an Article protecting freedom of religion and freedom of speech in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights Articles 9 and 10.
Further, we would urge the Oireachtas to enact the Criminal Law (Hate Crime) Bill which was proposed in 2015, but has yet to be brought forward to be debated.
The Church of Ireland, as always, continues to pray for the members of the Oireachtas, in private prayer and public worship.