The Persecution of Stephen Fry, and Ireland’s need for a new constitution

Ireland – a country lately undergoing a thoroughgoing, much-needed update in the eyes of the world – now has been in the curious position of investigating Stephen Fry for the eminently modern crime of blasphemy.

Fry, whose previous visits to Ireland include a good-spirited turn as an English tourist in the Irish-language soap Ros na Rún, made a 2015 appearance on RTÉ’s religion programme The Meaning of Life. Fry, we might have noticed, tends to speak his mind, and on this occasion, his mind was that God is ‘capricious, mean-spirited, stupid’ for creating ‘a world that is so full of injustice and pain’. (Quick readers will notice this is the problem of theodicy, a commonplace of theology classrooms but which apparently is not to be raised in the Irish Republic.)

And in the last few days, after receiving a complaint, Ireland’s police, the Gardaí, have been investigating Fry for blasphemy. Everyone who is Irish can feel a rush of pride to know Gardái rang Fry to inform him he was under investigation. (How’s that modernisation going, fellas?)

The UK abolished the common law offence of blasphemy in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, though it was effectively dead from 1917, when in Bowman v Secular Society, Lord Sumner pointedly quoted the Emperor Tiberius: deorum injuriae diis curae: ‘offences to the gods are dealt with by the gods.’

But Ireland’s 1937 Constitution – a strange document deeply in need of updating – requires the state to have a blasphemy law, and so obediently, Section 36 of the Defamation Act 2009 defines a new indictable offence of ‘Publication or utterance of blasphemous matter.’

2009. This isn’t the mediaeval period, or even the bad old days of De Valera’s 1950s.

This was a year after Bertie and Ian Paisley jointly opened a visitor centre on the site of the Battle of the Boyne; three weeks after the Blasphemy Act passed into law, Mary Robinson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Obama. New Ireland, in a sudden fit of absence of mind, reverted to old habits and went mediaeval.

In 2009, the drafters congratulate themselves that they’d widened blasphemy so that offences against religions other than Christianity could also be illegal. In their minds, I’m sure, they’d moved Ireland forward by miles.

Ireland’s in cozy company – with Pakistan, say, where after Zia’s 1986 Islamicisation of the penal code, § 295C proscribes the interesting sentence of ‘mandatory death and fine’ for defiling the name of the Prophet of Islam.

But Fry joins a very illustrious lineage, of people accused of blasphemy in Ireland. Usually it was a handy way of offing political opponents – this was the case with Adam Dubh Ó Tuathail, from a Gaelic landowning family in the Wicklow mountains, whom the leaders of the nearby Anglo-Norman Pale found annoying. (It didn’t end well for Adam, who was burned at the stake in 1328.)

The scholarly and splendidly named Archbishop Narcissus Marsh, whose book collection still continues as Marsh’s Library, attempted to begin a private prosecution against a Mr Fleming, a Presbyterian minister in Drogheda, for being a Presbyterian. Even by 17th century standards this was reckoned a bit embarrassing, and the Dublin Castle administration discreetly managed to drop it.

Dean Swift’s retort to Marsh was characteristically savage. Swift – perhaps the 17th century Fry, just better – said of Marsh ‘He is the first of human race, that with great advantages of learning, piety, and station ever escaped being a great man.’

In 1852, in Mayo a Franciscan monk named John Syngean Bridgman actually managed to get himself convicted under the common law offence of blasphemy for burning a Bible. It was the translation he objected to – it wasn’t Douay-Rheims, you see.

Then ensued a spate of prosecutions, all somehow involving the burning of Bibles, generally by monks. Vladimir Petcherine, a Redemptorist, in 1855 managed to burn a Bible by mistake in a bonfire of irreligious books. It happens. (He was acquitted.)

Generally from poor Adam on it was always about politics (this also is the case in Pakistan, whose blasphemy prosecutions usually result from local score-settling) – religion only getting into it by chance. And so you wonder, for the unknown complainant who toddled down to their local Garda station to register a blasphemy complaint – surely the fact Stephen Fry is English wasn’t part of it at all.

More important from the perspective of Ireland’s 1937 constitution, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that instead of piecemeal revision, it’s time for a rewrite.

A constitution isn’t fit for purpose if it requires the state to have a blasphemy law, declares society to be based on the institution of marriage, prohibits abortion against the wishes of 75 per cent of the population, and includes curious anachronisms like ‘The State acknowledges that the homage of public worship is due to Almighty God. It shall hold His Name in reverence, and shall respect and honour religion.’

If it’s the impetus for Ireland motivating itself to write the much-needed 2020 Constitution, then some good might come of the persecution of Stephen Fry. Which is how the religiously minded explain the problem of evil, anyway.

Ireland’s a country of writers.  So why don’t we write ourselves a new constitution.

  • Kevin Breslin

    New Advent’s Catholic interpretation of Blasphemy is quite interesting.

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02595a.htm

    As any good theologian would tell you even Jesus Christ himself would have committed “theodicy” in the Bible with the phrase “Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani”

    Some religious people may even argue, questioning God’s love is one sign you may have an iota of belief in him. If you were fully atheist, why would you waste your time?

  • Jag

    The Irish blasphemy law is legally iffy. You have to be found guilty of offending a “religion” and the definition of “religion” rules out most organised religions I’ve ever come across.

    “In this section “ religion ” does not include an organisation or cult—

    (a) the principal object of which is the making of profit, or

    (b) that employs oppressive psychological manipulation—

    (i) of its followers, or

    (ii) for the purpose of gaining new followers.”

  • johnny lately

    Surely its an over exaggeration that Stephen Fry was ‘persecuted’ Padraig FFS the Gaurds rang him up, he wasn’t arrested, he wasn’t flogged, whipped or imprisoned he was called on the telephone and told he was under investigation.

  • the rich get richer

    In one sense its getting harder to get locked up every day………

    I am kind of relying on getting locked up for my pension……I will have to be more creative at this rate……..

  • Jag

    Fiddle your tax returns, you’ll have MI5 round to you in a flash offering you all sorts of riches to turn tout. After all, that worked for Stakeknife.

  • Katyusha

    I’m actualy very much in favour of Ireland’s current “blasphemy” laws, which don’t so much ban blasphemy as act as a reminder to be civil to one another in public debate.

    36.— (1) A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €25,000.
    (2) For the purposes of this section, a person publishes or utters blasphemous matter if—
    (a) he or she publishes or utters 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, and
    (b) he or she intends, by the publication or utterance of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.

    A superb law, in my opinion. It isn’t so much a religious law, in my view, as it does not restrict itself to one religion or set of religious beliefs. I am perfectly fine with measures to courage people not to be “grossly abusive or insulting” towards others, or to deliberately foment outrage among the population. We can do without rabble-rousing and polemic, and can discuss topics in a reasoned and respectful manner. Especially in an era where the far right are promoting Islamophobia and demonising that religion and there adherents with their crude racist stereotypes, caricatures and outright false propaganda, it is very useful for a country to have laws on the statute book to check the boundaries of public speech and ensure public discourse is conducted in a respectful and sensible manner. Call it a “public decency” law, if you will, designed to protect public order. In other parts, it may file under the terms “hate speech” or “incitement to violence”. I don’t care what the labels are.

    Fry was being unnecessarily insulting, perhaps to try and rile people up or just for the sake of being “controversial” (which such people rarely are) He wasn’t prosecuted or anything close to it, and given that there was only one complaint against him, it seems to have failed the test of causing outrage among a significant number of people. I’m more than happy for it to serve as a warning and a reminder that he may wish to be more civil in future. His defence that he wasn’t being insulting towards “any one particular religion” is as laughable as it is petty, also. It struck me as demonstrating a total lack of self-awareness.

    Still, I guess one grace is that Ireland has never prosecuted anyone under it’s blasphemy laws. Unlike, for instance, Germany. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/12174806/Germany-fines-man-for-blasphemous-car-bumper-stickers.html

  • grumpy oul man

    It isn’t technically a blasphemy law but they are investigating someone for blasphemy under it.
    Oh dear I see a problem with your logic.

  • Ryan

    It also requires that you “utter blasphemous matter”- what is blasphemous matter. This would fail on the basis of ambiguity, I would imagine.

  • woodkerne

    The project of an agreed Ireland in future cannot possibly be 1+1 = 2 where the Republic of Ireland as formerly constituted in 1948 inherits the prize through simple addition. Rather on the model of dialectical montage, where A+B = C, a third concept, of a modern pluralist Ireland unshackled from the ghastly influence of organised religion is sorely needed in society. The coincidence of this bizarre instance of state prejudice against an urbane, principled humanist and entertainer–polemicist (who among the diverse parts of a cultured career played the title role in a 1997 biopic of Oscar’s Wilde’s life) and the proposal to gift the National Maternity Hospital to a religious order have rather dented the ostensibly good work of modernisation done by the Equal Marriage referendum.

  • Donagh

    “Persecution”? An atheist made a complaint, the Guards looked at the complaint as they are duty bound to do, decided there was no case to answer and dropped the investigation before it had even started. That’s persecution alright. Ffs

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    And why did RTE broadcast that section of the interview, knowing it might put him in this unenviable position? Having watched the odd broadcast of ‘The Meaning of Life’ with Gay Byrne or whatever it’s called. The presenter really pushes his non believing interviewees to suspend their disbelief for just a moment and then expound. It’s somewhat expected that some might say something that lies somewhere on the irreligious spectrum.

  • Jag

    From Katyusha’s post above it’s when “he or she publishes or utters 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”

    My difficulty is with most Christian religions which include a concept of Hell, which is surely “oppressive pyschological manipulation”

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Huh? If you have a religious belief surely it’s unassailable; impervious to one individual’s opinions.

  • Katyusha

    It’s not the impact on a person’s individual faith, Ben, which you are correct about. It’s the act of deliberately stirring up outrage which the blasphemy law is directed against.

    I don’t have much time for people who try to justify, for example, drawing offensive pictures of the prophet Muhammad with no other motive than to offend Muslims, or organise demonstrations in Muslim areas chanting the kind of stuff the EDL does, and then claim its an exercise of their free speech. They could provoke riots, or worse. We can do without that, as a society.

  • Salmondnet

    Agreed. Not so much persecution as legally sanctioned low level bullying and intimidation of a kind very prevalent in the UK. However, here it is much more enlightened. The authorities no longer use the law to bully people for offending the religious (at least, not for offending Christians), only for offending the politically correct. Plus ca change …………………………

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    At least within Christianity (thankfully owing a lot of influence to pagan Aristotelianism) god botherers are encouraged to turn the other etc.
    Outrage and offence are choices and only influential or momentous to the powerful who always have their own agenda.

  • grumpy oul man

    “An atheist made a complaint,” were did this information come from, how do you know the complainant was a atheist,

  • grumpy oul man

    does this law protect atheists such as myself from being offended by the religious!

  • grumpy oul man

    If you were fully atheist, why would you waste your time?
    I believe Stephen Fry was asked a question!

  • cj

    What are they going to do burn him on a stake?

  • NotNowJohnny

    A superb law?

    What is ‘outrage’ anyway …. how do you measure it, how does it manifest itself and how do you determine if it’s genuine outrage or someone just pretending to be outraged?

  • Katyusha

    They can call it what they wish, but it doesn’t correspond to the religious notion of blasphemy as I learned it as a child, from my (admittedly sketchy) Catholic upbringing and education.

    Well, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Do you believe the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is a democracy just because its called that, GOM?

  • grumpy oul man

    No, not the bit about Korea, but if a law calls itself a blasphemy law and somebody is being investigated for blasphemy under it , well then if it walks like a duck and so on!

  • Korhomme

    A complaint was made; the complainant wasn’t offended (himself) but thought that the law had been broken.

    The Gardaí were unable to find people who had been offended by what Fry said, therefore no offence had been committed.

  • Korhomme

    That is, a future united Ireland requires a change in both parts for such a union to be successful.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I never said Fry wasn’t fully an atheist.

    I’m saying questioning divinity is as much a matter of belief as it is non-belief.

    Fry’s intent didn’t seem to be malicious in what he said.

  • mac tire

    You could always partake in some welfare fraud. That might well get you locked up. Don’t try it as a head of a corporation though or you’ll end up just getting a pay rise. 😉

  • Jag

    Which part of this island has marriage equality? Which part of this island has sporting and other events on Sundays? Which part of this island has Christian stormtroopers on the streets (at least three regular pitches around Donegall Square and Royal Avenue)? Which part of this island saw an up-and-coming politician dropkicked out of their party for having a sports massage? Which part of this island was the setting for Fr Ted?

    And before GB butts in with any holier-than-thou commentary, remember Monty Python Life of Brian was banned there on blasphemous grounds for decades, and S5 of the public order Act is routinely used for any sort of offence.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/9616750/Rowan-Atkinson-we-must-be-allowed-to-insult-each-other.html

    In a reunified Ireland, the North will find it is coming home to a more liberal South.

  • woodkerne

    While ‘more liberal’ I could live with, in the interim, as a defence of things as they are in the south your comparative critique of the cultural conservatism of the north is not adequate to the needs of our present society and, as an inherited norm, undue subordination to the intolerance and illiberalism of religious values per se has no place in the future. A new constitution of a newly unitary state in Ireland should begin by interring the 1937 and 1948 documents, starting over as a legal framework with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (a precept of which is the separation of state from church influence) and the protocols of the Belfast Agreement.

  • Korhomme

    If you are saying, there should be free speech but it should be illegal to incite hate or violence against people, that’s fine. I’d guess that most people would think that ‘blasphemy’ goes much further than that.

  • Korhomme

    Isn’t that the problem with blasphemy? It is, as you say, a religious notion, one that may have been learned as a child.

    Better would be a secular separation of all religions and the state but with an ‘anti-hate speech’ law.

  • Katyusha

    Better would be a secular separation of all religions and the state but with an ‘anti-hate speech’ law.

    It’s already independent of religion, or that is to say, the law doesn’t apply to one particular religion or another. You could call it an “anti-hate speech” law, add clauses dealing with race, gender and homophobia, and it would pass just the same.

  • notimetoshine

    Who decides what “abusive and insulting’ is though. Arguably my saying that I find organised christian religion repulsive, vulgar, evil and sick could be considered grossly insulting even though certain actions of those churches would warrant such a description. Its all relative.

    Also churches and religions have an unpleasant habit of being hateful to the point of incitement to violence. Should the churches be regulated by some sort of ‘religious nut’ law.

    Nothing to do with civility.

  • notimetoshine

    One man’s blasphemy is another man’s religion and all that.

  • Katyusha

    Should the churches be regulated by some sort of ‘religious nut’ law.

    I presume, if anyone is ever prosecuted under this offence, a judge and jury.

    Should the churches be regulated by some sort of ‘religious nut’ law.

    The above cited blasphemy law would appear to have that covered. Finsbury Park Mosque and some of the more colourful public speeches by the Reverend Ian Paisley spring to mind.

  • Abucs

    I think the book of Job in the Bible is largely a discussion criticising God. Stephen Fry seems to be saying little more than the book of Job.

    http://ebible.org/kjv/Job.htm

    I want to be free to criticise atheism just as anyone should be free to criticise different ideas of God.

  • Roger

    Remarkable that the UK had a blasphemy law until 2008…
    But then I suppose it still has a State religion too….

  • Abucs

    “……As any good theologian would tell you even Jesus Christ himself would have committed “theodicy” in the Bible with the phrase “Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani……”

    I think you are absolutely right. For me though Jesus’ phrase from the cross “Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani……” was God’s personal answer to the Jewish people’s prayer of Psalm 22 spoken 1000 years beforehand.

    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+22&version=ESV

  • woodkerne

    Indeed ditto …

  • james

    I don’t think anything can protect you from being offended.

  • james

    “I don’t have much time for people who try to justify, for example, drawing offensive pictures of the prophet Muhammad with no other motive than to offend Muslims”

    Where would you stand on an artist’s right to depict Allah?

  • grumpy oul man

    Well blasphemy laws protect the relegious from offence.
    Why should the believers get special treatment,

  • johnny lately

    Helps if your not only head of your church but also head of state though –

    “If any person whatsoever shall, within the United Kingdom or without, compass, imagine, invent, devise, or intend to deprive or depose our Most Gracious Lady the Queen, from the style, honour, or royal name of the imperial crown of the United Kingdom, or of any other of her Majesty’s dominions and countries, or to levy war against her Majesty, within any part of the United Kingdom, in order by force or constraint to compel her to change her measures or counsels, or in order to put any force or constraint upon or in order to intimidate or overawe both Houses or either House of Parliament, or to move or stir any foreigner or stranger with force to invade the United Kingdom or any other of her Majesty’s dominions or countries under the obeisance of her Majesty, and such compassings, imaginations, inventions, devices, or intentions, or any of them, shall express, utter, or declare, by publishing any printing or writing … or by any overt act or deed, every person so offending shall be guilty of felony, and being convicted thereof shall be liable … to be transported beyond the seas for the term of his or her natural life.”

  • james

    What kind of law would be necessary to protect you from taking offence?

  • Ryan

    But the question is: what utterances are considered to be blasphemous. What could be viewed as blasphemy by me, could be viewed as being acceptable by you. And therein lies the problem with this section of the Defamation Act, it is ambiguous. The criminal law is interpreted on a very strict basis, there is no definition of what any type of religion would view as being blasphemous. Any interpretation of this would be liable to have holes picked in it.

  • George

    In 2009, the drafters congratulate themselves that they’d widened blasphemy so that offences against religions other than Christianity could also be illegal. In their minds, I’m sure, they’d moved Ireland forward by miles.

    Well that’s not true. If you listened to Dermot Ahern, who was Minister for Justice in 2009, the exact opposite was the case. He stated that the Attorney General’s advice was that due to the Constitution there had to be legislation on blasphemy or a referendum to remove it. The idea of having a referendum in 2009 was a complete non-runner with the state staring a banking collapse in the face.

    So they engineered a blasphemy law that is so vague and has so many caveats and exceptions that nobody would get prosecuted. A referendum could then take place at some point in the future and I believe the government pledged last year to have one. And the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Can you name me a single person who has been prosecuted under the 2009 Act?

    On the 1937 constitution being this “strange document”, I would point out that it recognised fundamental rights when fascism was dominant in Europe and long before the ECHR existed. It is also the reason contraception was legalised by the way,

    As for the old chestnut about abortion, the 1937 Constitution could very well have also allowed abortion. It was for this reason that there was a referendum in 1983, which was passed with a 66.9% vote. That’s not that long ago and Dev was in the grave. I find it naive for anyone to think there is now support for abortion among 75% of the population. Abortion in certain circumstances, yes, but not on demand.

    Also, the Constitution does not declare “society to be based on the institution of marriage”, it recognises “the Family as the natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society”. It pledges to guard the institution of marriage, including same-sex marriage, from attack.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    And equally shocking is this:

    https://www.irishtimes.com/news/education/forced-into-faith-we-are-second-class-citizens-in-the-education-system-1.3068968

    It rather sets me back on my heels when I read this sort of stuff, which I mistakenly thought was a thing of the past. Maybe put off the border poll for another ten years.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Criticise away – there is no atheist establishment to stop you

  • Abucs

    Certainly not in NI. Thanks God. 🙂

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    More liberal? See my link above.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Why should religion be singled out for special treatment? I can’t see a ‘public decency law’ working at all either. People will either respect others or they won’t – a law is not going to change that.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Aye. They’ll have a bit of a job with the ‘transporting beyond the seas’ now though, unless the Isle of Man steps up to the plate.

  • Korhomme

    England has a state religion, the UK doesn’t.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Or anywhere else, I think. But maybe NK or China?

  • Katyusha

    Why should religion be singled out for special treatment?

    No reason whatsoever.

    People will either respect others or they won’t – a law is not going to change that.

    People can be as disreptful as they like.. in private or like-minded company. I draw the line at people having the right to verbally abuse others in public – to be intentionally “grossly abusive and insulting”, as it were – whether it be on the street, at the pulpit or through the mass media, and a fine as a deterrent in extreme cases seems wholly appropriate.

  • JohnTheOptimist

    Ireland’s blasphemy laws are a great idea and should be kept. It is very unlikely that they will ever be used against those who blaspheme against Christianity. They’ve never been used in the past. What’s likely to change? Christians are extremely tolerant and in recent times have become used to having their religion insulted by bigoted liberals, who now appear to be in total control of the Irish media. These insults are small beer compared to what Christians have endured in marxist-run countries in living memory or in Islamic countries today. Sticks and stones …. The furore over Stephen Fry was simply a stage-managed stunt from the same liberal quarters. A put-up job. There was never any chance he’d be charged, despite the desperate longing of liberals for a martyr. Liberals always need something to rail against.

    What the laws do provide is a shield against Islamic terrorism in Ireland. If the laws are repealed, rest assured some one from the liberal media in Ireland will replicate the Charlie Hebdo magazine or the Danish cartoonist of a few years back. Whichever it is, a major Islamic terrorist attack will inevitably follow and possibly a boycott of Irish trade in many Islamic countries. That happened to Denmark, so why shouldn’t it happen to Ireland? The laws against blasphemy provide some sort of defence against that scenario, although obviously not a foolproof one.

  • grumpy oul man

    Perhaps the same protection that the relegious get, after all they have the right to take offence.
    Ideally I would like the stupid blasphemy law repealed but if the godly can be protected then so should the godless.
    And to be honest atheists have caused much less harm than the godly.

  • grumpy oul man

    Bit of paranoia there, got the whole liberal elite and the Muslims all at once, but a complete failure to take in history.
    For instance for a very short period of human history have we had atheists dictators, the rest were all godly folk, indeed a lot of it was done in God’s name or under God’s direction, many even claimed to be appointed by god,
    Then of course there was the Madeline laundry’s and sexual assualts on the vunlerable and mass graves of baby’s, how will you blame the liberal elite for that.
    So it seems you godly have a habit of being pretty ungodly.
    Still your wee mope was fun.

  • grumpy oul man

    Lots of places were atheists are penalised.

  • Salmondnet

    Can’t find any record of a legal ban on Life of Brian in Britain “for decades” . There was self-censorship on the part of the BBC and ITV for fear of giving offence, but that had nothing to do with blasphemy laws. Some local councils used delegated powers to ban it locally, but anyone who wanted to see it could find somewhere to see it.
    Atkinson’s fully justified complaint is not directed at traditional religious conservative censorship, but at the much more widespread version imposed on us all by people who regard themselves as progressive liberals. If that has not reached the Irish Republic yet you are fortunate, but rest assured something very like it will be with you shortly, unless you find a way to resist European pressure and cultural trends (good luck with that).
    Neither community in the North are notorious for their liberalism, so going “home” to it might not be that appealing.

  • The Seldom Seen Kid

    Strange, is it not, that a two year old interview with a tiresome englishman might result in calls by an Irishman for a new Irish constitution. It’s called a diversion tactic Padraig and you fell for it hook, line and sinker.

  • Shinner O’Toole

    Stephen Fry is absolutely correct, if God exists he or she or it is a complete kuunt.

  • Roger

    Though we could hair split and I could argue that the UK has a State religion because England is part of the UK and has its own religion…I won’t. In truth, I didn’t make a distinction between England and the rest.

    I suppose I could google it, but is the same religion the same religion in Wales? I’m mindful that Wales was annexed to England and isn’t a separate jurisdiction etc.

  • grumpy oul man

    Diverting from what?

  • Korhomme

    The Church of England is ‘by law established’. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the Bishops of Winchester, London and Durham and the next 21 most senior Bishops sit as of right as Lords Spiritual in the House of Lords. The Welsh church is Anglican; neither it nor the Church of Scotland has representatives as of right in the Lords. The Church of Ireland was disestablished around 1870.

    Wales now has its own Assembly.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    For NI, there’s always Rathlin…….

  • Pang

    I also don’t have time for people who go out of their way to deliberately offend or insult others, or their beliefs. But it shouldn’t be illegal. I will vote to remove this from the constitution if given the chance.

  • Roger

    Thanks.
    The bit I was asking about was Wales. You refer to the “Welsh church” whereas you refer to Church of England, Church of Scotland, Church of Ireland. Is there a separate Welsh church separate to the Church of England?

  • Korhomme

    AFAIK, the Church of Wales is separate from the Church of England.

  • grumpy oul man

    ” Christains are very tolerant”
    Thanks for that, I didn’t think I would get a laugh today!

  • Roger

    I googled it. The Church of England was disestablished in most of Wales in 1920. The Anglican Church there now styles itself the “Church in Wales” and under Anglican rules it is separate to the Church of England.

    I learned “Church of Scotland” isn’t the correct name either.

  • JohnTheOptimist

    Compare the treatment of Christians in atheist-run countries like North Korea, Cuba and eastern Europe (up until its liberation by the combined efforts of Reagan, Thatcher and the Pope) with the treatment of atheists in Christian countries. Compare the treatment of Christians in Muslim countries with the treatment of Muslims in Christian countries. While we’re on the subject, someone should tell Dawkins that Ireland left the U’ Kingdom in 1922 and is therefore under no obligation to obey his commands trgarding what laws to have.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The Church of Scotland is, of course, the lineal descendant of the Presbyterian body which seized the role of “national Church” in 1688, although the Church of Scotland is not itself an “established” church. Those attached to an “Anglican” form of worship in Scotland form the Episcopal Church of Scotland.

    It is of some interest that the Episcopal Church of Scotland was subject to penal laws during the eighteenth century alongside the Roman confession.

  • Roger

    Thanks. What is the formal name today of the formerly established Church in Scotland?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The current Episcopal Church of Scotland was the last body to function as “an Established Church” in Scotland as against a “National Church.” They have a delightfully “High Church” edge evident to anyone used to the “plainness” of the Church of Ireland who inadvertently attends one of their services.

    With plethora of non-Juring Bishops in Scotland the new Williamite administration could simply not countenance the Episcopla Church continuing as the established Church beyond 1689. They were having enough problems with the Church of England, with five of the seven Bishops tried in the summer of 1688 by James for refusing to are the “Declaration of Indulgence” electing to be non-juriors also!

  • Roger

    Thanks Seaan!

  • james

    “And to be honest atheists have caused much less harm than the godly.”

    Hard to prove that – but I’m assuming you can. Can you?

  • grumpy oul man

    Well yes,I used a history book, if you look at the vast majority of wars, massacre’s, dictators you will observe that most ( the vast majority) believed in a god, most thought they were doing the will of God.
    Atheists only became a feature in politics around the period of the French revolution and for less than a century have we had countries with atheisisn as a core concept.
    The American slave trade for example was carried out by believers ,the church’s being heavily involved, it wasn’t athiests who built the empires or committed genocide of the native tasmanians, or distributed smallpox infected blankets to native Americans.
    And the all those relegious wars fought around the world were not caused by athiests.
    See what I done there, when I make a claim and am asked to prove it I do.
    Perhaps you would be so good to supply proof for your claims in future
    I have lost count of the time I have asked you to prove some wild point and received no answer.

  • grumpy oul man

    Compare the treatment of all those people living in dictatorships run by Christains.
    And of course Ireland is a shining example of Christains tolerance.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Delighted to be of what help I may!

  • james

    I don’t think you really prove anything, to be honest.

    Your point seems to be:

    a. The vast majority of people in human history were affiliated to some degree with one religion or another.

    b. Evil acts of humanity have been more or less equally perpetuated by all people.

    c. Therefore religion makes people evil.

    It’s a bit like saying that the majority of crimes committed in China are committed by Asian people, hardly any by whites, and none by blacks. Therefore Asians are by far the worst criminals.

    In other words, your logic is nonsense.

    I don’t recall you asking me to prove anything at all.

  • Abucs

    I don’t see the preaching of Hell the same way. We can discuss this if you like.

    While I would agree that directly calling for violence against fellow citizens should be unlawful, I would disagree with the laws that state things must not be said because it may incite an outrage in others.

    For me this is one of the failings of the politically correct ideology because people can then silence others by deciding to be outraged. Then the silenced group are outraged because they are silenced and the law becomes sectarian because it has to preference one group’s outrage over anothers.

  • Jag

    “Some local councils used delegated powers to ban it locally”

    And indeed they did. For “decades”.

  • grumpy oul man

    So you agree,much more evil from Christains,
    Well glad we are on the same page.
    Oh and I have asked you to prove several wild claims about SF activities.

  • james

    “So you agree,much more evil from Christains”

    Uhm, no, I didn’t say I agreed. But when you say ‘religious’, you mean only Christians? Or are you also saying Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists and so on are evil?

    “Well glad we are on the same page.”

    I don’t think we’re even in the same book.

    “Oh and I have asked you to prove several wild claims about SF activities.”

    Really? Like what?

  • grumpy oul man

    No you see I never said that being relegious made people evil ( you seem to have pulled that out of a hat) I said history shows that relegious has been responsible for a awful lot of evil more so than athiests.
    And yes this trend carries across all relegions.
    Gene if you look at history then not only could athiests use some form of protection from the relegious but those of a minority relegions in a country would be better having protection.
    Now please go on and make up arguments against things I didn’t say, it’s​ amusing.

  • grumpy oul man

    4 days ago you claimed that the IRA had a protection rackets running, I believe that to be nonsense and asked you for proof, it’s been 4 days and no proof so fair to say you have none.

  • Christopher Mc Camley

    The Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) has, let’s say, a degree of establishment. The monarch of the day is represented in the General Assembly I think.

    Under the Acts of Union 1707, monarchs are required upon succeeding to the throne to make an oath to “maintain and preserve” the Church of Scotland. This oath is normally made at the Accession Council. The provision in Article XXV Section II of the Acts of Union 1707 states with respect to confirmed Acts of Scotland:

    And further Her Majesty with Advice aforesaid expressly declares and statutes that none of the Subjects of this Kingdom [Scotland] shall be liable to but all and every one of them for ever free of any Oath Test or Subscription within this Kingdom contrary to or inconsistent with the foresaid true Protestant Religion and Presbyterian Church Government Worship and Discipline as above established and that the same within the Bounds of this Church and Kingdom shall never be imposed upon or required of them in any sort And lastly that after the decease of Her present Majesty (whom God long preserve) the Sovereign succeeding to Her in the Royal Government of the Kingdom of Great Britain shall in all time coming at His or Her Accession to the Crown swear and subscribe that they shall inviolably maintain and preserve the foresaid Settlement of the true Protestant Religion with the Government Worship Discipline right and Privileges of this Church as above established by the Laws of this Kingdom in Prosecution of the Claim of Right.”

    I’d say that represents a fair degree of establishment.

  • Christopher Mc Camley

    The Constitution refers to blasphemous, seditious and indecent. It’s more of a hangover from British legislation than anything particular Irish and/or Catholic.

  • james

    But I’m interested whether you think the Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist religions are as ‘responsible for evil’ as you say Christianity is?

  • james

    “Oh and I have asked you to prove several wild claims about SF activities.”

    Am I to understand that you class IRA protection rackets and drug dealing as ‘SF activities’?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Indeed, but the significant difference between being a “national church” and actually being an integrated organ of the state,as the Anglican Church is. The Church of Scotland jealously keeps its distance from being an actual State Church as Anglicanism always was. As Wikipedia puts it : “Its constitution, which is recognised by acts of the British Parliament, gives it complete independence from the state.”

  • grumpy oul man

    No but you do, since you seem to get them confused, but I do notice still a lack of any proof of protection rackets by Republicans, perhaps you have confused them with the UDA ( the terror group that the DUP works with) so how less pedant more proof.

  • grumpy oul man

    Again a failure to read what I posted, I never said Christianity was evill, I said that many Christains had committed much evil.And yes ( although I don’t know were your going with this or how relevant it is to the discussion) many Muslims,Jews Buddhists etc have also done evil deeds as have many athiests.
    The original point was that you queried why athiests would need protection from Christains and I pointed out that when in a majority Christains have a history of persecution of those who have different beliefs from them

  • Reader

    Jag: And indeed they did. For “decades”.
    the film was banned for 8 years in Ireland wasn’t it? Whereas I am fairly sure I saw it in Bangor soon after it was released. Certainly before contraception was available without prescription in the RoI.

  • james

    I find it bizarre, and hypocritical, that you demand Christians show respect for the fact that atheists don’t believe in God – but have no respect yourself for those who do.

    Just makes you look like an extremely arrogant, insecure person really.

  • Jag

    Probably correct on both counts Reader, but it was banned in certain parts of the UK “for decades”.

    You remind us that the South wasn’t always as liberal as it is today, and there was that time in the 1970s when activists showed the world how illiberal the South was with the contraceptive train journey from Belfast to Dublin. The bad old days.

    Today, however, the tables have turned and I can’t think of a single area where the North is more liberal than the South, can you.

  • grumpy oul man

    Firstly i am demanding respect from anybody, what i am saying (and your still not reading what i say) all i am saying is that if Christians or any religious group is protected from offence by law then Atheists and agnostics deserve the same protection.
    Quite simple really and a look at the past of both parts of this island shows how oppressive the religious can be when they have power.
    I see you share Abucs’s tactic of when unable to reply to a point you make one up and resort to personal abuse, it doesn’t work for him and i am sorry but it wont work for you either.
    James i should also point out that you are still not supplying proof off you claims, typical.

  • james

    You often accuse people of not reading what you wrote –
    I’ve seen you do it a number of times. Has it ever occurred that the problem isn’t with them, but that what you write doesn’t make sense.

  • grumpy oul man

    No, what has occurred to me is that you may have read what I wrote but choose to misunderstand it.
    However I will explain it again.
    My point is that if the relegious have protection from offence then the non relegious should have the same defense.
    Now at no time did I accuse Christains of being evil, I did point out that Christains have a long history of evil ( now understand I do not accuse all Christains of being evil) a longer history than athiests.
    At no time did I ask from respect from people who are relegious, I personally respect many Christains but the wacko Christains right I hold in comtempt and care nothing for there opinion of me.
    Why do seem to have a problem understanding that.
    Oh and I’m still waiting on your proof I asked for about IRA protection rackets .