Residents of Ireland voted decisively to remove blasphemy as a criminal offense from the country’s constitution in an Oct. 27 referendum.
Article 40 of the Irish Constitution, which deals with personal rights, contained a provision stating, “The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.” In light of the vote, which was backed by nearly 65 percent of the voters, the word “blasphemous” will be removed from the provision.
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan told The Irish Times, “[T]here is no room for a provision such as this in our Constitution. Ireland is rightly proud of our reputation as a modern, liberal society. The world has watched in recent years as we have taken landmark decisions as a people to change our constitution with regard to some of the deepest personal matters when we voted Yes to marriage equality and to repealing the Eighth Amendment.” (The Eighth Amendment, which outlawed abortion in Ireland, was repealed by voters in May.)
Atheist Ireland, a group that had for years campaigned to remove the provision, welcomed the result. In a statement, the organization celebrated that Ireland had “finally removed the medieval crime of blasphemy from our constitution.”
Continued the group, “Ireland was once a Catholic country. Today it is a pluralist country, which still has Catholic laws that we are gradually changing.”