News

Police halt Stephen Fry blasphemy investigation

Police halt Stephen Fry blasphemy investigation

An Irish police investigation into allegedly blasphemous comments made by Stephen Fry during a TV interview has been dropped after detectives decided there were not enough people who had been offended by the remarks.

Police launched an investigation into the presenter, author and comedian after he described God as “capricious”, “mean-minded”, “stupid” and an “utter maniac” during an appearance on Irish television show The Meaning of Life in February 2015.

A source told the Independent:

Gardaí (Irish police) were unable to find a substantial number of outraged people.

Fry’s comments were widely reported but did not become a legal matter until a man complained last year, prompting a police inquiry.

Police said:

This man was simply a witness and not an injured party. For this reason the investigation has been concluded.

The man who made the initial complaint about Fry is said to be satisfied that Irish police had investigated the matter fully and told detectives he had merely been doing his civic duty in reporting it.

Just days before the investigation was dropped, Emer O’Toole, writing for the Independent, said:

You’re probably thinking that Ireland’s blasphemy law is some anachronistic throwback from the nineteenth century, still on the books though never enforced – like the ones about being intoxicated while in charge of a cow or taking public transport while you have the plague. You’d be wrong. The offence of “publication or utterance of blasphemous matter” was introduced to a new defamation act by then justice minister Dermot Aherne in 2009, and came into law in 2010.

It is now illegal to utter or publish any material “grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion” where intent and result is “outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion.”

There are few absolutely dependable things in this world, but I would contend that the outrage of vast swathes of the religious when asked if they might be drunkenly driving their sacred cows is amongst them.

Ireland’s “modern” blasphemy law has provided a model to Pakistan and other states who wish to limit freedom of conscience.

O’Toole added:

I know how the Irish head-in-the-sand brigade is going to respond to this latest piece of evidence that Father Ted was, in fact, a documentary. They’re going to say that the complaint against Fry is just some crazy hick exploiting a harmless law, and it’ll go nowhere, so we should all calm our jets and laugh it off.

I can see the jocular tabloid headlines already: Fry in Hell! And I agree that the case is likely to go nowhere. But we are deluded if we think that the 2009 law is not actively influencing, limiting, even dictating the content that we are offered by our national media.

And we are even more deluded if we think that we are living in a secular society. Just days ago, on 3 May, the Irish government made it mandatory to stand during the prayer that opens the Dáil (parliament) and to observe a moment of silence afterwards. This is an obvious infringement on the freedom of conscience of our elected representatives and coercion of this sort has no defensible place in a secular society. The motion passed by 97 votes to 17.

This is the public discourse and political context that allows for a situation where our elected representatives think it’s acceptable to give full ownership of a state-of-the-art national maternity hospital to an order of Catholic nuns who are ideologically opposed to contraception, IVF, and, of course, abortion.

This is the context that enables Catholic control of the Irish state-funded education system. It is the context that denies Irish women their reproductive rights.

It has to change – not because we’re all a bit embarrassed about inviting Stephen Fry on Irish telly and then casting him, without his permission, as a heretic in a medieval docudrama – but because the church should have no place in politics. We deserve a secular state. And we need to start insisting on one.

18 responses to “Police halt Stephen Fry blasphemy investigation”

  1. remigius says:

    Couldn’t they ask the Indonesian police to look into it? They have a better success rate with this sort of crime.

  2. L.Long says:

    How many Irish does it take to change a light bulb? 1000!!!
    998 to be OFFENDED by the light, one to smash the light , and one to change it!!! Irish, trying hard to make taxus look smart!

  3. Paul says:

    So no one can utter or publish material “grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion”
    So a matter held sacred, is for most sane, rational people, something that can only be described as the most ridiculous nonsense ever developed by unintelligent (mainly) middle eastern goat herders, paedophiles, murderers, slave owners and despots.
    As long as there is no intent, even if outrage results among a substantial number of adherents, there is no “crime”. A crime. Really. How can thoughts and debate of the nonsensical be a crime. That in reality means to debate means to criticise means to insult means to offend leads to victims, and must result in censure, as outrage seems to be a result for any form of challenge to any religious belief.

  4. remigius says:

    ‘As long as there is no intent, even if outrage results among a substantial number of adherents, there is no “crime”.’

    Not necessarily, Paul. Strict Liability offences do not require intent (mens rea). Blasphemy is (was! in UK anyway) one such offence.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strict_liability_(criminal)

  5. David Anderson says:

    “…there were not enough people who had been offended by the remarks.”

    So not the law but mob rule.

  6. Paul says:

    @Remiguis
    I’m not so sure that this particular ‘crime’ is one of strict liability as you rightly point out – as the language has imported the necessary men’s rea- guilty mind- by using the word ‘intent’.
    And great first comment BTW- I did laugh.

  7. remigius says:

    Paul, you are correct on both matters.

    1). I just looked at the Irish statue and it does indeed say intent is necessary in this instance. See pt 5 s36 (2)(b).

    http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2009/act/31/enacted/en/print#part5

    The Act expressly abolishes the common law offence (which does not require intent).

    However I think there was intent on Fry’s behalf. He would know that the interview would air in Ireland, and that its content would offend some. I reckon he was both disappointed that so few were outraged, and pleased that so few were outraged. I know I am.

    2). It was a good first comment. I laughed too!

  8. Simon says:

    Not many were offended? Really? I bet there were battalions of offended people … but not many simultaneously offended and stupid enough to make abject fools of themselves by complaining. But for every set of gnashing catholic teeth there were hundreds of people laughing heartily and cheering Fry on. Me … I punched the air in delight and sent the YouTube link to everyone I thought would appreciate it and to all those I knew would be offended by it.

  9. Paul says:

    Remiguis
    I’m outraged that there wasn’t enough outrage.

  10. Jobrag says:

    What I posted on Monday.

    Mon 8 May 2017 at 9:36 am
    “Causing outrage to a substantial number of adherents to that religion “. Only one complaint lodged, case closed.

  11. […] the Irish investigation was dropped this week, it led to New Zealanders reviewing their laws and finding blasphemy was still on the statute […]

  12. John the Drunkard says:

    It sounds as if the complaint was made to expose the law more publicly. Rather like Scopes in Tennessee.

    How many Irish to change a lightbulb?

    100. One to hold the bulb, and 99 to drink until the room spins.

  13. barriejohn says:

    Several letters on this subject in today’s Daily Mail, including the following (an excerpt):

    For too long Christianity has sat back and allowed self-appointed sages of no faith to insult the living God with impunity.

    Mr Fry’s views, though sincere, are without knowledge and understanding and are, therefore, quite irrelevant.

    It is not God’s will that little children suffer from malnutrition. This is man’s fault, not that of a loving God who has handed the control of Earth to us.

    If God interfered in every situation, then we would not be human, but robots with no free will – and the likes of Stephen Fry would be the first to complain*. (BILL ROWLANDS, Coleraine, Co. Londonderry.)

    I’m so glad to learn that “control of Earth” has been handed over to us. Our garden is parched at the moment, so I am turning on the rain taps tomorrow; expect heavy downpours, as our young plants are dying, and I had imagined that the situation was outside of my control. Silly me!

    (* Except that he wouldn’t be able to, of course.)

  14. remigius says:

    Don’t be too hasty with them rain taps, barriejohn. Back in 2012 the UK government declared a drought. It then started raining pretty much straight away, and every bloody day afterwards.

    That drought turned out to be the wettest summer since 1766. My tomatoes were ruined and my birds-eye chillies got leaf rot.

  15. barriejohn says:

    Too late; the wheels are already in motion. But surely you remember Denis Howell, Minister for Drought in 1976?

    In 1976, during Britain’s driest summer in over 200 years, he was made Minister for Drought (but nicknamed ‘Minister for Rain’). Howell was charged by the Prime Minister with the task of persuading the nation to use less water – and was even ordered by No. 10 to do a rain dance on behalf of the nation.

    The appointment provoked much public mirth, but in true Brummie style, the Lozells-born MP responded by inviting reporters to his home in Moseley where he revealed he was doing his bit to help water rationing by sharing baths with his wife, Brenda. Days later, heavy rainfall caused widespread flooding, and he was made Minister of Floods. Additionally, during the harsh winter of 1978–1979 he was appointed Minister for Snow.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denis_Howell

    (I seem to remember that the snow melted as well.)

  16. Gui says:

    “For too long Christianity has sat back and allowed self-appointed sages of no faith to insult the living God with impunity.”

    And why a so almight entity didn’t do anything directly by itself instead of relying on failible and limited humans?

    “If God interfered in every situation, then we would not be human, but robots with no free will – and the likes of Stephen Fry would be the first to complain*.”

    But Yahweh interfere with human free will in the OT by hardening the hearts of the pharaoh and the Sihon’s king in order to advance his schemes and by sending and evil spirit upon Saul.

  17. Cali Ron says:

    John the Drunkard : Nice. Reminds me of a joke a friend from Ireland told me. How many Irishmen does it take to change a kitchen light bulb? None, let her cook in the dark. Being a good Catholic, he was also a male chauvinist.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *