When he played Gordon Deitrich in V For Vendetta, the television personality who challenged an authoritarian state, Stephen Fry exposed the terror of living in a state that reserved to itself the right to determine what speech was considered criminal. He now faces a criminal prosecution over a statement in Ireland that would be entirely protected in the United States as an exercise of free speech. Irish police are investigating him under the country’s infamous blasphemy law for asking why he should “respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid god who creates a world…. full of injustice.” Ireland allies itself with Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other nations in prosecuting free speech deemed insulting or offensive to any religion. The law is a disgrace to all freedom-loving people and the Irish demean themselves in keeping blasphemy in the criminal code. The only thing missing is some menacing Irish Chancellor saying “Ireland Prevails.”
The statement was made in February 2015 when Fry appeared on The Meaning of Life, hosted by Gay Byrne. He was asked what he might say to God at the gates of heaven. He answer was honest and though-provoking: “How dare you create a world in which there is such misery? It’s not our fault? It’s not right. It’s utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid god who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?” After discussing the Greek vision of the all seeing God, he added “the god who created this universe, if it was created by god, is quite clearly a maniac, an utter maniac, totally selfish.”
That led to a complaint by someone who wanted to silence even this type of personal expression. Adding to the bizarre aspect of this investigation, the complainant reportedly said that he was not offended.
Putting aside the loony aspect of the complaint, it is chilling that police would investigate such a frivolous and abusive claim. However, the problem again is the law which criminalizes any comment ” 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.” I am not even sure what that means. “Grossly abusive or insulting”?
We have previously discussed Ireland’s ignoble status as a Western nation that has dabbled in blasphemy prosecutions. In 1999, the country’s blasphemy law was found to be incompatible with the Constitution’s guarantee of religious equality. Belated but true. However, a new offense was crafted for the “publication or utterance of blasphemous matter.” For many years, I have been writing about the threat of an international blasphemy standard and the continuing rollback on free speech in the West. For recent columns, click here and here and here.
I remain shocked by the tolerance of Irish voters for this clearly abusive law. It appears that there are many Irish citizens who were rooting for Adam Sutler in finding the “secret room” in Deitrich’s home: