In what the Washington Post describes as an effort to “move away from its strongly conservative Catholic background to a more secular social agenda,” Ireland is set to vote on overturning its retrograde blasphemy ban.
Blasphemy is illegal under the country’s 1937 constitution and under the Defamation Act of 2009. The law predicts a punishment of $28,000.
The Defamation Act of 2009 prohibits “publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters sacred by any religion,” and the constitution says that the “publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offense which shall be punishable in accordance with law.”
Once highly influential and ubiquitously present, the Irish Catholic church is becoming less and less powerful by the year.
In 2015, Ireland became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote, and in May this year, Ireland voted to repeal its abortion ban.
The vote to overturn the centuries-old blasphemy ban is continuing to move the country in the direction of secularism, further separating the church from the state.
In a statement supplied to CNN, Ireland’s Minister for justice and equality Charlie Flanaghan said the following.
“By removing this provision from our Constitution, we can send a strong message to the world that laws against blasphemy do not reflect Irish values and that we do not believe such laws should exist.”
According to the Commission on International Religious Freedom, blasphemy is currently illegal in 71 countries worldwide.
When it comes to Europe, blasphemy remains illegal in Andorra, Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Liechtenstein, Malta, Montenegro, Poland, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, and Turkey.
Both the Catholic Bishops Conference and the Islamic Cultural Center of Ireland criticized the decision to hold a vote on the country’s blasphemy ban, the Washington Post notes, arguing that overturning it would be used to justify oppression against the religious, in Ireland and elsewhere.
Confused about blasphemy and Ireland? Here's everything you need to know ahead of Friday's referendum https://t.co/ncejKUACSz
— The Irish Times (@IrishTimes) October 25, 2018
Although the Catholic Church is not nearly as influential as it used to be in Ireland, young Irish people are among the most religious in Europe, according to the Irish Times.
Research shows that 54 percent of Irish people between the ages of 16 and 29 identify as Catholic, and 15 percent attend weekly religious services. Thirty-nine percent are irreligious.
The numbers are much higher across the pond, however.
According to Gallup, 37 percent of Americans are highly religious, and another 30 percent moderately religious. Thirty-three percent are not religious at all.
Interestingly, 48 percent of those who consider themselves highly religious approve of President Donald Trump, as well as 40 percent of moderately religious Americans.