BHA defends its patron Stephen Fry in face of Irish blasphemy probe

In 2015, Stephen Fry made headlines around the world for blasting the God he doesn’t believe in for creating a world so full of suffering and misery. His comments were made in an interview with Irish channel RTE. Now, over two years later, Stephen is being investigated by the Irish police for potentially breaking the Republic of Ireland’s blasphemy law, after a member of the public complained about his comments. The British Humanist Association (BHA), of which Stephen is a patron, has branded the news as a ‘ridiculous’ impingement on free speech, and commented that this shows yet again the urgent need to repeal blasphemy laws all around the globe.

When asked what Stephen would say if he ever met God, he told RTE presenter Gay Byrne, ‘How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that is 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?… I would say: “bone cancer in children? What’s that about?” Because the God who created this universe, if it was created by God, is quite clearly a maniac, utter maniac. Totally selfish. We have to spend our life on our knees thanking him?! What kind of god would do that?’

Ireland’s current blasphemy law was passed in 2009 and has never been used. However, that does not mean it never will be – just in February, for example, prosecutors in Denmark decided to use their blasphemy law to charge a man for the first time in 46 years. Blasphemy laws also remain in active use in Greece, Poland, Turkey, and Russia, all of which have seen prosecutions in recent years. The BHA is part of the End Blasphemy Laws campaign, an international campaign aimed at eradicating such laws around the globe that has seen laws abolished in Norway, Iceland, Malta, and France since it was launched two years ago.

In England and Wales, blasphemy laws were abolished in 2008. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, blasphemy laws still remain on the books – but neither have been used for some time.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘It is ridiculous that Stephen Fry is being investigated for a possible breach of Ireland’s blasphemy laws. Not only are such laws detrimental to free speech here in Europe, but they also enable countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran to justify their own laws, which in the case of 13 states come with a death sentence.

‘The current Irish Government is committed to holding a referendum on the abolition of Ireland’s blasphemy law. It is past time that such a referendum takes place.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact BHA Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson on richy@humanism.org.uk or 0781 55 89 636.

Read more about the End Blasphemy Laws campaign: http://end-blasphemy-laws.org/

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

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