America should take a lesson from Ireland. The Irish are a funny lot, giving a hat-tip to Catholicism but their hearts to a different god. Even so, the Irish can show Americans what it’s like when a society abandons God yet gives legal protection to religious speech.
Stephen Fry, the English author, comedian and actor (“V for Vendetta“), got as close as anyone has ever been to being prosecuted under Ireland’s 2009 anti-defamation (blasphemy) law. He called the God of the Bible “a capricious, mean-minded, stupid god.”
The law makes illegal any speech that’s “grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters sacred to any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion.”
But there’s a catch: somebody has to care, and in Fry’s case, nobody (or not “a substantial number”) did.
The 2009 law replaced a genuine blasphemy law on the books until it was found unconstitutional in 1999. No crime for blasphemy has been directly prosecuted for over 100 years (although certain profanity and obscenity charges might have applied). If Fry were actually prosecuted, he would have faced a fine of up to €25,000 ($27,181).
After initial inquiries, officers decided that not enough people had been outraged by Mr Fry’s remarks to warrant further investigation, according to the Irish Independent.
A source told the paper: “This man was simply a witness and not an injured party. Gardaí (Irish police) were unable to find a substantial number of outraged people.
How could this be? The Irish are a God-fearing, Catholic people, right? I mean, abortion is illegal in Ireland, except for the life of the mother. The church exerts enormous influence over social and political matters, and of course, there was the decades-long “troubles.” All that fighting with Protestants over Northern Ireland, and the Catholics can’t even get enough people to care about God to prosecute a real blasphemer.
That’s because Ireland’s religion is not about God, and hasn’t been for years.
Though we still practise them, these Catholic milestones are no longer about being embraced into the bosom of Christ (that was the point, yeah? I didn’t pay much attention), but are now just a fun day out with the family, an excuse to get dressed up, and, if we’re honest, a way to squeeze your extended family for all they’re worth. That’s fairly harmless, right? We’ve done away with the worst aspects of Irish Catholicism – we’re educated now, we’re liberal, we are progressive – and we’ve kept the easy bits, the rituals that are so ingrained in our culture that it would be more effort to abolish them than we can be bothered with.
How is all that a lesson for America? Two words: Donald Trump.
Trump was elected president largely by the votes of self-identified evangelicals. Many of them go to church, at least a few times a year. They might even have a Bible in their homes, that gets opened when a baby is dedicated, or a teen is baptized, or when a preacher visits for a meal. But American religion among most of Trump’s “evangelicals” is like Ireland’s Catholics. It’s hollow, ritualized, and dead as a doornail.
Is it any wonder that Trump’s recent executive order purporting to offer religious liberty is in reality so weak that even the ACLU won’t bother to challenge it in court? Is it any wonder that most of Trump’s base isn’t outraged or even concerned?
If America had a law like Ireland’s, and Fry said what he said on American television (worse things have been said on American television, thanks to the First Amendment), I think the result would largely be the same. It’s not really blasphemy if nobody is offended.
Of course, this exposes the agenda of those on the political left in the U.S. They don’t need protection from Christians, because nobody cares if they blaspheme. Instead, they want to eliminate the minority of believing, dedicated evangelical Christians by criminalizing Biblical speech and acts of conscience.
Given enough time, it might work to the point where America is just like Ireland, where the actual faithful minority is small to the point of vanishing. That’s really what the left wants. It’s not enough for self-identified Christians to not care. As Erick has long predicted, we who cling to faith will be made to care.
Here endeth the lesson.