General Article Ireland votes to repeal blasphemy law, but what is blasphemy and where is it still a crime?

Topic Selected: Religion Book Volume: 358
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Ireland has voted overwhelmingly to remove blasphemy from the law books –but it still exists in some parts of the UK.

By Jem Collins

Ireland has voted overwhelmingly to remove blasphemy from law books, in a referendum which followed in the wake of striking down the Eighth Amendment to pave the way for safe and legal abortions, as well as a similar vote to legalise equal marriage.

Almost 65 percent of voters supported the move – a total of 951,650 people – with just over 35 percent (515,808) in favour of retaining it, on a turnout of just over 43 percent.

However, the offence of blasphemy still remains on the books in as many as a quarter of countries around the world, with punishments ranging from fines to death.

What is blasphemy?

Put simply, blasphemy is something you say or do that ‘shows you do not respect god or a religion’. It’s often linked in with apostasy, the ‘crime’ of abandoning one’s faith.

It might not always be called that in law though – some countries call it ‘defam...

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