Blasphemy Laws Aren't Just about Religion. They're about Free Speech

Daily Mail (London), May 4, 2009 | Go to article overview

Blasphemy Laws Aren't Just about Religion. They're about Free Speech


Byline: The Mary Ellen Synon COLUMN

THESE changes in the criminal blasphemy laws are far more sinister than just the puzzle of why the Justice Minister wants the changes now, and why he wants to tangle them up with changes in civil defamation laws. Some see it as a move to give the State the power to suppress criticism of Islam. Others see the Minister's push for legislation as a move to extend into law the reach of the modern orthodoxy called 'political correctness'.

I'd say there is some of all of that in this push for new law, and it is all sinister. But there is something else, too. One must look at what blasphemy has come to mean in the EU. I sense a nudge from Brussels in this. There is no other way to explain the Minister's urgent concern, as he puts it, for his 'obligation to implement the constitutional offence of blasphemy'. Certainly he feels no such urgent obligation to implement laws concerning the constitutional protection of the rights of the unborn.

So we must look to the blasphemy doctrine which first emerged from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in 2000.

At that time, the 'blasphemer' was a senior European Commission economist whose 'outrage' was to criticise economic and monetary union. To understand what is sinister in Mr Ahern's new law, we need to go back to that case, because it had - and has - huge implications for our freedom of speech, our right to 'blaspheme' against any orthodoxy.

In the 1990s, Bernard Connolly, a British economist, was a senior member of staff at the European Commission. Among other duties, he was head of the unit charged with monitoring the Exchange Rate Mechanism.

That made him an insider on the negotiations - and the intrigues and the ideology - that moved the EU towards a single currency.

Rotten

Despite being a member of the European elite, what he saw and heard disgusted him. The result was his book published by Faber & Faber, The Rotten Heart of Europe: The Dirty War for Europe's Money. The book is a cracker.

'My central thesis,' he wrote, 'is that the ERM and EMU [economic and monetary union] are not only inefficient but also undemocratic: a danger not only to our wealth but to our freedoms and ultimately our peace. The villains of the story - some more culpable than others - are bureaucrats and self-aggrandising politicians.

'The ERM is a mechanism for subordinating the economic welfare, democratic rights and national freedom of citizens of the European countries to the will of political and bureaucratic elites whose powerlust, cynicism and delusions underlie the actions of the vast majority of those who now strive to create a European superstate.

The ERM has been their chosen instrument, and they have used it cleverly.' At that, the Commission sacked Mr Connolly.

At no time did they answer his arguments, or find anything inaccurate in his account of negotiations. They sacked him only because they alleged such criticism was 'injurious' to the good name of the Commission. The problem was that they didn't appear to have any legal power to sack him for exercising his freedom of speech. So Mr Connolly took the Commission to the lower court of the ECJ, the Court of First Instance.

The court ruled - and this is truly astounding - that the EU has an undefined, perhaps even unlimited, power to restrict political criticism 'in the general interests of the Communities.' They ruled that such power made his sacking legal.

To demonstrate how astounding this is, imagine Brian Cowen and his ministers managing to get a ruling from the High Court that they are allowed to restrict political criticism 'in the general interests of the State'. Then they used the ruling to sack George Lee from the State's broadcasting arm.

In 2000, Mr Connolly finally managed to appeal the lower court's decision to the ECJ itself. When Mr Connolly arrived at the ECJ, he found himself up against Damaso Ruiz-Jarabo Colomer, then and now an advocate-general at the court.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Blasphemy Laws Aren't Just about Religion. They're about Free Speech
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.