Brookes expert in blasphemy discusses Stephen Fry investigation

Monday, 08 May 2017

Stephen Fry

International expert on blasphemy laws at Oxford Brookes discusses on Sky News the reported investigation into actor Stephen Fry for blasphemy.

In the news over the weekend (6-7 May) it was reported that Stephen Fry is currently being investigated by police in the Republic of Ireland over alleged blasphemous comments he made about God during a programme from an Irish religious television programme in 2015. 

In the programme The Meaning of Life broadcast on RTÉ, he is accused of making outspoken comments about God. 

Professor David Nash, of the Department of History at Oxford Brookes is a world-leading authority in this field and is regularly called upon to give his insight. 

Back in 2012 he briefed members of the Irish government on the country's blasphemy laws. 

England and Wales abolished their laws on blasphemy in 2008. However, in 2009 under Ireland’s Defamation Act, the offence of blasphemy was included and made punishable by a fine of 25,000 euro. It has been the focus of a sustained abolition campaign from atheist, humanist, civil liberties and writers groups for many years. 

Importantly no speech, television programme or newspaper article is free from the retrospective reach of the law. Accepting the maintenance of this law is to accept the chilling effect of censorship in daily life - past and present. It is time for state to itself act responsibly and repeal this law.

Professor David Nash, Oxford Brookes University

In November 2013, Professor Nash addressed the Irish Constitutional Convention about blasphemy law repeal. 

Speaking about this on Sky News and in the Irish Independent today (8 May) Professor Nash said that maintaining blasphemy laws in modern society is deeply frowned upon by human rights agencies and watchdogs and that it should be repealed. 

Commenting further, he says: “History has shown us that even benign governments can think a blasphemy law will never be used and is there as a deterrent and a reflection of the country's religious culture. 

“No matter how unworkable governments and civil servants think the law is this incident indicates the power of the individual in finding offence and acting upon this. As the person concerned noted they do not even have to state whether they were offended but can simply state they have acted as a responsible citizen. 

“Importantly no speech, television programme or newspaper article is free from the retrospective reach of the law. Accepting the maintenance of this law is to accept the chilling effect of censorship in daily life - past and present! It is time for state to itself act responsibly and repeal this law.” 

More information about Professor David Nash can be found on his profile online.

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