On Friday 26 October 2018, on the same day as the presidential election, Irish citizens will be asked to vote on the issue of blasphemy in our Constitution.
While the Áras race has been grabbing headlines in recent times, it is important to vote on the referendum on the Thirty-seventh Amendment to the Constitution.
A change to the Constitution can only be made by referendum. It is not possible to add or remove anything from the Constitution without a vote of the people.
If passed, the referendum would see the removal of the offence of blasphemy that’s currently contained in the Irish Constitution.
What is ‘blasphemy’ and why is it in the Irish Constitution?
In plain English, blasphemy is defined as being insulting or offensive towards, or showing contempt for, God or sacred things.
What constitutes blasphemy can be varied and depend on one’s religion, but examples include the burning of a Bible (for Christians) or drawing the Prophet Mohammed (for Muslims).
The word “blasphemous” appears in Article 40.6.1 of the Constitution, which reads:
The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.
In this referendum, you are being asked if you want to remove the word ‘blasphemous’ from Article 40.6.1 in the Constitution.
In other words, you are being asked whether or not you think blasphemy should be considered a criminal offence in our Constitution