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Irish Police Launch Investigation Into Stephen Fry’s Alleged Blasphemy

Irish Police Launch Investigation Into Stephen Fry’s Alleged Blasphemy

Yes, you read that right: the blasphemy investigation is taking place in Ireland

English actor, writer, and comedian Stephen Fry, who is perhaps as well-known for his leftist politics and atheism as he is for Blackadder or A Bit of Fry and Laurie, has run afoul of Ireland’s 2009 blasphemy law.

Gardaí, the Irish Republic’s police, are investigating Fry for allegedly mocking Christianity on Irish television.  The investigation is a response to a viewer complaint.

The Independent reports:

GARDAI have launched an investigation after a TV viewer claimed comments made by Stephen Fry on an RTE show were blasphemous. can reveal that a member of the public reported the allegation to Ennis garda Station following a broadcast of ‘The Meaning of Life’, hosted by Gay Byrne, in February 2015.

Gardaí in Donnybrook have recently contacted the man who made the report and a senior source revealed a full investigation is now due to be carried out.

. . . . The specific complaint relates to an interview conducted on ‘The Meaning of Life’ with Mr Fry. During the show the comedian and writer was questioned about what he might say to God at the pearly gates.

Mr Fry replied: “How dare you create a world in which there is such misery? It’s not our fault? It’s not right. It’s utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid god who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?”


The controversial blasphemy law in Ireland, the only one passed in the Western world this century, was passed in 2009.

CBC News reported at the time:

In Ireland, it has been a crime to publish blasphemous material since 1961, although nobody has ever been convicted. The Seanad, the Irish senate and upper level of parliament, passed the Defamation Bill in July that makes uttering blasphemy a crime as well.

The bill was originally proposed in 2006. It worked its way through parliament and received final approval on July 10 this year, when it passed by a slim margin  of 23-22.

. . . . The bill states that a person publishes or utters blasphemous matter if:

  • He or she publishes or utters matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion.
  • He or she intends, by the publication or utterance of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.

The bill puts the onus on a defendant to prove that a reasonable person would find genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value in the matter to which the offence relates.

“I think we’re talking about central issues — for example, a depiction of Christ as a homosexual … many religious people find this outrageous and their reaction is intense,” says Weinrib. “The intent of the outrage still needs to be proven in this case.”

The complainant who reported Fry’s alleged blasphemy noted in his statement to the Gardaí that he did not personally find Fry’s comments offensive.

The Independent continues:

A member of the public, who asked not to be identified, told he travelled to Ennis Garda station, Co Clare that month to reports the alleged blasphemy.

“I told the Garda I wanted to report Fry for uttering blasphemy and RTE for publishing/broadcasting it and that I believed these were criminal offences under the Defamation Act 2009.

“The garda then took a formal written statement from me in which I quoted Fry’s comments in detail. This written statement mentioned both Fry and RTÉ specifically.”

He said he was asked by the garda if he had been personally offended by the programme and If he wished to include this in the written statement.

“I told the Garda that I did not want to include this as I had not personally been offended by Fry’s comments – I added that I simply believed that the comments made by Fry on RTÉ were criminal blasphemy and that  I was doing my civic duty by reporting a crime.”

It seems unlikely that Fry will be prosecuted, much less convicted.

The Independent continues:

A well-placed source said it was “highly unlikely” that a prosecution would take place.

A spokesman for Mr Fry said: “[There is] nothing for us to say while this is under investigation.”

At the time of the broadcast, Fry did respond to the social media storm his comments initially provoked.

The Guardian reports:

At the time of the initial broadcast, Fry spoke about the matter on BBC Radio 4’s Today Show. “I was astonished that it caused so viral an explosion on Twitter and elsewhere. I’m most pleased that it’s got people talking,” he said.

“I was merely saying things that many finer heads than mine have said for hundreds of years, as far back as the Greeks … I never wished to offend anybody who is individually devout or pious, and indeed many Christians have been in touch with me to say that they are very glad that things should be talked about.”

The host of the The Meaning Of Life programme, Gay Byrne, said “Of course [Fry] hadn’t wished to cause offence. But that’s what the internet is for, controversy, debate and people’s opinions.”

The influential Archbishop of Canterbury has come to Fry’s defense.

The Telegraph reports:

The Archbishop of Canterbury has come to the defence of Stephen Fry who infuriated Christians by denouncing God as “utterly evil”, “capricious, mean-minded, stupid” and “monstrous”.

The Most Rev Justin Welby insisted that the atheist comedian and writer had a God-given right to express his beliefs and should not be abused by Christians for doing so.

He added that the Church must speak out in defence of religious freedom – but with the humility of a reformed alcoholic who recognises that they once practised the very things they now urge people not to do.

. . . . “Well, if we believe in freedom of choice, if we believe in freedom of religion what is good for one is good for all.

“We must speak out for others persecuted for their beliefs whether it be religious or atheistic.

“Taking responsibility for someone else’s freedom is as important as my own.

“It is as much the right of Stephen Fry to say what he said and not to be abused improperly by Christians who are affronted as it is the right of Christians to proclaim Jesus Christ.

“That is his freedom to choose that is given to us in creation.”

This blasphemy investigation is noteworthy because we typically hear about blasphemy laws and punishments in non-Western countries.

The Washington Post reports:

In 13 countries, atheism effectively comes with the risk of a state-imposed death penalty, though in some of those countries, the penalty is rarely enforced.

According to the report [linked here], Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates and Yemen allow for capital punishment for apostasy, or the renunciation of a particular religion (in each of these countries, that religion is Islam).

In Pakistan, blasphemy carries the death penalty.


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When this comes to naught they will have a precedent to throw out any charges concerning blasphemy against other religions, such as Shinto, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and the like.

I suspect even Islam may be included…

Nah, just kidding on that last one.

Rick the Curmudgeon | May 7, 2017 at 7:09 pm

“Blasphemy is speech that has been outlawed to prevent your religion from losing arguments.”

Hey Ireland! What’s it like to be in the same boat as Saudi Arabia?

Karma bites another ignoramus in the ass.

Ragspierre | May 7, 2017 at 8:08 pm

Fry is a seriously smart cat.

I don’t agree with him on much of anything, but I do recognize and admire his brilliant mind.

It sort of goes to show you that any great engine can produce really bad results when fed the wrong stuff.

OTOH, you can have a much more modest engine work wonders if you care for and feed it properly.

    Arminius in reply to Ragspierre. | May 9, 2017 at 7:31 am

    He may be smart, but this is a completely completely contradictory to the whole idea of atheism.

    “Mr Fry replied: ‘How dare you create a world in which there is such misery? It’s not our fault? It’s not right. It’s utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid god who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?.'”

    Why would the things Fry describes bother an atheist at all? As Oxford biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins explains in his book, River out of Eden; A Darwinian View of Life, atheists are completely rational. The only thing that exists is this material world. There is no God, therefore no divine design of creation and no divine purpose. We are like all living things simply machines for replicating DNA. Which means we have to be able to find enough food, fight well enough, and flee fast enough, to survive long enough to reproduce. As Dawkins likes to put it, we are all “just dancing to the music of our DNA.” And therefore there is nothing that is objectively evil, or objectively good. Things just are. As Dawkins puts it, the universe is completely indifferent to our survival or suffering.

    Think of the African Savannah. A lioness makes a living by killing things; that’s how she’ll live long enough to reproduce and pass on her DNA. The herbivores and smaller predators, if they’re going to live long enough to reproduce and pass on their DNA, have to avoid being eaten. Sometimes the lioness can pull down a zebra and kill it. She’ll have a chance to live a little while longer and pass on her DNA. The zebra won’t. But a zebra can instinctively give a vicious kick when it senses the lioness is almost upon it, and this kick will sometimes break the jaw of the lioness. A lioness with a broken jaw will die a slow, painful death but definitely will not live long enough to pass on her DNA. The zebra will have a chance to live a little longer and do so.

    According to Dawkins and the completely rational atheists, the only thing that exists, the material world, is completely indifferent as to which happens. These are just meaningless events.

    So if there is no objective good and evil, the universe just is and is completely indifferent to our survival, where does Mr. Fry get concepts such as fault, misery, right vs. wrong, evil, and injustice vs. justice? Where does Mr. Fry get the idea it would be wrong, somehow, if I caused someone great physical pain? After all, the universe just is, and is indifferent to our pain as in the scenario I described above in which the lioness will die a slow, painful death.

    If we’re all just dancing to the music of our DNA, and our DNA drives us simply to be machines for replicating DNA, how does the concept of fault enter into it. Blame doesn’t exist any more for me than it does for that zebra. According to the atheists everything I do is simply a result of biochemical processes over which I have no control.

    The answer of course is you can’t develop those concepts from an atheist worldview. You have to borrow concepts from outside your world view to be an atheist. They have to borrow from a theistic worldview. But then, what is the point of considering atheism rational if it isn’t complete enough to explain the world and your reaction to it?

    Atheists spend a lot of time thinking about God, getting angry at a God they insist doesn’t exist because they can’t explain all the misery, suffering, and evil in the world. Which shouldn’t bother them at all if the material world is all there is, it just is, and the things he describes are merely meaningless events because the universe is indifferent to these things. Then rejecting the God that they insist doesn’t exist because all these things which shouldn’t bother him if he’s really an atheist bother him a lot.

    Arminius in reply to Ragspierre. | May 9, 2017 at 9:35 am

    I supposed I could have summed this up by pointing out that atheists, even Dawkins, deny the existence of God using what’s known as the “argument from evil.” This despite the fact that they claim only the natural world exists the then go on to presuppose the existence of objective moral facts.

    Where can an atheist find objective moral facts in their philosophy of naturalism? They can’t exist. Yet Dawkins has written many times that religion is the root of all evil. The atheist argument is schizophrenic. After spending a great deal of time arguing their is not such thing as evil, their is just an indifferent universe. But then he claims to know religion is the root of all evil?

    Then Fry proceeds to chew out God should he unexpectedly encounter Him in the afterlife for being mean, capricious, evil, and stupid. This presupposes that their are objective moral facts that which are binding even on God, and that he (Fry) knows what they are. In those comments he was making a theistic argument because there is nothing in atheism that could provide for that.

    It’s a silly argument, and it simply goes to show that atheism is insufficient. But even so it’s a silly law and he shouldn’t be prosecuted.

I first got to appreciate him in Black Adder, back in the 80’s – he was Lord Melchick (and other characters) That show still makes me laugh more than almost anything produced since then!

    The Friendly Grizzly in reply to Tom Servo. | May 8, 2017 at 1:21 am

    He also did a quite interesting travelogue of America, driving a London cab harmonised to US standards of all things, all over the US. I wish i could get one of those for myself. A ton of head and leg room for me, and no damned center console.

    The Friendly Grizzly in reply to Tom Servo. | May 8, 2017 at 1:23 am

    I meant to add to your comment, TS: his routine about pooh-poohs is on YouTube, and one of the funniest scenes in the entire Blackadder series.

Fry: its not our fault…its not our fault….its not our fault

God: Hahahahahahahhaaa….Evil IS your fault. Now feck off.

shrinkDave | May 8, 2017 at 3:01 pm

Shocking news from a country who’s greatest legacy is getting inebriated. Watch out Sharia!

Sonnys Mom | May 8, 2017 at 4:36 pm

Another atheist blaming God for the choices humans make.

Once the Muslims realize that Fry’s criticism applies equally to Islam and Christianity, then they will get offended and Fry will be in a world of hurt with the Irish government. Notably, that blasphemy law applies to all religions. Therefore, I would expect that the investigation would have to evaluate whether Muslims were offended.

Does this mean the Irish can now seek political asylum by claiming they face prosecution for free speech if they are returned to Ireland?