Dr Kevin Hargaden, theologian at the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice (JCFJ), is calling on the government to implement robust laws against the incitement to religious hatred in light of the referendum on blasphemy which took place on 26 October 2018. In this podcast interview with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications, he declares that the Irish legal system needs to protect those who are liable to be oppressed and marginalised, because of their religious affiliation.
Kevin Hargaden was both surprised and unsurprised by the success of the referendum. He predicted that the vote would be passed by a vast majority of people but did not anticipate that so many religious groups would be unified on the issue. The theologian sees robust laws that deal with hate crimes as a different issue than what was addressed in the referendum, though nonetheless related to it. He gives as an example the recent incident in Newtownards, County Down where a group dressed as Ku Klux Klan (KKK) outside an Islamic prayer centre, commenting that this highlights the need for protection against minority religions in particular.
The theologian shares an insightful and broader definition of blasphemy than that which refers to attacks on either God or people with a religious affiliation. He makes the case that a person would be considered blasphemous should they promote the cause of the poor and the homeless in the name of God but fail to act charitably towards them. “Blasphemy is when we construe God in public in ways that are diametrically opposed to the reality.” He says that ultimately “love [not law] is going to be the answer”.