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Irish atheists challenge blasphemy law

Pope Benedict XVI (file image)
The words of Pope Benedict are among the quotations published

An atheist group in the Irish Republic has defied a new blasphemy law by publishing a series of anti-religious quotations on its website.

Atheist Ireland says it will fight any action taken against it in court.

The quotations include the words of writers such as Mark Twain and Salman Rushdie, but also Jesus Christ, the Prophet Muhammad and Pope Benedict XVI.

The new law makes blasphemy a crime punishable by a fine of up to 25,000 euros (£22,000; $35,000).

The government says it is needed because the republic's 1937 constitution only gives Christians legal protection of their beliefs.

The new law was passed in July 2009 but came into force on 1 January.

Atheist Ireland responded by publishing 25 quotes it considers anti-religious on its website.

The group said its aim is to have the law repealed and to attain a secular Irish constitution.

Chairman Michael Nugent said it would challenge the blasphemy law through the courts if it were charged, the London-based Guardian newspaper reported.

"This new law is both silly and dangerous," he said. "It is silly because medieval religious laws have no place in a modern secular republic, where the criminal law should protect people and not ideas."

Atheist Ireland says it will hold a series of public meetings around the country to launch its campaign.


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