The Irish police, also known as the Gardaí, have launched a blasphemy probe into British comedian Stephen Fry and Irish broadcaster RTE after someone complained about comments he made on a 2015 episode of The Meaning of Life. The investigation comes two years after the episode was aired.
Irish publication Independent.ie reports that the police in Donnybrook, Ireland, contacted the man who lodged the report to inform him that a full investigation is set to be carried out. A senior police officer confirmed the news to the publication.
The complaint relates to an interview on the show, conducted by Gay Byrne, who asked Fry — who’s starred in Alice in Wonderland, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and countless other films and television programs — what he’d say to God at the Pearly Gates. The comedian gave his answer:
“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?”
Fry said that if he were met by Greek gods instead of the Judeo-Christian god, he’d accept them much faster because “they didn’t present themselves as being all seeing, all wise, all beneficent.”
Assuming God is real, Fry described him as being “quite clearly a maniac, an utter maniac, totally selfish.”
Speaking under anonymity, the man who reported Fry told the Irish publication that he believed Fry to be committing criminal offenses for sharing his opinions on God.
“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.
Fry may be prosecuted under the Defamation Act of 2009, which states that anyone who publishes or speaks blasphemous material “shall be guilty of an offense,” and liable for a fine of up to 25,000 Euros. The law prohibits speech that “intentionally [causes] outrage among a substantial number of adherents” of any religion. The blasphemy law has been compared to similar laws in Pakistan and other repressive states.
Fry’s case will be the first since the law was ratified in 2010. Legal experts say it is highly unlikely that he will actually be charged.