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Ireland's blasphemy laws unlikely to prevent Louis Theroux's Scientology film from being released here

There are currently no plans to show the film in Ireland.

Image: Facebook

Updated 5.10pm

LOUIS THEROUX’S LATEST documentary on Scientology won’t be shown in Ireland, but the distributors have not commented on speculation that it has to do with blasphemy laws.

The film, My Scientology Movie, is due for general release in other countries on 10 October – but it hasn’t been sent to the Irish Film Classification Office (IFCO), which is a prerequisite for any film getting a general release in Ireland.

In a statement this evening, an Altitude Film Distribution representative confirmed:

Altitude Film Distribution currently has no plans for a theatrical release of My Scientology Movie in Ireland, and has no further comment to make at this time.

The possibility of a no-show for the film in Irish cinemas first emerged over the weekend when Entertainment.ie reported that it appeared the film wouldn’t get an Irish release due to blasphemy laws.

However, a legal expert has said that in his opinion there is no way an Irish screening of the documentary about Scientology could lead to a prosecution on the basis of blasphemy.

Dr Neville Cox of Trinity College, a specialist in the Defamation Act, has said categorically that “there is no blasphemy case here”.

Cox said that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) would never bring such a case and that no judge in the land would go near it.

It wouldn’t even get to a jury.

He cited section 36 of the Defamation Act which allows for work to be published or uttered which has “genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific, academic value”, and suggested that the documentary would fall under these parameters.

He also doubted that the documentary would qualify as “grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion” in this case.

A more real risk, he said, would be a group defamation suit. However, Cox also cast doubt on that outcome, and said that it would have to proven that the documentary defamed one person or an identifiable group of people.

Film classification

Graham Spurling, owner of Movies at Dundrum, Swords, Gorey and SGC Dundgarvan, told TheJournal.ie that the situation came to light this weekend, and that he had received emails from the film’s distributor Altitude Film Distribution on the issue.

Spurling said: “All I know is that it is not being released in Ireland at the moment. I would love it to be released now because it would pack the place.” He said that things may change and he does not want to be critical of the distributor.

TheJournal.ie contacted IFCO earlier today, which said it had not heard anything about the film and that it hadn’t been given it to classify.

The length of time a distributor would give IFCO to classify the film before its release may vary, and it doesn’t take more than a day or two to classify a film.

Ireland’s blasphemy laws – which are written into the constitution – are due to go to a referendum to decide whether the laws should stay in place.

In 2009, an amendment to the Defamation Act 2009 was introduced by Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern.

Section 36 states:

A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €25,000.

However, it also states:

It shall be a defence to proceedings for an offence under this section for the 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.

The Church of Scientology Mission of Dublin Limited is registered as a private business in Ireland. Its registered office is on Middle Abbey Street in Dublin.

My Scientology Movie, written and starring Louis Theroux, sees the long-time documentary maker tackling the controversial religion.

Source: Madman Films/YouTube

Read: You’ll finally get to see the controversial Scientology documentary on Irish telly>

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About the author:

Aoife Barry and Emer McLysaght

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