Archive | Blasphemy

Thug Destroys Supposedly Blasphemous Art, Museum Refuses to Replace It, Citing “Safety Concerns”

Very unfortunate; the AP reports:

A piece of artwork denounced as obscene by church members and allegedly ripped up by a Montana woman using a crowbar won’t be returned to display because of safety concerns, city officials said Thursday.

“The incident yesterday was very troubling and also very impactful on the city staff, volunteers and the public at the venue,” said Rod Wensing, acting city manager.

Kathleen Folden, 56, of Kalispell, Mont., was arrested Wednesday on a charge of criminal mischief. Witnesses told police that she used a crowbar to smash glass shielding the print at the Loveland Museum Gallery and then tore part of it up….

Police said the damaged part includes what critics say was a depiction of Jesus Christ engaged in a sex act….

The artist, Stanford University professor Enrique Chagoya, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the work has been mischaracterized. He said while the part in question is suggestive, it’s not graphic.

The panel includes figures cut out from a comic book, a head resembling Christ and a skeleton with a pope’s hat.

“This is not Christ. It’s a collage,” Chagoya said. “What I’m trying to express is the corruption of the spiritual by the church.” …

The museum, including a city-owned museum, has no obligation to include any particular work in its exhibits. Like a government-run newsletter or a typical Web site for a government agency, the museum is not an open forum for citizens’ speech; its managers may exercise editorial choice as to what ends up becoming the museum’s (and therefore the city’s) speech. See Pleasant Grove City v. Summum.

But it seems to me that museums, whether public or private, ought to take a stand against thuggery, and ought not surrender to the thugs’ demands. Behavior that is rewarded [...]

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“A Defense of Free Speech by American and Canadian Muslims”

From The American Muslim:

We, the undersigned, unconditionally condemn any intimidation or threats of violence directed against any individual or group exercising the rights of freedom of religion and speech; even when that speech may be perceived as hurtful or reprehensible.

We are concerned and saddened by the recent wave of vitriolic anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment that is being expressed across our nation.

We are even more concerned and saddened by threats that have been made against individual writers, cartoonists, and others by a minority of Muslims. We see these as a greater offense against Islam than any cartoon, Qur’an burning, or other speech could ever be deemed.

We affirm the right of free speech for Molly Norris, Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and all others including ourselves.

As Muslims, we must set an example of justice, patience, tolerance, respect, and forgiveness.

The Qur’an enjoins Muslims to:
* bear witness to Islam through our good example (2:143);
* restrain anger and pardon people (3:133-134 and 24:22);
* remain patient in adversity (3186);
* stand firmly for justice (4:135);
* not let the hatred of others swerve us from justice (5:8);
* respect the sanctity of life (5:32);
* turn away from those who mock Islam (6:68 and 28:55);
* hold to forgiveness, command what is right, and turn away from the ignorant (7:199);
* restrain ourselves from rash responses (16:125-128);
* pass by worthless talk with dignity (25:72); and
* repel evil with what is better (41:34).

Islam calls for vigorous condemnation of both hateful speech and hateful acts, but always within the boundaries of the law. It is of the utmost importance that we react, not out of reflexive emotion, but with dignity and intelligence, in accordance with both our religious precepts and the laws of our country.


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Blasphemy Arrests in England reports:

British police have arrested six people on suspicion of inciting racial hatred over a YouTube video apparently showing them setting fire to copies of the Koran….

I realize this is from an Australian publication, but its motto is “FROM ALL ANGLES,” so I take it they see their job as covering England as well. Thanks to Fred Ray for the pointer. [...]

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“Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” Author Goes Underground

Seattle Weekly, via Althouse:

[O]n the insistence of top security specialists at the FBI, she is… moving, changing her name, and essentially wiping away her identity… in effect, being put into a witness-protection program—except, as she notes, without the government picking up the tab. It’s all because of the appalling fatwa issued against her this summer, following her infamous “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” cartoon.

So the U.S. has its own Salman Rushdie. This is completely outrageous. If necessary, the FBI should be provided Molly Norris with 24-hour protection, not advising her to change her identity. Meanwhile, the U.S. government should be hunting down whoever is threatening her for exercising her free speech rights.

What I’d really like to see, in fact, is President Obama offer to have her stay in the White House–what could be more secure than that–to demonstrate that Americans’ free speech rights will not be subject to suppression by violence.

Yes, I recognize that such an action would be spun in the Muslim world as “President supports blasphemous artist.” But maybe this points to a flaw in the “try to make them love (or at least like) us” strategy of halting Islamist-inspired terrorism. The only way to make people with a profoundly anti-liberal worldview like us is to give up our own commitment to liberalism.

But putting aside that broader question, is the Obama Administration really so pusillanimous that it won’t offer Ms. Norris sufficient FBI protection?

UPDATE: A comment from a reader suggests an interesting hypothetical. Let’s say some extremist imam somewhere now decides that the Supreme Court must remove the engraving of Mohammed that appears in the Supreme Court, on pain of a fatwa against the Justices. Is the FBI going to advise the Justices to “go ghost?”

FURTHER UPDATE: Note that I’m [...]

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Advertisement Banned in the UK Because of Blasphemy

From the UK Advertising Standards Authority:

A magazine ad for Antonio Federici ice cream showed a heavily pregnant woman dressed as a nun standing in a church holding a tub of ice cream in one hand and a spoon in the other. Text stated “Immaculately Conceived … ICE CREAM IS OUR RELIGION”….

Ten readers challenged whether the ad was offensive to Christians, particularly to those who practised Catholicism….

Antonio Federici said the idea of “conception” represented the development of their ice cream. They said their decision to use religious imagery stemmed from their strong feelings towards their product (they cited the text “ICE CREAM IS OUR RELIGION”) and also from their wish to comment on and question, using satire and gentle humour, the relevance and hypocrisy of religion and the attitudes of the church to social issues….

The ASA noted that the CAP Code stated that ads “should contain nothing that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Particular care should be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or disability. Compliance with the Code will be judged on the context, medium, audience, product and prevailing standards of decency”. We considered the use of a nun pregnant through immaculate conception was likely to be seen as a distortion and mockery of the beliefs of Roman Catholics. We concluded that to use such an image in a light hearted way to advertise ice cream was likely to cause serious offence to readers, particularly those who practised the Roman Catholic faith….

The ad breached CAP Code clause 5.1 (Decency).

The ASA is apparently formally independent of the UK government, but it has considerable legally coercive authority (see also here). Thanks to Michael Wagner for the pointer.

UPDATE: Note that, as Antonio Federici [...]

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Something to Watch Out for If You’re Using Rackspace

The San Antonio News-Express Web site reports,

Rackspace Hosting Inc. hosted the Florida church’s website, but stopped providing services late Wednesday after determining the Dove World Outreach Center violated a provision in its contract regarding hate speech, a Rackspace spokesman said.

The company received complaints that the center violated the acceptable use policy, which is available on the Rackspace website, Rackspace spokesman Dan Goodgame said.

Goodgame would not say what material violated the policy …. Rackspace gave [the church] time to move its content off the servers and then stopped hosting the site….

The Dove World Outreach Center’s website and another site promoting a book by church pastor Terry Jones were not working Thursday afternoon. …

Rackspace is of course entirely free to stop doing business with the Dove World Outreach Center; and even if its acceptable use policy simply said that it is terminable by either party at will, and said nothing about “hate speech,” it would have the right to do so. Indeed, in practice a provision such as the one in the policy — “You may not use the Mail Services to distribute content or links to content that Rackspace reasonably believes … is excessively violent, incites violence, threatens violence or contains harassing content or hate speech” — is mostly a warning to clients, rather than a legally enforceable provision. I doubt Rackspace would ever sue for a violation of this, and in any case it’s not clear to me that such vague terms would be legally enforceable. Rackspace is just alerting its clients to what will likely lead it to terminate the contract; it’s often sensible to do that when making a deal.

Nonetheless, it seems to me that clients or prospective clients of Rackspace who want to post controversial material — including material critical of [...]

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New Jersey Public Transit Employee Fired for Blasphemy

The New York Daily News reports:

[Derek Fenton, t]he protester who burned pages from the Koran outside a planned mosque near Ground Zero has been fired from NJTransit, sources and authorities said Tuesday….

“Mr. Fenton’s public actions violated New Jersey Transit’s code of ethics,” an agency statement said.

“NJ Transit concluded that Mr. Fenton violated his trust as a state employee and therefore [he] was dismissed.” …

Fenton was an assistant train-consist coordinator, sources said — a job that entails ensuring there are enough train cars positioned to be put into service….

If Fenton was fired for burning the Koran while off-duty, his First Amendment rights probably were violated, Chris Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union said….

The relevant First Amendment test for when the government may fire an employee for off-duty expression on a matter of public concern (such as the expression here) is unfortunately quite vague: The government may restrict such speech, but only if the restriction is “necessary for their employers to operate efficiently and effectively” (with “necessary” being read a bit loosely). It’s hard for me to see much of an argument that Fenton’s expression interferes with the employer’s effectiveness by undermining public confidence in the employer; Fenton isn’t a spokesman for the employer, or in a position where the public must be able to count on his fairness in exercising discretion with regard to members of the public (e.g., a police officer).

The one argument I can see the government potentially persuasively making is that Fenton’s expression might lead to a risk of terrorist attack on NJ Transit trains; such a “heckler’s veto” might be permissible when it comes to the government’s actions as employer, as opposed to the government’s actions as sovereign policing the speech of private people. But if [...]

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Queensland University Suspends Lawyer for YouTube-Distributed Blasphemy

The Brisbane Times reports that:

A Queensland University of Technology lawyer[,] … Alex Stewart[,] has taken leave from his non-academic position as a QUT [Queensland University of Technology] commercial contracts lawyer after controversy erupted over a YouTube clip in which he smokes self-made cigarettes rolled in pages from the [Koran and the Bible] before rating which “burns better”….

The Daily Telegraph (UK) reports,

[Stewart] on leave following a meeting on Monday and is facing an inquiry.

“The university is obviously extremely, extremely unhappy and disappointed that this sort of incident should occur,” vice-chancellor Peter Coaldrake said.

Stewart’s point was apparently to argue (among other things) that people shouldn’t venerate books to the point of getting upset about others’ supposed mistreatment of the books. “Is this profanity? Is it blasphemy? Does it really matter? I guess that’s the point with all this, this crip — it’s just a [bleeped out] book. Who cares? Who cares?” I quote here a video accompanying the Brisbane Times article, which includes a short excerpt from Stewart’s YouTube clip. But I do not know where one can find the full clip; if you can point me to it, or send me a file containing it, I’d be much obliged.

Note that the Brisbane Times video also quotes a police spokesman who is saying that Stewart’s actions were likely not a criminal offense. Thanks to Prof. Howard Friedman (Religion Clause) for the pointer.

UPDATE: Just to repeat what the title says, Stewart is a lawyer working for the university, not a professor. [...]

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Prosecution for Insulting Religion — This Time, Buddhism reported in late March:

Sarah Malanie Perera [was] detained in the [Sri Lankan] capital Colombo for allegedly offending the spiritual leader of Buddhism ….

[I]t is understood two of her recently published books offended ethnic Sinhalese Buddhists, who account for about 70 per cent of Sri Lanka’s 20 million population….

The 38-year-old, who previously converted to Islam [and moved from Sri Lanka to Bahrain], was detained on March 20 after writing two books in Sinhalese, allegedly offensive to Lord Buddha.

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