Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Call them "The Religious Reich", go to jail???

The "Fundies" are going to love this... Really! It seems that in the UK under a proposed law anyone judged to have stirred up religious hatred through threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour, would be liable to a maximum of seven years in prison.

The well intentioned law was proposed to protect Muslims from acts of religious hatred, but could have far reaching unintentional results according to critics.

From The News Telegraph

"Speaking at a press conference in the House of Commons, (British comedian Rowan) Atkinson said the proposals would destroy one of society's fundamental freedoms - the right to cause offence.

It would also threaten the livelihoods of all those whose job it is "to question, to analyse and to satirise". These included authors, academics, writers, actors, politicians and comedians.

There was a "fundamental difference" between cracking a joke about someone's religion and being offensive about their race which was, rightly, already an offence, he said.

"To criticise a person for their race is manifestly irrational and ridiculous but to criticise their religion - that is a right. That is a freedom," he said.

"The freedom to criticise ideas - any ideas even if they are sincerely held beliefs - is one of the fundamental freedoms of society.

"And the law which attempts to say you can criticise or ridicule ideas as long as they are not religious ideas is a very peculiar law indeed.

"It all points to the promotion of the idea that there should be a right not to be offended. But in my view the right to offend is far more important than any right not to be offended.

'The right to ridicule is far more important to society than any right not to be ridiculed because one in my view represents openness - and the other represents oppression.'"

How do you think the militant religious activists would use such a law on this side of the pond? The thought boggles the mind. Suggest that Christ was gay? - call the cops. Dress up as nuns, like the charitable fund raising group "The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgences" do here in San Francisco? - Get a bus and haul 'em all to jail. Make a joke about some priests' fondness for alter boys? - Hit the slammer.

In the past some have criticised so called "hate crime laws", warning of that oft cited "slippery slope". Perhaps they have a valid point. The above certainly should add some fuel to the discussion.


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