... but I stopped. Now I'm a dad, and may blog again...

Friday, December 10, 2010

141: The Tale of Ice Cream & the Resurrection of Blasphemy

Allow me a quick bit of righteous indignation.  In May 2008 the Criminal Justice and Immigration act, which made many changes to UK law also included a clause abolishing blasphemy and blasphemous libel.  This was done, to paraphrase Stewart Lee, “on the grounds that it’s not 1508”.  For all kinds of reasons, mainly to do with freedom of speech and curtailing the power of religious groups to interfere in people’s private lives, the abolition of the blaspheme law is a fantastic thing.  Unfortunately things rarely wrap up nicely in real life.  And where religious meddlers and the professionally offended are concerned this kind of nonsense will continue for a long time.

I could go on for hours about how the right to freedom of expression and freedom to mock and criticise ideas should always trump the right not to be offended.  If something offends the religious minded what business do the courts or and government organisations have getting involved.  As long as there are no calls to violence there is no problem.  Allowing religious people to dictate what others can and cannot do or say based on arbitrary and subjective notions like offence is totally unacceptable.

From central European bodies, councils, assemblies and initiatives there are confusing notions about laws against religious insult and various other infringements of free speech.  I have no idea what the status of these policies is whether or not they are in effect in the UK or Europe, but the point is many people still desire to curb free criticism of religious ideas.  For example when the chaos erupted about the offence caused by the Danish Jyllands-Posten Mohammed cartoons, many people wanted to blame the cartoonists and the Danish media for the violence and rioting in Europe and Islamic countries.  The problem is obviously with the expression of religious ideas and reactionary violence, and not with freedom of speech.  Anyone who thinks otherwise has definitely got their brain on backwards.

Anyway, at the moment the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) is continuing to act as though Blasphemy is still a crime.  An ice cream company called Antonio Federici has created a series of adverts gently mocking Catholicism.  The adverts feature a pregnant nun, a pre-coital nun and priest, and an interracial gay priest couple.  All these people are enjoying each other and a lovely tub of ice cream.  The adverts are artistically lighted and shot like a Carravaggio painting.  They aren’t amazing, they are a little cheeky, but they aren’t exactly the album cover for Deicide’s Once upon the Cross.  In other words I don’t think they are calculated to upset the easily offended, but even if they were so what.

However the ASA has banned Antonio Federici from running the adverts (based on eight complaints about the gay priests) and demanded they sign an agreement not to “run the ad again, or any other ad which may cause serious or widespread offence”.  The ice cream makers are rightfully standing their ground, challenging the legality of the ASA demands, and telling them to fuck right off.  ASA are accused of trying to smuggle the Blasphemy law in through the back door (tee hee).  Antonio Federici said: "We come from the Father Ted school of advertising where freedom of speech should be a right. We have a long and honourable tradition of satirising politics and religion. What's changed?"

Anyway, this is the sort of thing I think is important.  I’ve said my little piece.  Now go and join the National Secular Society, watch Father Ted, use a condom, live in a society where men and women are free to mix and have whichever religion the like, change religion or have no religion whatsoever.  Go on; that’ll learn ‘em.

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