Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Atkinson defends right to offend (U.K.)
Telegraph (UK) ^ | 07/12/2004 | Toby Helm

Posted on 12/08/2004 12:02:17 PM PST by nickcarraway

Rowan Atkinson defended the right of comedians to poke fun at other people's religion last night as he joined the campaign against Government plans to create a new offence of incitement to religious hatred.

The star of the BBC's Blackadder television series lined up with leading barristers, writers and politicians to oppose the proposed law.

Ministers say the Bill will protect faith groups - particularly Muslims.

Under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill, which will have its second reading in the Commons today, 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.

But opponents of the measure say that while it is well intentioned, stopping the right to criticise other religions would end centuries of tolerance and could stoke tensions between religious groups rather than ease them.

Speaking at a press conference in the House of Commons, 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."

He was joined by the newspaper columnist Joan Smith, officials from Christian groups, the Barnabas Fund, the Lawyer's Christian Fellowship and politicians from the three main parties.

Paul Cook, the advocate manager of the Barnabas Fund, said: "There is a real danger that this law could be used by extremists to silence organisations like ourselves from highlighting the persecution of Christians and other human rights abuses which occur within some religious communities."

The law will be opposed by the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives. Several Labour MPs including Alice Mahon, the member for Halifax, are expected to vote against.

Dominic Grieve, the shadow attorney general and a Church of England church warden, said people in the United Kingdom had "thrived on" the ability to "ridicule and caricature other people's views".

The Liberal Democrat MP Dr Evan Harris, who chaired the meeting, said: "There is a great deal of concern about these proposals across political parties.

"There are already enough laws to deal with incitement to violence and to deal with disorderly behaviour based on religious grounds."

A Home Office spokesman defended the Bill, insisting that it would not interfere with the right to free speech. She said: "There is a clear difference between criticism of a religion and the act of inciting hatred against members of a religious group.

"The incitement offences have a high criminal threshold and prosecutions require the consent of the Attorney General."

Mr Atkinson said comedians should be able to make jokes about whatever they wanted. If they went over the top, people would not find their jokes funny. "There should be no subject about which you cannot make jokes."


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; Government; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; United Kingdom
KEYWORDS: bean; britishhumor; censorship; christianbashing; comedy; deaththreat; doublestandard; england; fatwa; firstamendment; freespeech; islam; islamicsnuffvideos; islamonazism; muslims; pc; politalcorrectness; politicallycorrect; religionofpeace; religionofpeacetm; religiousintolerance; rowanatkinson; shairalaw; sharialaw; uk
I wonder if he has a cunning plan.
1 posted on 12/08/2004 12:02:17 PM PST by nickcarraway
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: nickcarraway

Benny Hill would never get on today's BBC.


2 posted on 12/08/2004 12:04:18 PM PST by Semper Paratus
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Semper Paratus

Neither would Monty Python.


3 posted on 12/08/2004 12:06:41 PM PST by Billthedrill
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: nickcarraway

More crazy nanny state legislation.

Without insults there is no British comedy


4 posted on 12/08/2004 12:06:55 PM PST by kingsurfer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: nickcarraway

Looks like Great Britain needs a 1st amendment.


5 posted on 12/08/2004 12:11:15 PM PST by bahblahbah
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: nickcarraway
"There is a clear difference between criticism of a religion and the act of inciting hatred against members of a religious group."

I agree. Ban the Quran.

6 posted on 12/08/2004 12:11:21 PM PST by USF (I see your Jihad and raise you a Crusade )
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Billthedrill
Neither would Monty Python.

They would be expecting the Spanish Inquisition.

7 posted on 12/08/2004 12:11:46 PM PST by Semper Paratus
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: nickcarraway

Subtle, too.


8 posted on 12/08/2004 12:13:44 PM PST by nina0113
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: nickcarraway

I've got to hand it to Mr. Bean, this is a serious matter, the law against giving religeous offence sounds so broad as to muzzle just about any criticism, let alone comedy. You just know it will be applied selectively. This is the same thing as those euro and canadian laws banning anti-gay "hate speech" (i.e. disagreeing with gays).

Blackadder goes forth! (yet again)


9 posted on 12/08/2004 12:14:56 PM PST by sinanju
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: nickcarraway
Rowan Atkinson defended the right of comedians to poke fun at other people's religion

...as long as they are mocking Christians or Jews...

10 posted on 12/08/2004 12:15:18 PM PST by Alouette ("Who is for the LORD, come with me!" -- Mattisyahu ben Yohanon, father of Judah Maccabee)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Semper Paratus

"They would be expecting the Spanish Inquisition"

NO ONE EXPECTS THE SPANISH INQUISITION!

Our 2 weapons are Fear - Surprise - and an almost fanatical devotion to the.......

Our 3...3 weapons are....


11 posted on 12/08/2004 12:19:32 PM PST by The Lumster
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: nickcarraway

The right to ridicule almost anything should be protected. There shouldn't be thought crime.


12 posted on 12/08/2004 12:29:41 PM PST by SoDak (home of Senator John Thune)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Comment #13 Removed by Moderator

To: Semper Paratus

FWIW, Benny Hill is currently being shown on Saturdays on BBC America. Monty Python was also on not so long ago.


14 posted on 12/08/2004 12:47:07 PM PST by rpage3
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: nickcarraway

All PC based laws normally have the opposite effect: they contribute to segregation of communities and mutual distrust.


15 posted on 12/08/2004 12:52:22 PM PST by aliquis
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: nickcarraway
Ministers say the Bill will protect faith groups - particularly Muslims.

Well there we have it. We need a new law to protect those nice muslims. Excuse me while I am sick.

16 posted on 12/08/2004 12:53:21 PM PST by protest1
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Semper Paratus
They would be expecting the Spanish Inquisition.

Life of Brian would also be baned.

17 posted on 12/08/2004 1:19:09 PM PST by usurper (Correct spelling is overrated)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: nickcarraway

M'kay but he should be aware that muslims don't accept mockery of their religion. He should consider watching some of the Islamic snuff videos they've released in the past few years where people have their heads slowly cut off with a dull knife.

Salman Rushdie hid out for years because of the bounty they placed on his head.


18 posted on 12/08/2004 1:19:49 PM PST by weegee (WE FOUGHT ZOGBYISM November 2, 2004 - 60 Million Voters versus 60 Minutes - BUSH WINS!!!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: usurper
They reissued Life Of Brian when The Passion set box office records. While the film is not wholly antiChristian, some of those pushing that film are.
19 posted on 12/08/2004 1:21:02 PM PST by weegee (WE FOUGHT ZOGBYISM November 2, 2004 - 60 Million Voters versus 60 Minutes - BUSH WINS!!!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: protest1

Just protecting muslims from revealing their murderous nature is all.


20 posted on 12/08/2004 1:21:53 PM PST by weegee (WE FOUGHT ZOGBYISM November 2, 2004 - 60 Million Voters versus 60 Minutes - BUSH WINS!!!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

To: Semper Paratus
NO ONE...

Dang it. Too late again.

21 posted on 12/08/2004 1:22:12 PM PST by Billthedrill
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: USF

This from a cult that openly celebrated the anniversary of the 9-11 attacks in England.


22 posted on 12/08/2004 1:23:41 PM PST by weegee (WE FOUGHT ZOGBYISM November 2, 2004 - 60 Million Voters versus 60 Minutes - BUSH WINS!!!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: Billthedrill

Comfy chair!???


23 posted on 12/08/2004 1:24:21 PM PST by weegee (WE FOUGHT ZOGBYISM November 2, 2004 - 60 Million Voters versus 60 Minutes - BUSH WINS!!!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 21 | View Replies]

To: weegee

The RACK!

24 posted on 12/08/2004 1:29:24 PM PST by Billthedrill
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 23 | View Replies]

To: bahblahbah

they need a First Amendment...and a Second. (and we gotta protect OURS).


25 posted on 12/08/2004 1:31:57 PM PST by The Spirit Of Allegiance (FREE people needn't apply to a Government of/by/for the People for a gun (PERSONAL PROPERTY) permit!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: Billthedrill

The LARCH!

26 posted on 12/08/2004 1:37:23 PM PST by weegee (WE FOUGHT ZOGBYISM November 2, 2004 - 60 Million Voters versus 60 Minutes - BUSH WINS!!!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 24 | View Replies]

To: Blurblogger
Suppression/censorship is longstanding in England. I think that it has only been in recent years that full hardcore pornography was permitted, violent films were edited or outright banned (investigate "Video Nasties" some time). You couldn't even use the word "ninja" in a title.

"Free speech" is not a universal concept.

Muslims don't push for religious freedoms in Islamic nations. This is just a back end way to push for Sharia Law as a way to prosecute those who blaspheme Mohammed and Allah.
27 posted on 12/08/2004 1:42:22 PM PST by weegee (WE FOUGHT ZOGBYISM November 2, 2004 - 60 Million Voters versus 60 Minutes - BUSH WINS!!!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 25 | View Replies]

To: weegee
While the film is not wholly antichristian.

I loved it and don’t see it as anti-Christian at all. It makes fun off all zealots and there is a remarkable amount of truth in their satire, which is why it works.

That peoples front of Judea skit was a classic as was the follow the gourd routine. Women dressing up as men to go to the stoning were great. The Romans were not sparred any punches either.

It is exactly this kind of humor and satirical self-reflection that is lacking in the world of Islam and one reason why they are the way the are.

28 posted on 12/08/2004 1:48:37 PM PST by usurper (Correct spelling is overrated)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 19 | View Replies]

To: weegee

Yep....Freed Afghan & Iraqi Women Voting Dittos!


29 posted on 12/08/2004 1:48:42 PM PST by The Spirit Of Allegiance (FREE people needn't apply to a Government of/by/for the People for a gun (PERSONAL PROPERTY) permit!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 27 | View Replies]

To: usurper
While I can accept the film itself as not being antiChristian, the ad campaign that they used to market this film was decidedly so (at it played primarily to leftist "art theaters").

BBC: Python film to challenge Passion

Accompanying photo:
Caption: "Monty Python said The Life of Brian spoofed Bible films and intolerance"

Excerpt:
Adverts will challenge Mel Gibson's blockbuster with the lines "Mel or Monty?", "The Passion or the Python?"

Distributor Rainbow said it hoped the film would "serve as an antidote to all the hysteria about Mel's movie".

I also found this comment (all in haiku!) in an older FR thread: He's so right he's wrong

I recently watched
the DVD of Monty
Python's "Life of Brian."

One commentary
features Terry Gilliam
explicitly say

that Python made fun
of Christianity and
Judaism, but

Python never poked
fun at Islam and Muslims
because believers

took their religion
seriously and no one
wanted a fatwah
ccoming against them.
Amazing. Fear works. Even
with show business types...


30 posted on 12/08/2004 2:43:56 PM PST by weegee (WE FOUGHT ZOGBYISM November 2, 2004 - 60 Million Voters versus 60 Minutes - BUSH WINS!!!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 28 | View Replies]

To: bahblahbah

I wonder if any party over there would dare to put that up for a vote.


31 posted on 12/08/2004 3:37:13 PM PST by dr_who_2
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: nickcarraway

unbe-LIEV-able


32 posted on 12/08/2004 3:39:42 PM PST by Ciexyz (I use the term Blue Cities, not Blue States. PA is red except for Philly, Pgh & Erie.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: nickcarraway

Edmund Blackadder? Isn't he jewish?


33 posted on 12/08/2004 3:50:50 PM PST by dr_who_2
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: dr_who_2

Are you kidding? He was the archbishop of Canterbury for a while.


34 posted on 12/08/2004 6:06:48 PM PST by nickcarraway
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 33 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson