Archbishop wants ‘blasphemous’ item removed

Catholic Archbishop Eamon Martin has called on RTE to immediately remove a television clip which he says it is offensive, outrageous, and blasphemous. He was complaining about RTE’s New Year’s Eve Countdown Show, which included a mock news review by Waterford Whispers News.

The mock news review reported that a deranged John Delaney had launched the Provisional FAI, that a lethal second wave of Fianna Fail was imminent, and that after Brexit the UK had erected a giant fan on the cliffs of Dover for all of the shit to hit. It also included:

“In yet another shocking revelation this year, God became the latest figure to be implicated in ongoing sexual harassment scandals. The five-billion-year-old stood accused of forcing himself on a young middle-Eastern migrant and allegedly impregnating her against her will, before being sentenced to two years in prison with the last 24 months suspended.”

In response Archbishop Martin tweeted:

“1. I am shocked that producer/editor of ‘NYE Countdown Show’ @RTE @RTEOne didn’t realise how deeply offensive was a mocking ‘news report’ accusing God of rape & reporting his imprisonment. This outrageous clip should be removed immediately & denounced by all people of goodwill.

2. To broadcast such a deeply offensive and blasphemous clip about God & Our Blessed Mother Mary during the Christmas season on ‘NYE Countdown Show’ on @RTE, @RTEOne & on Eve of the Solemn Feast of Mary, Mother of God is insulting to all Catholics and Christians. @deeforbes_dee”

Is Archbishop Martin aware that the people of Ireland recently voted overwhelmingly to remove the offence of blasphemy? Criticism or mockery of religious ideas is just as acceptable as criticism or mockery of secular ideas. But what of the claim that the item was offensive?

In October 2019, David Kaye, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the freedom of opinion and expression, published a report to the United Nations General Assembly on the human rights law that applies to freedom of expression. In that he stated:

“A person who is not advocating hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, for example, a person advocating a minority or even offensive interpretation of a religious tenet or historical event, or a person sharing examples of hatred and incitement to report on or raise awareness of the issue, is not to be silenced under article 20 of the ICCPR (or any other provision of human rights law). Such expression is to be protected by the State, even if the State disagrees with or is offended by the expression. There is no “heckler’s veto” in international human rights law.”

The Waterford Whispers News item did not advocate hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. It was a relatively tame comedic mockery of what many people of goodwill believe to be an immoral story in the Christian Bible, in which the creator of the universe impregnates a child who would by today’s standards be considered incapable of giving informed consent.

That is only one example of deeply immoral guidance in the Christian Bible regarding the treatment of women.

  • Based on the Books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, adultery is a crime committed against the husband of the woman involved, but not against the wife of the man involved. A man owns his wife from the time they become engaged.
  • If a newlywed man alleges that his bride was not a virgin, the bride’s father must prove her virginity by producing her blood-stained bedsheets. If he cannot do that, the bride will be stoned to death on her father’s doorstep.
  • In Deuteronomy and 1 Samuel, the God repeatedly commands the Israelites to attack the cities of other tribes, to show them no compassion, and to completely destroy them, putting to death man woman child and infant, and leaving nothing alive that breathes.
  • In Numbers, after the Israelites massacre the Midianites but spare the boys and women, Moses orders them to kill every boy and every woman who has had relations with a man, but spare for themselves every girl who has never had relations with a man.

Many people of goodwill find these Bible stories just as outrageous and offensive as Archbishop Martin finds the Waterford Whispers News item on RTE’s New Year’s Eve Countdown Show.

But we are not calling on RTE to remove discussions of the Bible from its programmes, or to remove criticism or mockery of atheistic ideas.

What RTE should remove is the daily unpaid advert that it gives to the Catholic Church in the form of the Angelus. And that is not because it is offensive, but because it breaches RTE’s duty to be impartial with regard to religious and non-religious beliefs.

Both religious people and atheists should support the right of other people to see and hear ideas that they personally believe to be offensive, unless the statements are defamatory of identifiable people or inciting discrimination, hostility or violence.

Atheist Ireland