Monday, December 06, 2004


Mr. Bean Attacks Religious Hatred Bill.

LONDON (Reuters) - British comedian Rowan Atkinson -- creator of the hapless "Mr Bean" -- attacked a planned law outlawing incitement of religious hatred on Monday, saying it would curb free speech and humor.

Atkinson believes the measure now passing through parliament will make religion virtually off-limits to satirists.

It might even, he fears, lead to prosecutions, not only for some of his own sketches but for others like Monty Python's "Life of Brian," which was criticized on its release in 1979 for being anti-Christian.

"Freedom of expression must be protected for artists and entertainers," he said. "We must not accept a bar on the lampooning of religion and religious leaders."

So far, so good. Probably not the most moral explanation for freedom of speech, but one I can agree with. Satire and parody is a necessary tool in the quiver of criticism, and should be vigorously defended.

But wait; there's more:

At present, British law prohibits attacks on people's color, race or ethnic origin but not their religion. Critics of the plan to include religion believe a new law is not necessary.

"There is an obvious difference between the behavior of racist agitators who can be prosecuted under existing laws and the activities of satirists and writers who may choose to make comedy or criticism of religious belief, practices or leaders..," Atkinson said in a statement.

"It is one of the reasons why we have free speech."

Uhhh. Okay. Never mind what I said before.

So, it's okay to have laws that prohibit satire on the basis of color, race, or ethnic origin, but it's not okay to prohibit satire on religion?

And this is free speech?

As long as we're on the subject of satire, you've basically eliminated all the comic works of Chris Rock, Dave Chapelle, and even Jonah "Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys" Goldberg.

Hey, the French are an ethnic group. A particularly smelly, cowardly, spineless ethnic group, but one nevertheless.

But hey, we can all make do without that kind of satire. Just as long as we get to pick on those backward Catholics. Or those conniving Jews.

Because, that's what we're talking about here. Not free speech to criticize, oh, I don't know. . . say. . . Islam. Nope, we want free speech so the Brits can turn down their noses at unwashed Irish breeders.

Gee, thanks, but no thanks. Just go ahead and ban all the speech you want. Anyone who wants to complain is welcome to move to America.

Just leave Mr. Bean behind.

Zzzzzzzzzz. . . .

Anybody that makes a series like the Blackadder programs can't be all bad.
"So, it's okay to have laws that prohibit satire on the basis of color, race, or ethnic origin, but it's not okay to prohibit satire on religion?"

The difference is that color, race, and ethnic origins are traits you are born with, while religions are ideas that you are free to pick and choose from. I don't agree, but I think it's a perfectly valid point. As Atkinson 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."
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