Archive for November, 2008

“Blasphemous” poetry reading to go ahead in Welsh Assembly

Official protests from Christian Assembly Members have failed to stop the proposed Dec 11 poetry reading by Patrick Jones at the Senedd. AMs Trish Law and Johnathan Morgan had written to the Presiding Officer to beg him to ban the reading

in the name of decency and humanity.

Assembly Commission chief executive Claire Clancy responded with admirable clarity:

Neither officials nor the Assembly Commission make judgments on the nature or purpose of these events, except to ensure they would not give rise to any legal problems.

Assembly buildings are public buildings, and secular in character. It is our responsibility to ensure that events sponsored by any Assembly Members are always allowed to take place without fear of disruption or intimidation, while respecting the right to peaceful protest.

Trish is reported to be “bitterly disappointed”.

UPDATE: (Nov 26) Stephen Green has started a petition to try to stop the reading. I seem to remember the last one (for the BBC to waive its legal costs) became a bit of a farce, with lots of amusing comments from ill-wishers.

In the recent email circular, Green reveals that he did a deal with the BBC, settling half their costs. You’ll never guess who provided the money… God! The Lord has not yet seen fit to slip him the necessary readies to pay off Jonathan Thoday. He’s probably waiting for payday.

UPDATE UPDATE: The Freethinker has launched a counter petition:

The Liberal Democrat culture spokesman in Wales, Peter Black AM, has invited the poet Patrick Jones to read his poems in Welsh National Assembly. Religious zealot Stephen Green, of Christian Voice, has launched a petition calling for the event – to be held in Committee Room 24 of the Assembly at 12 noon on Thursday, December 11 – to be cancelled on the grounds that such a reading would be “blasphemous”.

We find Green’s continuous attacks on free speech reprehensible, and call on the Assembly to allow this reading to go ahead as planned without hindrance.

Blasphemy news roundup

The UN General has voted (again) to adopt a draft resolution calling for all countries to do something about “defamation of religions”. The reason? Because:

Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism.

Gosh! I wonder why that could be?

The slightly good news is that the resolution was passed with a significantly reduce majority this time, thanks to the activity of human rights groups.

Meanwhile, the South African High Court has banned The Jewel of Medina from sale througout the country because it is deemed to be blasphemous. The decision was based on the American Professor Denise Spellberg’s critique of the book.

Zehir Omar, advocate for the hilariously named Scholars of the Truth who brought the complaint, says:

The salient parts of this application found that the Jewel of Medina oversteps the bounds of historical fiction. It is characterised by insulting and lewd messages and innuendos that knock and ridicule Islam and the holy Prophet Muhammed (PBUH)

So now nobody in South Africa is allowed to read it.

Protest at Dogs the Musical

<b>Dogs, the musical</b>: There's Mo, second on the right

Dogs, the musical: There's Mo, second on the right

It’s been a while since we heard from Lars Vilks, the Swedish artist with an al-Qaeda bounty on his head. He is back in the news this weekend with his long awaited musical about the Modoggie furore – Dogs, The Musical.

From The Local:

At a panel discussion after the premiere of the musical – a filmed documentation of events occurring after the drawings of the Muslim prophet Muhammad as a roundabout dog, chaos reigned on Saturday.

When Vilks stood to address the several hundred people gathered in the ABF building in Stockholm, a young woman rose to her feet, made threatening gestures with her key ring and screamed at the artist.

One of the debate’s organizers seized the woman in order to escort her from the premises.

“She then scratched her keys over his underarm, cutting him in two places,” said Filip Björner for the event’s organizers, the Swedish Humanist Association.

According to Björner the association had reached an agreement with the police to deal with any demonstrators gently. The woman was therefore allowed to join other demonstrators outside the building in central Stockholm.

But after the woman was removed from the debate, another woman swiftly took her place. She was permitted to participate in the debate and took the opportunity to verbally abuse the co-organizers, the Ex-Muslims, a group known internationally as “Muslims for Christ.”

Naturally, Vilks left by the back door with a police guard.

The film itself is described on Vilks’ dedicated website:

The Musical DOGS is a documentation of events occuring after the drawings of the prophet Mohammed as roundabout dog. DOGS is a film including documentary clips from other films.
The Musical starts with The Choir of The Offended and continues true demonstrations to deathtreaths and debates. The musical also contains a musical in three parts inside the musical, named “Life of Prophet M.”, which is a light entertaining parallel to Monty Pythons “Life of Brian”. The three parts is named “The Satanic Verses”, “Isra and Mi’raj” and “The Koran”.

Finally, someone has made a Life of Mo! Can’t wait for it to be on YouTube. At the moment all we have is this trailer:

On top of all the Dogs kerfuffle, an exhibition of Vilks’ work was cancelled by Kalmar Art Museum. Apparently the board overturned the decision of the curator because “it is important to be careful with the exhibitions that are chosen”.

Borders stands up for free speech

The New Humanist blog carries news from Patrick Jones, the poet whose reading at Waterstones was cancelled because of threats from Christian fundamentalists.

Borders bookshop has stepped in and will be launching Jones’s latest collection of poems at its Cardiff branch on Dec 11th, followed by another reading at one of its London stores. The venues are reportedly being bombarded with email and calls from Christian protestors.

Also, Welsh AMs Trish Law and Johnathan Morgan are trying to get the reading at the Welsh Assembly cancelled. Law has written to the presiding officer:

While I uphold freedom of speech I cannot condone the reading of blasphemous, obscene and perverted poems in the National Assembly. We are still a Christian country, yet one that acknowledges and readily accepts other religious beliefs and values. So while we would not tolerate other religions and religious leaders being insulted through verse or deed neither should we expect Christ and Christianity to be subjected to a tirade of anti-Christian rhetoric and profanity.
I implore you to put a stop to this reading on December 11th in the name of decency and humanity.

Morgan’s argument is different, and self-refuting:

Patrick Jones seems to think that the freedom of speech is a convenient shield to be used when under attack for being offensive. In exercising that freedom, and in respecting it, we should do so responsibly. I do not believe that AMs should be wading into the debate by hosting a reading. It is a mistake and opens up the institution to the accusation that it is siding with one opinion without giving the other the same chance of expression.

Thereby expressing the other opinion.

Amazon UK pulls Scientology book

A book by a former member of Scientology’s “Sea Organisation” – the paramilitary wing of the cult – has been pulled by Amazon UK “for legal reasons”.

The Complex: An Insider Exposes the Covert World of the Church of Scientology by John Duignan was published in Dublin on October 27. It is still available in WH Smith, Waterstones, and the US Amazon (currently out of stock) – but not the UK division.

Duignan describes how two years ago he staged a dramatic escape from the elite paramilitary group at the core of the Church, the Sea Organisation, and how he narrowly evaded pursuit by Scientologists from the Office of Special Affairs. He looks back on the 22 years he served in the Church s secret army and describes the hours of sleep deprivation, brain-washing and intense auditing or religious counselling he endured, as he was moulded into a soldier of Scientology. He talks about the money-making-machine at the heart of the Church, the Scientology goal to Clear the Planet and Get Ethics In , the training programmes, the Rehabilitation Project Force and the punishments meted out to anyone who transgresses, including children. We follow his journey through the Church and the painful investigation that leads to his eventual realisation that there is something very wrong at Scientology s core.

The only place we could find this book for sale is here. UPDATE – also at Blackwells.
UPDATE: (19 Nov) According to commenters on this article, Blackwells are no longer willing to ship the book, and it is not available in the USA.

UPDATE (2): (19 Nov) Aoife Barrett, the editorial director of Merlin publishing, has made this statement (via):

Merlin Publishing has received a solicitor’s letter from a member of the Church of Scientology alleging that he has been defamed in our publication ‘The Complex: An Insider Exposes the Covert World of the Church of Scientology’ by John Duignan and Nicola Tallant, which we have emphatically denied.

We understand that the solicitors copied their originating letter to who have removed the book from their website. We have had no communication from at all and they have not notified us of their dealings with regards to the book. ‘The Complex’ is still widely available in bookshops around Ireland and we have no intention of withdrawing it. Irish booksellers have also told us they will continue to stock the book.

We would like to sell international rights to The Complex particularly in the US and the UK and are in negotiations with publishers in both countries. At the moment the book is available to buy directly from ourselves from all countries except the UK.

We believe that the claim been made is vexatious and is another example of the Church of Scientology trying to prevent any criticism of their organisation being published.

Offended again

The Prince of Wales’ 60th birthday show provided yet another opportunity for Stephen “Bird Shit” Green, head of failed fundamentalist pressure group Stephen Green’s Voice (aka Christian Voice), to indulge in a display of offended piety.

This time it was Rowan Atkinson’s skit on Jesus’ miracles in the Gospel of St John:
(Sketch starts about 1:50 in)

This is the circular sent out by Green:

Rowan Atkinson mocks Christ at Prince’s Birthday Show
Rowan Atkinson mocked the Bible, Jesus Christ, His miracle at Cana and His crucifixion on the Prince of Wales’ 60th birthday show at 8.35pm on Saturday 15th November 2008 which was broadcast on ITV as ‘We are most amused’.
Atkinson came on dressed as a vicar and began to read from John Chapter 2. After half a verse he began to blaspheme the word of God and mock the Lord and His miracles as conjuring tricks. Since the presentation did not change, it would not have been clear to someone unfamiliar with the scriptures what was from the Bible and what was not. Atkinson finished up by saying: ‘He did go unto Jerusalem and he did his full act … they absolutely crucified him.’ (A reference to a common showbiz saying when an act has gone down badly.)
All this was in front of the heir to the throne, who, if the Lord wills, will be granted the title ‘Defender of the Faith’ when he is crowned. Atkinson is a friend of the Prince of Wales, and he thinks he can do as he likes. The camera did not record the Prince’s reaction.
That comedy can be clean, respectful and side-splittingly funny was shown earlier in the evening by Bill Bailey in a brilliant musical piece of solo stand-up comedy.
Atkinson has rightly defended political satire and his biography quotes him as saying: ‘The freedom to criticize ideas, any ideas – even if they are sincerely held beliefs – is one of the fundamental freedoms of society.’
But his sketch was not political satire, nor did it criticise any idea or belief of Christianity. It was just insulting, mocking, crass and disrespectful. Civilised, decent people do not behave like that. Plainly Atkinson thinks there is not enough disrespect in our society already today.

How much longer before this man dissolves into a puddle of his own outrage?

(Hat tip Peter Ould)

Christian threats halt Cardiff book signing

<b>The book in question</b>: Click on the image to buy it from Amazon

The book in question: Click on the image to buy it directly from Cinnamon Press

Oh dear. More lily-livered capitulation in Cardiff, where a phone call from Stephen “Bird Shit” Green caused the local Waterstone’s book shop to cancel a book launch by Welsh poet Patrick Jones.

“Darkness is Where the Stars Are”, the poet’s 9th published work, was deemed “obscene and blasphemous” by Stephen Green, therefore the Cardiff Hayes branch of Waterstone’s decided that it was best to “avoid potential disruption to our store”. Jones went along and signed books outside the shop anyway.

Green says:

This is a triumph for the Lord, not for us.

The Lord had not even showed me what we should do at Waterstones, only that it should be Christlike

“Christlike”? It is a sure indicator of Green’s mental state when he believes that Jesus Christ would make intimidatory phonecalls to bookshops.

Nor was I even praying for the event be cancelled. But I now know many were, and their prayers have been answered, by a mighty God. We have not even had to go down to the battleground, let alone fight (2Chr 20:17). Just the knowledge that we were on our way has put the fear of God into the opposition

No, not the fear of God. The fear of violence.

But the fact is, we were prepared to go and do something, and it is that which I believe caused Almighty God to take our prayers seriously and perform a miracle.

Sweet fucking Jesus. He makes a threatening phone call and calls the resulting panic a miracle.

Perhaps surprisingly, Waterstones have not yet caved in to his demands to stop selling the book. But Green is working on it.

Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society thinks the time has come for the police to get involved.

Stephen Green is becoming a real threat to artistic freedom. It seems a mere phone call from him threatening some kind of demonstration can cause a bookshop to capitulate to his demands and cancel an artistic event. His increasingly bullying behaviour needs to be challenged by the police. We simply cannot allow this man to dictate what can and cannot be said by artists. It is really up to the authorities to protect artists and their promoters from such intimidation.

Not sure whether it is up to the police, or the men in white coats.

If you want to let Waterstone’s know what you think, these contact details are kindly provided on the CV website:
Waterstones Managing Director, Gerry Johnson, on 020 8742 3800 or email:
Mr Johnson’s boss, Simon Fox of HMV, is on 020 7432 2000
Another email address to try:

UPDATE: (14 Nov) The NSS Newsline reports that a member two members of the Welsh assembly, Lorraine Barret and Peter Black, have invited Patrick Jones to read his poetry at the Senedd. From a signing in a city bookshop to a reading in the seat of the national government of Wales, all in the space of a couple of days. Doesn’t Stephen Green/God work in mysterious ways?

UPDATE: (16 Nov) The Western Mail carries a nice anti-Green editorial.

Lost comments

The server went a bit haywire for a while. Some comments on the previous 4 posts have been lost. If yours in among them, I am very sorry. Feel free to repost if you wish.

Christians threaten vandalism and disorder

Already the backlash from the Baltic decision has begun. Fuming Christians, taking their cue from CPS argument that the case was stopped partly because “there was no public disorder relating to the exhibition”, have decided that public disorder is the way to get what they want in the future.

Mapfuwa’s solicitor Michael Phillips put it like this:

Although it is right to say that there was no actual disorder, there was potentially such disorder, which was evidenced to the CPS in the witness statements provided. In particular one witness felt like smashing the object. The decision is simply not in accordance with the facts and is unsustainable.

So because the statue made a witness feel like smashing it, the statue is culpable? The witness cannot be held responsible for his actions?

Stephen “Bird Shit” Green, national director of the failed fundamentalist lobby group Stephen Green’s Voice (aka Christian Voice), was more explicit:

This decision urges Christians to create public disorder if we want a similar case to proceed in future. We are naturally reluctant to do that and it puts us in new territory.

Christians defending their beliefs with violence and intimidation is “new territory”? Surely they did that for hundreds of years? It is very old territory.

On the other hand, there were those at the Baltic Centre who wanted to take matters into their own hands and I have warned Anita Zabludowicz that her statue will not survive being put on public display again.

If the CPS wanted to give the green light to blasphemous art their decision may paradoxically have the opposite effect.

“Paradoxically”? Like when you try to prosecute an organisation for blasphemy and it paradoxically leads to the abolition of the blasphemy law? Yes, we know what you mean.

With the threat of destruction hanging over it, the Zabludowicz statue is now locked away by its wealthy owners and is unlikely to see the light of day again. The same will go for any other blasphemous works of so-called art. Put simply, Christians won’t tolerate insults to Jesus Christ.

Surely the old zombie would be none to pleased with Stevie-boy for ignoring his “turn the other cheek” command. Rather central to the whole Christianity lark, that one.

However, I do hope that the art world will discover some respect for Christian religious beliefs and for the person of Jesus Christ.

Paradoxically, threatening violent temper tantrums isn’t really the wisest way to go about achieving that end.

In the meantime, let’s have more and bigger statues of Jesus with his nob out!

Baltic Jesus statue “no case to answer”

<b>Emily Mapfuwa</b>: A name which will be associated with Christ's cock for ever and ever, amen

Emily Mapfuwa: A name which will be associated with Christ's cock for ever and ever, amen

Good news from Gateshead, where a case brought against the Baltic art gallery has been stopped by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Essex Christian Emily Mapfuwa tried to prosecute the Baltic for the offence of “outraging public decency” in spite of the fact that she had never visited the exhibition.

Chief Crown Prosecutor Nicola Reasbeck said:

It is necessary to construe the offence of outraging public decency in a way that is compatible with the right of freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Having considered the evidence in this case with great care, we are satisfied that there is no case to answer.

We have taken into account all the circumstances, including the fact that there was no public disorder relating to the exhibition and that there was a warning at the entrance to the gallery about the nature of the work on display. The case has therefore been discontinued.

Let’s hope the Baltic pursue Mapfuwa and the Christian Legal Centre for costs.

(Failing that, looking at the results of a Google image search on the pious Ms Mapfuwa’s name is quite satisfying.)