Archive for January, 2009

“On the surface, I’m all for free speech”

The Globe and Mail reports that The Freethought Association of Canada just won approval to run the atheist bus ads, inspiring a hilarious response from a leading evangelical.

Charles McVety, president of the Canada Family Action Coalition, unwittingly revealed more about the evangelical mindset than he intended when he said:

On the surface, I’m all for free speech

But, deep down, I want anyone who questions my beliefs to be burnt at the stake.

However, though, these are attack ads.

It’s hard to imagine how he construed the gentle suggestion that “There’s probably no God” as an attack. However, though, he is entitled to his opinion.

Dr McVety goes on:

These ads are not saying what the atheists believe, they are attacking what other people believe […] And if you look at the dictionary definition for … bigot, that’s exactly what it is, to be intolerant of someone else’s belief system.

We don’t know which dictionary McVety is using, however though, as it defines a noun as a verb we suspect it isn’t very authoritative.

God, this campaign is great, isn’t it?

“Kill Your God” comedy too strong for Leicester

<a>Send him to God Heaven</a>: The title was too much for Leicester to bear

Send him to God Hell: The title was too much for Leicester

They didn’t bat an eyelid in sectarian Glasgow or, unsurprisingly, in godless Brighton, but the title of comedy duo The Heresy Project‘s latest show “Kill Your God” proved too much for the sensitive souls of Leicester to bear.

As was part of the blurb for the show which read,

The Heresy Project’s mission is to eradicate all religious persecution once and for all, by the simple process of eradicating all religion

And a quote from The List,

God is a nonsense and you’re all wrong

All of these were banned from the website and programme of the Leicester Comedy Festival. In order to perform there, comedians Rick Molland and Sully O’Sullivan had to compromise by renaming the show Comedy For the Godless, and agree to remove those nasty anti-god words from the blurb.

But there’s a happy ending. Due to a copy-paste error, the original blurb appears in the programme, albeit with the revised title. Maybe there is a god!

Christian Voice rapped by ASA

We knew this was coming, but it’s nice to see it officially confirmed.

An advert placed in the New Statesman by Christian Voice has been censured by the Advertising Standards Authority for claiming without justification that the HPV vaccine will increase teenage infertility. The ad prompted one complaint.

The ASA noted Christian Voice’s response. We considered, however, that the claim “Every government initiative, including the HPV vaccine, will increase it [teenage infertility]” was a statement of fact that was a matter open to substantiation. We noted the webpage submitted by Christian Voice, but we did not consider that that webpage in itself was sufficient to support the claim. Because we had not seen robust, scientific evidence that the HPV vaccine caused infertility in teenagers, we concluded that the claim had not been substantiated and was misleading.

The ad breached the CAP code clauses on Principles, Substantiation, and Truthfulness. However, experts expressed doubts that the ruling will stop Stephen Green from making unprincipled, unsubstantiated and untruthful statements in the future.

He is a Christian, after all

I said.

Ofcom rules Busta’s Koran quote “Not in breach”

Mixed news from Ofcom’s monthly report. The good is that Steve Sutherland and the radio station Galaxy Birmingham were judged “not in breach” for broadcasting the Busta Rhymes track Arab Money.

They had received 229 complaints (evidence suggests there was an orchestrated campaign) because the track samples a couple of verses of drivel from the Koran:

In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful: All Praise is due to God, Lord of the Universe.

Ofcom’s judgement was sensible:

Just because a quotation from a sacred text is included within a song does not in itself constitute a breach of generally accepted standards. Ofcom considered that the large majority of the audience would, in general, have not considered the material to be beyond what would normally be expected in a programme of this type, on this particular station. Given this, the time of broadcast, and the likelihood that the degree of offence from these comments to the audience overall would be limited, Ofcom considered that the broadcast of this offensive material was, on balance, justified by the context.

Which doesn’t quite make up for the craven way the Global Radio reacted when they received complaints:

14 Global said that in the days following the broadcast, it took a number of steps: the station broadcast an on-air apology nine times; Global contacted the Muslim Council of Britain to seek advice on this matter; it suspended the presenter and producer pending an internal investigation; and it put in place measures to ensure that no presenter on the Galaxy Network would play tracks in future, without a full understanding of the content.


Wilders petition gets 20,000 in 2 days

Whatever you think of Geert Wilders politics – and here at MWW his hypocritical call to “ban the Koran” put him in the clown corner a long time ago – his prosecution by the Dutch government is an affront to the ideals of free speech and democracy.

Sign this petition.

House of Lords Fitna show cancelled

The APP reports that a scheduled screening of Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam/immigration film Fitna in the House of Lords has been cancelled. It was due to be shown on Jan 29th.

The decision was taken after a meeting between Lord Nazir Ahmed, Government Chief Whip of the House of Lords and Leader of the House of Lords, and representatives from the Muslim Council of Britain, the British Muslim Forum and others.

Protests and demonstrations have been cancelled, which is a shame because they would no doubt have resembled the protests and demonstrations shown in the film itself, creating a pleasing symmetry.

Lord Ahmed called the decision

a victory for the Muslim community

Yeah, well done “Muslim community”.

UPDATE: (Jan 27) David T at Harry’s Place points out that Lord Ahmed’s delicate sensitivities were not much in evidence when he used the House of Lords to host a book launch by the anti-semitic neo-Nazi Israel Shamir back in 2005.

Wilders to be prosecuted for Fitna

Rather shocking news from the Netherlands. Dutch politician Geert Wilders is to be prosecuted for “hate speech” following the publication last year of his anti-Islam/immigration film Fitna.

A court in Amsterdam said,

In a democratic system, hate speech is considered so serious that it is in the general interest to… draw a clear line

Outrageous though this prosecution may be, it could do some good to shine a bright light on this issue.

Wilders cannot be convicted, if only because he is the author of only a tiny fraction of the script contained in his film. The vast majority – over 90%, and by far the most hateful portion – comes directly from the Koran and the mouths of imams.
(Warning: unpleasant scenes)

UPDATE: (22 Jan) Oliver Kamm at Index on Censorship explains clearly why Wilders deserves our support:

Insisting on the right to offend religious believers may seem an unfeeling and uncaring doctrine. (The non sequitur that many Muslims in western societies are poor is often brought into the discussion at this point.) But the case for liberty has never been that it protects sensibilities. It is rather that by allowing people’s beliefs to be scrutinised, criticised and — yes — insulted, bad ideas are more likely to be superseded by better ones. Allowing ideas to die in place of their adherents is a mark of a civilised society. It is not hyperbole to say that in the defence of the unlikely figure of Geert Wilders lies also the defence of western civilisation.

And Islam is a really bad idea.

Atheist bus ads okay, says ASA

The Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that the atheist bus advert which reads “There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life” does not contravene advertising codes.

Here is the ASA’s press release:

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has concluded that the “There’s probably no God” bus ad campaign by the British Humanist Association is not in breach of the advertising code. The ASA will therefore not launch an investigation and the case is now closed.

The ASA carefully assessed the 326 complaints it received. Some complained that the ad was offensive and denigratory to people of faith. Others challenged whether the ad was misleading because the advertiser would not be able to substantiate its claim that God “probably” does not exist.

The ASA Council concluded that the ad was an expression of the advertiser’s opinion and that the claims in it were not capable of objective substantiation. Although the ASA acknowledges that the content of the ad would be at odds with the beliefs of many, it concluded that it was unlikely to mislead or to cause serious or widespread offence.

Stephen Green: failed again.

UPDATE: (21:20) Green is blaming homosexuality for his failure:

On planet ASA, complaints from people of faith are not given the same weight as those from secularists. But what do you expect when the ASA Council is appointed and run by a campaigning homosexual, Chris, Lord, Smith of Finsbury?

Atheist bus banned in Genoa

The bad news is that God doesn’t exist. The good news is that we don’t need him.

That was to be the Italian atheist bus ad slogan in Genoa, before it was cancelled after pressure from the Catholic church.

The Archbishop of Genoa is an ultra-conservative biscuit-muncher called Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco. He was said to be “furious” about the proposal to advertise on local buses. So he urged officials to write to the bus company and advertising firm to voice their objections.

For some reason, the bus company and/or advertising firm listened to them.

UPDATE: (30 Jan) The atheists have been given the green light after changing their slogan to

The good news is that there are millions of atheists in Italy. The best news is that they believe in freedom of expression.

This compromise was deemed by the church to be “not offensive, but debatable”.

Bus ad draws fire from MPs (and a bus driver)

It’s not only bus drivers keen to prove their piety who are giving a publicity boost to the Atheist Bus Campaign – MPs Gregory Campbell and Bob Spink have each tabled an early day motion against it in parliament.

An early day motion was posted on Monday (reg required) saying the ad made Christians and Muslims feel

embarrassed and uncomfortable


They also called on Ministers to “seek to remove” the

religiously offensive and morally unhelpful advertisement

Sir Nicholas Winterton, Conservative MP for Macclesfield, Bob Spink, former Tory and now UKIP MP for Castle Point, Labour MPs Jim Dobbin and David Drew, and Democratic Unionist Gregory Campbell are the names we have gleaned from the reports.

UDATE: (6.25pm) Here is the full early day motion by Bob Spink

Offensive advertisements on public transport
That this House notes that posters with the slogan `There’s Probably No God. Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life’, appear on 800 buses in England, Scotland and Wales, as well as on the London Underground; notes that this causes concern to Christian and Muslim people, many of whom feel embarrassed and uncomfortable travelling on public transport displaying such advertisements and would not wish to endorse the advertisements by using that public transport; regrets that the British Humanist Association backs the campaign; and calls on Ministers responsible for public transport and advertising media to investigate this matter and to seek to remove these religiously offensive and morally unhelpful advertisements.

Ann Cryer (Lab, Keighley) and Marsha Singh (Lab, Bradford West) have added their names to the list of supporters of this one.

The earlier motion by Gregory Campbell goes like this:

No God Advertising
That this House notes the recent advertising campaign based on London buses, There’s Probably No God, the brainchild of the British Humanist Association; also notes the fact that the rationale behind it is that people can be less careful about their lifestyle choices and general approach to life’s consequences by discounting the likelihood of a Creator and an afterlife; and recommends to Christian groups considering alternative advertising approaches to There’s Probably No God to counter it with the simple addition of But What If There Is.

Lee Scott (Con, Ilford North), David Simpson (DUP, Upper Bann), and Ann Winterton (Con, Congleton) added their godly backing to this less censorious but equally deluded one.