But your Honour, it’s funny

So have you heard this story? Harry Taylor, a 59-year-old philosophy tutor and “militant” atheist, has been arrested and charged with three counts of religiously aggravated harassment, alarm or distress under the Crime and Disorder Act. His crime? Leaving humorous cartoons poking fun at various religions in the prayer room of John Lennon airport in Liverpool. In court the cartoons were described to the jury as being “sexually abusive and sexually unpleasant” but for the life of me I can’t see where they are getting this from based upon the description of the cartoons listed in the Telegraph.



One image showed a smiling Christ on the cross next to an advert for a brand of “no nails” glue.


Oh come on, that’s funny. Even my Christian friends would find that funny, inappropriate yes but still funny.


In another, Islamic suicide bombers at the gates of paradise are told: ” Stop, stop, we’ve run out of virgins.”


Yup, that’s funny too. Now I have no doubt that some people would find it offensive but I wonder if they have asked themselves why? Is the cartoon incorrect when it equates martyrdom with the Islamic belief of receiving virgins in paradise? Is it offensive because it mocks suicide bombers or because it implies that there is a limited supply of virgins to go around? Or is it offensive because it forces people to take a look at the things they believe from the point of view of those who do not share those beliefs?


A further cartoon showed two Muslims holding a placard demanding equality with the caption: “Not for women or gays, obviously.”


Again this is funny and should only be offensive to those Muslims who agree that equal rights do not apply to women or gays. If you are a Muslim and you think that equal rights should apply to all, well then clearly the cartoon is not aimed at you so why find it offensive?


In fact the only cartoons that come close to being “sexually abusive and sexually unpleasant” are the ones described at the end of the article.


The images shown to the jury included a drawing of the Pope with a condom on his finger, and a picture of a woman kneeling in front of a Catholic priest captioned with a crude pun. In another image sausages were were (sic) labelled as “The Koran”.


That’s it? Seriously I was expected a bit of hardcore Pope porn at the very least. The picture of the Pope with a condom on his finger is offensive, but only because it reminds us of the truly offensive statements made by the pontiff in relation to condoms and the spread of aids. Pointing this out in a satirically way should not be a crime. As for the other two, really? That is what you class as “sexually abusive and sexually unpleasant cartoons“? Honestly my advice to you would be to stay away from some forms of Manga entirely. I don’t even get the sausages one.


But of course no one in this case is truly offended. This is an example of people taking offence because they think they should take offence, that it is the politically correct thing to do. For example:

The leaflets were discovered by Nicky Lees, the airport chaplain, who told the court she felt “deeply offended and insulted” by their contents.


Really? I think you have to be a completely joyless person not to at least crack a smile at some of these cartoons. I’m willing to bet that Nicky did, well at least until she remember that she was meant to be “deeply offended and insulted” by them.

Outlining the case against Mr Taylor, prosecutor Neville Biddle said that he had gone beyond freedom of expression by leaving the “insulting, threatening and abusive” images in a room used for worship.


Honestly, words fail me here.


He said: “Of course people have a right to speak freely and have a right to insult people. It is one of the most important rights we have and it must be jealously guarded.


“But it is a right not without some prescription. Mr Taylor exceeded that right.”


Addressing the jury he continued: “Your decision will not be easy. You are the conscience of society and you must decide what you are prepared to put up with and what goes beyond reasonable bounds. You are twelve tolerant reasonable British people who know what freedom of speech is all about.”


I really hope that the jurors know exactly what freedom of speech is all about. Freedom of speech gives us the right to say unpopular and even offensive things. People do not have the right to NOT be offended even if they think that they do. No one has been harmed here. No one has to show respect to religious beliefs they do not hold, well unless you’re an atheist I guess. But the funny thing is that, as I said before, there is real offense to be had here.


I am offended by the idea of substitutionary atonement for crimes. I find it completely amoral.


I am offended by those who believe that killing those who do not believe as they do will some how gain them great rewards in the after life.


I am offended by those who think that not having a penis or favouring the same sex is a good reason for discrimination.


I am offended when a guy in a dress and a funny hat puts people’s lives at risk by spreading lies about condoms.


I am offended by the blatant hypocrisy surrounded sex in the Catholic Church and the protection of paedophile priests.


I am offended by sausages that…er no…sorry I still really don’t get that one.


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