Religious Right Coalition Trying to Deny Americans The Freedom to Choose.
Comedy Central has announced plans to develop a new show, “J.C.” that takes a lighthearted look at Jesus, God and other mysteries of the universe — and that’s just fine with a national organization of Atheists.
Christian and Jewish groups are objecting, though, and have launched a campaign to pressure VIACOM, the parent company of the network, to end production. This comes just weeks after an Islamic group made threats over the “Draw Muhammad Day,” once again raising the specter of blasphemy legislation, and intimidation of those who poke fun — or possibly even just question — organized religion.
“They just don’t get it,” said Dr. Ed Buckner, President of American Atheists. “The religious conservatives like the Catholic League are behaving like Islamist fundamentalists in trying to censor what Americans want to read, see, or say about religion. They may be using slightly different tactics, but it amounts to the same thing — censorship.”
“The freedom to satirize any idea or belief is crucial to true liberty,” added Buckner. “As Thomas Jefferson is reputed to have said, ‘The remedy for bad speech is more speech, not less,’ and that goes for all other forms of religious and political expression. No group should be able to protect its ideas through intimidation. Only weak ideas or beliefs need or want the protection of so-called ‘blasphemy’ laws.”
“There should be no special rights or privileges for religion. Comedy Central should not have caved in to pressure from Islamic extremists in the past and should not now cave in to Christian bullies.” (Buckner pointed out that an episode of “South Park” was recently “bleeped” for its depiction of Muhammad.)
Dave Silverman, Communications Director and Vice President of American Atheists, said that if they wanted to distinguish their religions from that of authoritarian Islamists, Christian and Jewish groups should be defending the program, not trying to censor it. “They might actually benefit from standing up on behalf of freedom of choice in the marketplace, and taking a stand against censorship by either corporate interests or the government,” said Mr. Silverman. “And remember — the next step is trying to pass restrictive laws that forbid ‘blasphemy’ or anything else that mocks or questions religion. That’s dangerous social policy, it violates the Bill of Rights and our Constitution, and it’s un-American.”
When people asked why we were so involved with Draw Muhammad Day, I said specifically that the censorship of Muhammad was only the beginning, and that this would lead to more squelching and further reduction in freedom of the press and speech, let alone religion.
Here we go. Now, the Christians and Jews are climbing on board. They don’t want to be joked about either! It doesn’t matter that they’ve never seen the show, they just want the same protections from Comedy Central that were afforded the Muslims.
They should, in fact, be granted that, but that doesn’t mean all religions should be protected against criticism – it means NONE of them should be protected. It means everyone (atheists certainly included) should be aware that anyone can say anything about them, and that comedy and satire are market driven, not law (or terrorism) driven.
If they fear criticism or satire, it just shows you how weak their position (“there’s an invisible magic man in the sky”) is.
This does not end here. THERE WILL BE MORE. Coming next will be more small but significant steps toward the complete protection of mythology from ridicule, to the complete detriment of our Constitutional rights.