Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Howard Friedman reports:

In Russia, a Russian Orthodox Church group, the People’s Council, has filed suit in Moscow against the Andrei Sakharov Museum and Public Center over a display titled “Forbidden Art — 2006”. Today’s Baltimore Sun reports that the suit charges the Museum with inciting religious and ethnic hatred. The display contains two dozen works that were kept out of Russian art galleries by self-censorship last year. Among them is a portrait of Jesus with a Mickey Mouse face and an icon of the Virgin Mary made to look like caviar. The coordinator of the People’s Council said: “It’s considered blasphemous to mock Christian feelings. It’s like insulting the American flag.”

God do I ever get tired of small-minded authoritarians who think that if anything offends them it should be banned. They are the enemy of everything of value in this world. Meanwhile, he also reports that France has acquitted a satirical paper of similar charges for reprinting the Danish caricatures of Muhammed.

A French court yesterday acquitted the satirical newspaper Charlie-Hebdo and its director, Philippe Val, of charges of “publicly abusing a group of people because of their religion” by publishing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. Several of the cartoons had first appeared in a Danish newspaper. The court ruled that Charlie-Hebdo had no intention of insulting the Muslim community with the caricatures.

Well I guess that’s a victory, but why would it matter if he did have the intent of insulting the Muslim community? Insulting a person is not a crime, nor is insulting a group of people, nor should it be.


  1. #1 Kristjan Wager
    March 26, 2007

    Insulting a person is not a crime, nor is insulting a group of people

    Actually it can be in France, which is what the whole case was about. You might think it shouldn’t be a crime (and I would agree), but it’s nonsense to say that it’s not a crime, when it obviously is.

    It’s an annoying habit you have, making statements like that, which might be correct in an US context, but isn’t universal true. Especially when such statements apply directly to those other contexts.

  2. #2 jba
    March 26, 2007

    “Insulting a person is not a crime, nor is insulting a group of people”

    I dont know much about law, but cant you only be charged with something if it is a crime? I dont think it should be one, mind you, but there it is. Or am I misunderstanding something?

  3. #3 TomMil
    March 26, 2007


    First, I have to agree with the other posters who said it is a crime if it has been made a crime by the acting country’s legal process. Now, should it be a crime? I’m with you in saying, “Hell no!”

    I wonder what it is that motivates these people. I am a criminal defense attorney, an atheist/agnostic and I’m liberal. If people were prosecuted for insulting those groups there’d be hardly anyone left to do the prosecuting. Now if I were a racial minority and gay on top of all that I would be able to spend my life chasing down insults. But those aren’t the catagories that tend to be seen as needing protection. The majority of people world wide believe in some sort of religion, so religion is protected. It’s as though people put so much effort into conforming with their religion’s dictates that someone who rejects those beliefs is seen as antisocial and must be stopped. Religion is supposed to help build character, isn’t it? If so, why are it’s believers so fragile.

  4. #4 TomMil
    March 26, 2007

    I left off the quetion mark at the end, sorry.

  5. #5 Ed Brayton
    March 26, 2007

    I thought it perfectly obvious what I meant when I said it’s not a crime, that it is not legitimately called a crime. I would say the same thing about lots of other alleged crimes, that the laws that make them criminal are unjust and illegitimate and they are not genuine crimes but ones designed to destroy liberty rather than protect it.

  6. #6 Kristjan Wager
    March 26, 2007

    It would perhaps have been obvious, if you didn’t state that it isn’t a crime, nor should it be. Can you think of any case of a non-legitimate crime that should be one?

  7. #7 Ed Brayton
    March 26, 2007

    I would say that it was obvious. You certainly understood what I meant, even if you didn’t like the way I phrased it. It would be patently ridiculous to interpret what I said as meaning that it hasn’t been made a crime, particularly in light of the fact that the whole point of the post was to complain that France does make it a crime.

  8. #8 Kristjan Wager
    March 26, 2007

    No I didn’t understand what you ment.
    When you explained it, I can see what you ment, but when I read it, I certainly understod it to mean that you were telling us that it wasn’t a crime.

  9. #9 Kristjan Wager
    March 26, 2007

    And why is it “patently ridiculous” to interpret something literately?
    You know, when several people misunderstand something you say, maybe it’s not said as well as you thought?

  10. #10 Stuart Coleman
    March 26, 2007

    It’s sickening how little value is placed on free speech. And people are getting very tired of the PC culture that wants to squelch anything that could possibly upset anyone. I’m just curious as to why more people aren’t lashing out against it.

  11. #11 Ed Brayton
    March 26, 2007


    When the literal interpretation is absurd, then it is absurd to interpret something literally. The whole point of my post was to complain that French law DOES make it a crime to insult someone’s religion intentionally. Can it really be reasonable to interpret my statement as saying that it hasn’t been made a crime when my post was objecting to the law that makes it one? Seriously, this is bordering on absurdly anal-retentive. Reading requires more than overreaching literalism; when I say that something “sucks”, believe it or not, I don’t actually mean that it produces a vacuum that attracts matter either.

  12. #12 Will
    March 26, 2007

    I agree with Kristjan, the wording of the last sentence can be a bit confusing, since it starts out saying it’s not a crime, and then ends by saying it shouldn’t be.

  13. #13 nicole
    March 26, 2007

    I’m sorry, but…

    It’s like insulting the American flag.

    …which is LEGAL!

  14. #14 Randi Schimnosky
    March 26, 2007

    I’m with Kristjan too. I certainly interpreted Ed’s words to mean it wasn’t a crime in France to insult people in this way and that the charges were dismissed because it wasn’t a crime. Don’t be a bully, Ed – you’ weren’t clear.

  15. #15 Kristjan Wager
    March 26, 2007

    …which is LEGAL!

    Unless he ment the Confederate Flag of course

  16. #16 twincats
    March 26, 2007

    It is a crime to insult people in Turkey. That fact, alas, is probably not what is keeping Turkey out of the EU, though.

  17. #17 Chris
    March 26, 2007

    Ed, if it makes you feel better, I knew exactly what you meant.

  18. #18 ocmpoma
    March 26, 2007

    I’ll chime in here — it’s a set expression in English, or, at least, American English, to use the word ‘crime’ as it was used in this post.

    Example (from Ghostbusters):
    Dana: That’s the bedroom. But nothing ever happened
    in there.
    Peter: What a crime!

    In this sense, the word is used to label an something as bad, or morally wrong — not illegal.

  19. #19 jba
    March 26, 2007

    ocmpoma: “In this sense, the word is used to label an something as bad, or morally wrong — not illegal.”

    Yes, but when you use it like that when describing something that *is* a crime (someone breaking the law) even if the law is unjust, it leads to confusion. That was my problem (I wont speak for anyone else) and I just wanted to know if I misunderstood or if there was some legal issue I didnt understand.

  20. #20 David Ratnasabapathy
    March 26, 2007

    Ed Brayton wrote:

    Insulting a person is not a crime, nor is insulting a group of people, nor should it be.

    I think that’s a clever construction up there. It’s classy to see one word used in two senses in a single sentence.

  21. #21 KiwiInOz
    March 26, 2007

    It is a crime NOT to insult someone (e.g. the French) under English law. Just watch Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, Blackadder, etc.

  22. #22 James
    March 27, 2007


    I’m sorry, but…

    It’s like insulting the American flag.

    …which is LEGAL!

    But don’t you know that the United States is a fascist dictatorship where anyone who insults BusHitler is summarily executed whereas progressive and enlightened Europe is the source of all that is good and right and fluffy?

    And anyone who says otherwise is a corporate shill in the pay of Haliburton, the Stonecutters and the Gnomes of Zurich.

    Seriously though, its worth rembering that Continetnal Europe has never had the commitment to free speach that the Anglosphere has. Social cohesion has always been held as a virtue over independence of thought and action.

  23. #23 Will
    March 27, 2007

    Us retards can’t make sense of Ed’s superior sentence constructions.

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