We have previously discussed the trend in the West toward an international blasphemy standard and prosecutions for insulting religion (here, and here, and here and here and here and here and here and and here and here and here and here). Now, one of Spain’s best known underground artists is facing a year in jail for a 54-second film that he did in 1978 that a Catholic group charges is insulting to them and their faith. Javier Krahe’s “how to cook Jesus Christ” was a brief satire based on a cooking show.
The Catholic legal association, the Centro Juridico Tomas Moro, has demanded that the artist be sent to prison for the crime of “offending religious feelings” with the brief movie.
Krahe is the ultimate example of a social critic targeted for his free speech and beliefs. Krahe has spent his life exposing the crimes and hypocrisy of the establishment. Now he could be jailed for a film that he did 34 year ago.
The West has steadily yielded to the demands of religious groups that free speech must be curtailed in the name of faith. At the same time, West governmental and religious leaders have denounced agnostics and atheists as one of the greatest threat facing the West (here and here and here and here). President Obama and Hillary Clinton have been facilitating this trend by working with Muslim nations to develop an international standard allowing for the prosecution of those who insult religion. The Administration has drawn a dangerous line with Muslim countries in first supporting the concept of an international blasphemy standard. As I have mentioned before, the efforts of the Obama Administration to work with countries like Egypt on an international blasphemy standard is a threat to free speech around the world. After first supporting an international blasphemy standard, the Administration sought to get Egypt and other countries to adopt the Brandenburg standard as the basis for such prosecutions. These cases show the mentality of countries pushing for a “balance” between free speech and religion. It also shows why the use of the Brandenburg standard is so dangerous in the hands of such officials who view free speech as the cause of imminent violence. Because any joke or image of the Prophet can trigger violence, the standard is immediately satisfied in countries like Egypt, which can then claim some legal legitimacy under the standard created with the United States.
The prosecution of Krahe represent one of the most serious attacks on free speech this year. Spain has always been a country divided between the powers of orthodoxy and free speech — a division shown most vividly and tragically during regime of Franco. The Church was accused of being a key ally to Franco and an enabler of the abuses that occurred during his reign. Now a leading Catholic organization wants to use the state to punish those who insult its faith as a criminal act. The free speech community needs to organize internationally against the renewed blasphemy prosecutions worldwide. Free speech is the ultimate protection — not the threat — to free exercise. Free speech is often being denied in the name of tolerance and pluralism through hate speech and discrimination laws. Spain is one of those countries that puts aside such niceties and enforces a crime of insulting religion or blasphemy.
Ironically, Krahe has spent his life using his art to try to educate people of the dangers and hypocrisy of the establishment and orthodoxy. His own trial may now serve that purpose. The artist has become his art — a tragic irony to say the least.