Sacrilegious Selfies: Pennsylvania Teen Arrested For “Desecrating” Jesus Statue In Sexual Pose

jesusstatueloveincbedfordThere is an interesting case that in Pennsylvania where an unnamed teen is charged with “desecration” of a statue of Jesus in front of the Love in the Name of Christ, a Christian organization in Everett, Pennsylvania. The charge against the 14-year-old raises significant first amendment questions in the alleged desecration of a venerated object. He could be (unlikely) jailed for two jails for insulting a religious statue, something that contravenes free speech and establishment principles as well as vagueness issues. Warning: some viewers may find the picture below disturbing.

“Desecration” is defined in Pennsylvania as “Defacing, damaging, polluting or otherwise, physically mistreating in a way that the actor knows will outrage the sensibilities of persons likely to observe or discover the action.” What on Earth does “physically mistreating” mean with a statue? The addition of “otherwise” to “defacing, damaging, polluting” adds another element of ambiguity and vagueness.

That fact that this was a religious statue seems to be motivating the charge. It seems unlikely that the teen would have been charged in the same way with a frog or dog statue. None of these excuses his actions, of course. His conduct was obnoxious and disgraceful. Unfortunately, those terms could be in the dictionary under “teenager.”

While there will be pressure to get the teen to plead out, the law appears ripe for an either as applied or facial challenge.


Kudos: Michael Blott

146 thoughts on “Sacrilegious Selfies: Pennsylvania Teen Arrested For “Desecrating” Jesus Statue In Sexual Pose”

  1. Actually Paul, being fact challenged is conditioned only on one’s faith in themselves. Any connection with Christianity is merely by coincidence.

  2. Dita Logos – …And furthermore…For your Sunday-school assignment – and yes perhaps it is still necessary to go to Sunday school as your age – perhaps you should bone up on the concept of “bearing false witness”. As a Christian, you are obligated to check your “facts” before claiming truth. That’s actually how I learned to be a non-believer. I came home from Sunday school every week and asked my Mom about things that I was being taught that I didn’t think were right, based on my child’s view of morality and ethics. She became alarmed at what I was being taught in Sunday school and took all of us seven kids out of it. Instead, she encouraged us to learn, understand and evaluate – to make our own choices. Religious dogma does not allow a questioning intellect, and that is simply and inarguably wrong – perhaps even evil, as it promotes the fanaticism that causes evil of great proportions.

    1. Tomchi – as a Christian you are NOT obligated to check your facts before claiming truth. Pelosi, Reid and Obama all stand witness to what I say.

      1. Paul, I guess we know what side of the political spectrum you’ve chosen to be in. LOL. A better statement of my position would be that we are ALL obligated to check our facts. Whether or not we correctly state those facts is a different story. Furthermore, some facts are pretty hard-boiled, as in 1+1=2, and other “facts” are up for interpretation, as in the half-empty or half-full glass. Finally, it also depends on linguistics. The language we speak in imparts different meaning to our statements because the language is built from certain linguistic assumptions. Let’s look at what happens if we speak in the C++ computer language. For example, examine this bit of simple C++ computer coding: If x=1, and we apply the incremental operator ++ to perform the operation y=++x, then y becomes 2 and x becomes 2. If we then perform the operation y=x++, then y remains 2, but x is now 3, so from a mathematical standpoint y should have intuitively become 3, though it remains unchanged . For the non-coding person, this looks like some sort of confusing math, but for the programmer, these are just easy-to-understand computer instructions. Things that are “true” from one perspective, may not be true from another perspective. A person may speak honestly from the standpoint of their considered understanding of the facts, whereas another person may take the same facts and come to a different summation because their interpretation – the intellectual language they use – conflicts with that used by the first person. That applies to all of the opinions we have as individuals – and to a lot of politics as well.

        1. Tomchi – my side of the political spectrum is independent. In the last two Presidential elections I voted for Mickey Mouse, who would have made a much better President. I had just read an article on Obama’s top ten lies before responding to your post.

  3. Dita Logos, no one need be accepting of this conduct. It may warrant a social or parental response. The First Amendment generally does not permit the state to punish individuals merely for expressing contempt or disrespect in a public setting. The answer to ugly speech is more speech, not criminal charges.

    1. Dita Logos – Ummm….you are actually the “factual denier”. Your claims are false. I checked. Quoting Wikipedia’s entry, “Since the 1990s…,crime in the United States has declined steeply.” Using their national crime statistics (which only go to 2012) during the period from 1992 to 2012, murder dropped by 49.5% and forcible Rape dropped by 37.2%​. Violent crime in general dropped 49&. I don’t have child abuse rates. If those drops in crime can be attributed to the decline in Christian values, then I would say we need LESS Christian values rather than more, wouldn’t you? (It is likely they have nothing to do with Christian values.) Criminal behavior and the concealment of criminal activity is carried on by individuals of all religious stripes – including the leaders of mega-churches, Mark Driscoll been a recent example. While some Christians may claim moral behavior, I think they are a bit full of themselves. They are certainly no better than us non-Christians and non-believers who are committed to living our lives ethically and morally.

    2. Dota Logos – At the risk of starting a round of dueling bible quotes, I’ll put this out, though with the disclaimer that I personally do not ascribe to the authority of the bible….
      Proverbs 6:16-19:
      There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.

  4. Everyone in this country that things in our society and communities have gotten so much worse over the last two decades. The more “accepting” we are all TOLD to become, the more un-religious the country becomes the worse our murder rates are, rapes have risen astronomically, more children are abused, more stupid crimes and violence are committed. People HATE Jesus, hate “Bible Thumpers” but no one can factually deny the fact that the more Christian values have been pushed out, the worse things become.
    That picture is nasty. No matter WHO the statue is of. It is innappropriate for any person of any age to take and or show. Period. Get a grip people and draw a line. Have SOme kind of standard.

  5. I am so outraged by his arrest that I am using the picture my profile image on Facebook to show my support for his Free Speech rights.

    The teenager was arrested after someone complained to the district attorney’s office (who filed the charges) and forwarded them to the state police in Bedford, Pennsylvania. Bill Higgins, the Bedford County district attorney, is exploiting this incident claiming it is an “Attack on Christianity”.

    Not only is this a gross waste of taxpayer’s money, it violates the youth’s right to his own freedom of religion and free speech because they are persecuting him for having and expressing beliefs that merely differ from theirs.

    Establishment Clause*
    The Establishment Clause prohibits the government from interfering with individual religious beliefs. The government cannot enact laws aiding any religion or establishing an official state religion. The courts have interpreted the Establishment Clause to accomplish the separation of church and state on both the national and state levels of government. The authors of the First Amendment drafted the Establishment Clause to address the problem of government sponsorship and support of religious activity. *from The Free Dictionary

    1. John – I’m with you 100% on this. Others would prefer to spend taxpayer money to carry out the prosecution, trampling his freedom of expression; and then spend another $70,000 of taxpayer money to house him in a detention facility for two years. Bill Higgins should be removed from his position for stepping on this boy for his own political gain.

  6. So what will it take to bring back the lost art of critical-thinking?

    ““Emergency” is not used here in the usual sense of a threat of an imminent attack or of an impending economic crisis. It refers instead to the dangerous character of the opposition and to the possibility that the opposition might win power.”

  7. Nancy all leathered up! Meooow! I bet she whipped Maher in the dressing room and did a whole dominatrix routine on that smarmy hypocritical midget.

  8. Olly – just found out. Her degree is in political science. Of course she can tell the end of Western civilization.

  9. Would you like further proof: “Nancy Pelosi To Bill Maher ‘Civilization as We Know It Would Be in Jeopardy’ if GOP Wins Senate”

    1. Olly – isn’t Pelosi the one who said we have to pass it to find out what’s in it? And what is her degree in?

  10. Eileen and Tomchi,
    History has proven the fatal mistake for every culture is in equating advances in society as also advances in human nature. Every one of us is one natural disaster away from exposing our natural instincts. And every politician is one election cycle away from corruptibility.

  11. umm yes, I did. You still have not answered this

    “Is there a difference between disparaging a religion and disparaging people?”

    “of course there is. Goes without saying”

    Then tell me, what says the religion about the matter? Is it offended? Does it feel it has been hated upon?

    1. Eileen – you did not answer the question, you reframed it and then answered that one.

      The answer to your second question is that the religion does not have to say anything. The act is covered by the criminal law of the state. So the state takes over. However, just as people speak for corporations and governments, there are also those who speak for religions. It would depend on the particular religion and the person speaking for them.

  12. Olly – I don’t know how old you are. I’m 67, and when I look at kids and young adults now, I think I see significant changes in human nature. So many of the things I’ve dreamed of since I was five years old have started to come to pass. I am so much encouraged by how those kids see others, how they see the world and their place in it, and how they interpret tradition. I wish I could live yet another lifetime to see what transpires over the next 70 years or so.

  13. Olly, our survival depends upon evolution. Sadly, we are not catching on quickly enough. To throw our hands in the air and say humanity doesn’t evolve is part of the problem.

    Also, just because it doesn’t evolve, doesn’t mean it can’t or shouldn’t.

  14. Eileen – Oh yes, how right you are about that. It is a shocking eye-opener to go back to the newspapers published during the time that our Constitution and Bill of Rights were being hammered out. The fierce determination of the framers of those documents to separate church and state is astonishing. (Off the subject…the debate about militias and the right to bear arms that took place at that time clarifies the 2nd Amendment as none of our current discussions ever can. We have totally twisted the meaning of that amendment.)

  15. Olly – There are two issues. #1 is what he did, and #2 is the issue of free speech. What he did is trivial, as offensive as it may be to some (or many), but his legal right to do so is now the issue, and that is far from trivial. The concept of freedom of speech is part of the bedrock of our strength as a nation. Cases such as this test our commitment to our Constitution. Far too much blood has been spilt in furtherance of our freedoms to let them now be abandoned to an ambitious district attorney in Everett, PA.

    1. Eileen – historically history does not have to be re-written to make this a Christian nation, it has always been a majority Christian nation.

Comments are closed.