Secular Right | Reality & Reason



It’s Not Just Pakistan

Cross-Posted on the Corner:

There are blasphemy laws in India too, and in this instance a case there comes with a possibly somewhat unexpected twist.

The Guardian reports:

When water started trickling down a statue of Jesus Christ at a Catholic church in Mumbai earlier this year, locals were quick to declare a miracle. Some began collecting the holy water and the Church of Our Lady of Velankanni began to promote it as a site of pilgrimage. So when Sanal Edamaruku arrived and established that this was not holy water so much as holey plumbing, the backlash was severe. The renowned rationalist was accused of blasphemy, charged with offences that carry a three-year prison sentence and eventually, after receiving death threats, had to seek exile in Finland….

… “The Catholic archbishop of Bombay, Oswald, Cardinal Gracias, has said that if I apologise for the ‘offence’ I have caused he will see to it that the charges are dropped. This shows that he has influence in the situation but he will not use it unless I apologise, which I will not do as I have done nothing wrong,” [Edamaruku] said….

Edamaruku makes a fair point. The cardinal should also ponder the tacit encouragement he is currently giving those elsewhere—far harsher than he appears to be— who use blasphemy laws as a weapon against free speech in general, and, I might add, Christians in particular.

To quote (yet again) what was written in Jyllands-Posten at the time of the Mohammed cartoon controversy: “free speech is free speech is free speech. No buts.”

That’s a pretty good principle.

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  • Butlerson · November 29, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    This reporter is making the same sad error that so many modern journalists make – no effort was made to authenticate the charges in this quoted article. It was just assumed it was all true, and it isn’t. When did journalists stop questioning what they are told and do research on the story to make sure they cover all sides and are accurate? The Guardian writer certainly didn’t, and it was just copied blindly and accepted as truth by this one here. That is very bad journalism.

    Here are some other sites for a more balanced view on this ‘miracle’ debunker’s claims, which he gave no proofs for, but was just automatically believed by people who already shared his biases. The statue in question touches no wall or ceiling and is wooden sitting on a concrete base on the floor. There are no pipes, let alone sewage pipes anywhere near it. Edamaruku gave no scientific proofs for anything he claimed. AND

    The Catholic church did not file any charges against this man, a private group did. I oppose all so-called blasphemy laws. Religion, like political ideologies, are not facts, but opinions that affect, often very adversely, peoples’ lives and should be questioned and criticized. If they are true they will be exonerated. Only false beliefs need fear questioning. Any religion that has to silence honest criticism fears exposure and truth. Truth doesn’t fear criticism.

    I just don’t like the sloppy so-called ‘journalism’ that passes for ‘news’ today. Most of it should be on the ‘Opinion’ Page instead. Please verify what you pass on or report.

  • Author comment by Andrew Stuttaford · November 30, 2012 at 4:30 am

    Nobody is claiming that the Roman Catholic church initiated the case. Nevertheless, by asking for some sort of apology the church is clearly lending the prosecution a degree of support.

    Take a look too at one of the articles you cite (Asia News):

    “It is fair to ask whether the case of Irla is truly a miracle. It is impermissible to accuse the Church of creating similar events to make money”, says Msgr. Agnelo Gracias, auxiliary bishop of Mumbai, responding to the statements of Sanal Edamaruku, president of the Indian Rationalist Association, on the alleged miracle that has occurred near the church of Our Lady of Velankanni, in Mumbai.”

    No, it is not “impermissible”.

    We’ve heard a lot recently from the Roman Catholic church–that advocate of universal healthcare (except when it disapproves of the application of the law to itself)–about the importance of “religious freedom”. The message would be convincing if it understood what that term actually meant.

  • The Kutra · December 2, 2012 at 6:19 am

    If you can bear to watch the video, here’s Sanal being threatened on TV:

    Land of darkness indeed.



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