"B" Is for Blasphemy and Belgium

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

"B" Is for Blasphemy and Belgium

Although Western Europeans generally have more reasonable attitudes toward religion than Americans have, Arnold's post reminds us that there are exceptions. His post referred to a Belgian priest who is facing a legal prosecution after allowing an controversial artistic display in his church.

If you want to imagine what America would look like without the doctrine of church-state separation, the news article cited by Arnold offers a clue:
The Association for Belgium and Christianity has brought charges against the priest who could be jailed for six months.

Father Scheerens said the (art) exhibition was meant to make Christians think about the true meaning of believing and to attract new people. But Alain Escada, the president of the association, said: "It's against all Christian rules.

"People go to church to pray and they don't want to be confronted with art and certainly not vulgarity or satanic art. The priest should have never allowed such trash in his church."

It is the first time in more than 75 years that a Belgian court has had to investigate a case of blasphemy.
If a religious association or hierarchy decides to expel a priest for an art display that church officials felt was immoral, that lies within their power. But it's frightening to think that a democratic nation would allow a religious association to use its civil courts system to prosecute and potentially jail a priest who (so far as I can tell) is not accused of violating any civil statute in Belgium.

Can you imagine the field day that Jerry Falwell, Franklin Graham, Pat Robertson and other U.S.-based preachers would have if they could bring "blasphemy" charges in a civil court?

Arnold: Is there a key detail I'm missing or is this as bad as it sounds (at least to me)?

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