I had not gone to the exhibit, but I have seen a number of pictures on the internet. Being a former Catholic, I could imagine how some of the Catholics would react. But being a spiritual atheist, such art did not bother me. I am not saying that Mideo Cruz created his exhibit to offend. In fact, in an interview, he explained his reasons for such display.
Most of the outcry has been about the phallic object placed on the works. Phalluses have been objects of devotion in many cultures; they use them as amulets, symbolic statues, etc. They might be a symbol of power and patriarchy.
If Mideo did have good intentions for the display, should the offended Catholics have the right to complain or not?
The purpose of this article is not on the Mideo’s intentions with his art. It is not even to figure out if Mideo is guilty of anything or not. What a lot of people here in the Philippines are concerned about is Mideo’s art and how it impacts the idea of “free speech” and “free expression”. While a lot of people are offended by his art, a lot of those same people also do not want to censor such expression since it might serve as a precedent and limit free expression in the future.
I am not a lawyer, but my curiosity made me read the on the internet on what possible laws may be related to free speech and expression?
Article 201 of the ‘The Revised Penal Code of the Philippines’ is under ‘Offenses against Decency and Good Customs”.
Art. 201. Immoral doctrines, obscene publications and exhibitions and indecent shows. — The penalty of prision mayor or a fine ranging from six thousand to twelve thousand pesos, or both such imprisonment and fine, shall be imposed upon:
(b) Those who, in theaters, fairs, cinematographs or any other place, exhibit, indecent or immoral plays, scenes, acts or shows, whether live or in film, which are prescribed by virtue hereof, shall include those which (1) glorify criminals or condone crimes; (2) serve no other purpose but to satisfy the market for violence, lust or pornography; (3) offend any race or religion; (4) tend to abet traffic in and use of prohibited drugs; and (5) are contrary to law, public order, morals, and good customs, established policies, lawful orders, decrees and edicts;
In the “Section 4” of our “Bill of Rights” of our 1987 Constitution we have:
Section 4. No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.
In addition to these Philippine laws, We have a statement, supposedely from no less than the United Nations. In this webpage we see a writer giving his opinions. The title of his article, “United Nations Affirms the Human Right to Blaspheme”
According to paragraph 48, “Prohibitions of displays of lack of respect for a religion or other belief system, including blasphemy laws, are incompatible with the Covenant, except in the specific circumstances envisaged in article 20, paragraph 2, of the Covenant.” Article 20, paragraph 2 calls on states to prohibit “advocacy of national, racial, or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence.” The Comment is careful to require that any restrictions must not violate the Conventions’ guarantees of equality before the law (Article 26) and freedom of thought, conscience, and religion (Article 18).
A relevant question here is, “What about religious insult?” I think the next paragraph will answer that.
Laws against blasphemy or “religious insult” (found throughout the world, including half of all Council of Europe member states) are inherently discriminatory against secularists and religious dissenters. They are discriminatory in that secularists have no legal recourse—nor should they—when the words of believers offend their moral sensibilities, nor can gays take the publishers of Leviticus to court for the spiritual affront to them that it surely is. Skeptics and heterodox believers, on the other hand, do have an Article 18 right to live and speak according to their conscience even when it offends the orthodox.Paragraph 32 of the new comment also cautions states against employing a narrow notion of so-called public morals to restrict speech, effectively ruling out laws that defer to a particular faith tradition: “the concept of morals derives from many social, philosophical and religious traditions; consequently, limitations… for the purpose of protecting morals must be based on principles not deriving exclusively from a single tradition.”
Here is the document which he was referring to.
As you can see, while the Revised Penal Code may penalize such acts, the Constitution just might allow it. Furthermore, the United Nations advices that blasphemy be a human right. From this, it is no surprise that such action, although possibly religiously offensive may actually escape legal sanctions. Actually, some legal experts say that Mideo Cruz did not violate law.
Atty. Florin Hilbay of UP Law argued that “the right of Cruz to express himself through ‘Poleitismo’ is recognized by the constitution. It was not as if the CCP exerted extra effort to offend the feelings of subscribers to the Catholic faith.”
From this, a common person who is not legally inclined may feel that if his art or writing is less ‘offensive’ than Mideo Cruz, chances are he will not get sued.
The big question here is if free speech and free expression has limits. Do people really have the right to be as offensive as they please? If you look at what the U.N. says, it seems that sky is the limit.
When you think of it, there are reasons why blasphemy should be allowed. What one persons considers as truth may actually be blasphemous to another. Who is to say that one is blasphemous and not the other. For example, for Christians, Jesus is the son of God, but for Muslims, Jesus is only a prophet. For a Christian, claim that Jesus is only a prophet and not the son of God may be considered blasphemous, but for Muslims, Jesus being the son of God may be equally blasphemous. Christians believe that Jesus died on the cross, Muslims believe that Jesus did not die on the cross. Can you imagine both parties citing ‘article 201’ “(1) Those who shall publicly expound or proclaim doctrines openly contrary to public morals;” to sue each other.
If you are Catholics, there are rules which the Vatican assumes that you should follow. You should not indulge in premarital sex and you should not indulge in homosexual acts. What if you are a writer and you would want to make several books with subjects which propagate those acts, should the law allow you to be sued? What if you made books which are contrary to Catholic teachings such as: The Joys of Premarital Sex, The Joys of Homosexual Sex; is it right for you to be vulnerable to lawsuits?
Maybe they are antiquated laws, maybe no one will use them, but you will never really know. Less than 10 years ago in Singapore, the country had consideredreviewing their oral sex law after a policeman was jailed for two years for having oral sex with a female.
A lot of offensive things which happen to Non-Catholics in this country. It is just that a lot of Catholics take it for granted. When some Catholics say or insinuate that a person of another religion has the wrong religion, that is offensive. When a Catholic tells an atheist that he is an evil person because he does not believe in God, that is even more offensive. The height of offensiveness occurs when the victim is a minor and is threatened with the concept of hell at such an early age. I actually know of someone who would have nightmares at night if he masturbated before going to bed due to the guilt driven by such brainwashing.
If you are pro RH bill, you can be considered offensive to the Catholic Church. God believing religions are supposed to be representing God. If you don’t follow them, you could be insinuating that they are not representing God properly. Sure they have the right to call you non-Catholics, but you also have the right to call them fake representatives of God.
That is really what free speech and free expression is all about. We all have our beliefs and we should be free to say or express them even if it offends and goes against the grain of what the public believes in. With no free speech we would be left in a society which hardly changes and is stuck on medieval beliefs.
I shall give you an idea on how free it is on other parts of he world. The next examples are on Larry Flynt and Hustler Magazine.
In 1988, Flynt won an important Supreme Court decision, Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, after being sued by Reverend Jerry Falwell in 1983 over an offensive ad parody in Hustler that suggested that Falwell’s first sexual encounter was with his mother in an out-house. Falwell sued Flynt, citing emotional distress caused by the ad. The decision clarified that public figures cannot recover damages for “intentional infliction of emotional distress” based on parodies. After Falwell’s death, Flynt stated that despite their differences, he and Falwell had become friends over the years, adding that, “I always appreciated his sincerity even though I knew what he was selling and he knew what I was selling.”
Following is a trailer then a part of the fictionalized film.
If you think that was bad guess what the next one is.
Who’s Nailin’ Paylin? is an American satirical pornographic film released on November 4, 2008, that satirizes former U.S. vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. The film was directed by Jerome Tanner and stars Lisa Ann, Nina Hartley and Jada Fire. Besides being aparody of Sarah Palin, the film includes spoofs of Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, Todd Palinand Bill O’Reilly.
And for the curious ones, here’s the trailer.