Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Dispatches From The War On Free Speech

In Tasmania:

A SEXUALLY explicit artwork depicting a gay Jesus has been slammed as shameful, foul, sacriligious and grossly offensive by a Tasmanian Liberal MP.

Member for Denison Michael Hodgman said the highly-offensive work, by prominent Tasmanian artist Shaun McGowan, should be immediately removed from display at the Red Wall Gallery at North Hobart's Republic Bar.

He believed a significant proportion of the community would be shocked and offended by the work, Imitation of Christ, which shows an image of Jesus Christ surrounded by gay men performing sexual acts.

"Most members of the Tasmanian community are prepared to accept a degree of comment, but this particular abomination falls well outside proper bounds and is grossly offensive," Mr Hodgman said.

"Events of recent days around the world show that whilst we should respect the freedom of expression, we must also recognise that certain religious and cultural elements have particular personal and religious importance to members of our society."

Meanwhile, at the Cole Inquiry:

A COMEDY team's stunt outside the AWB inquiry has fallen flat, with the commission to refer it to police.

A crew from ABC satire The Chaser confronted AWB executive Charles Stott outside the building where the inquiry is being conducted in Sydney, presenting him with a cheque made out to former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and asking him to sign it.

"My client was completely shaken," said Mr Stott's lawyer Paul Lacava, SC.

Mr Cole said he would arrange for solicitors to provides statements and refer the matter to police. "I will have steps taken … to retain that film" for investigative purposes, he said.

And in Belgium:

A town in Belgium has banned an artwork of Saddam Hussein for fear that it will put off tourists and offend Muslims.

The piece, called Saddam Hussein Shark, shows the handcuffed ex-Iraqi ruler suspended in liquid and wearing nothing more than underpants.

The mayor of Middelkerke, Michel Landuyt, said the work could "shock people", including Muslims.

He said he decided to ban Czech artist David Cerny's sculpture before the row over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

The Saddam piece, which echoes British artist Damien Hirst's famous shark suspended in formaldehyde, was first shown in Prague last September.