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Free Speech for All, Or Just for NOM?

Rob Tisinai

September 16th, 2010

The National Organization for Marriage recently spread a warning that gays want to “discourage or criminalize the expression of certain Catholic beliefs as ‘hate speech.’”

It’s a favorite tactic of the far right in their war against hate crime laws and marriage equality — this fear that it could be soon be illegal to profess simple religious beliefs (about sinful and hellbound gays). They support this by citing cases from outside the US, conveniently ignoring America’s First Amendment.

Now, though, we have a chance to test NOM’s commitment to freedom of expression. The UK has banned an ad because it mocks Roman Catholic beliefs (the faith in which I was raised and the faith of many NOMmers, including Maggie herself). Will NOM speak out against this tyranny?

An ice cream company banned from using an advert displaying a pregnant nun has vowed to position similar posters in London in time for the Pope’s visit.

Antonio Federici’s advert showed a pregnant nun eating ice cream in a church, together with the strap line “immaculately conceived”.

The Advertising Standards Authority has ordered it to be discontinued, saying it mocked Roman Catholic beliefs.

As it happens, I oppose hate speech laws and have decried their use in other countries. My question is: Will NOM show the same consistency? Will they stand up for the right of people to say offensive things about gays and about Catholics (and about gay Catholics, for that matter)? Are they fighting for everyone’s freedom of speech and religion — or only freedom for anti-gays?

Inquiring minds want to know.

The banned ad

Two more (sultry) ads from the campaign below.

Another ad from the campaign

Another ad from the campaign

UPDATE AND CORRECTION: As a commenter below has noted: The ad is being published by UK media. You can find it on the BBC website. No one’s freedom of speech has been in any way curtailed. The ASA is an industry regulatory body: advertising is self-regulated. The company can no longer run their ad as an ad, but that doesn’t mean newspapers can’t print it. And newspapers do print it, because it’s a news story. VoilA : free advertising!

Sorry for the error. Looks like we’ll have to wait for another test case.

Comments

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justsearching
September 16th, 2010 | LINK

I don’t think there is any reason they’d speak up about this specific ad campaign.

tim
September 16th, 2010 | LINK

NOM (and other wingnuts) also ignore the fact that another illegal act (usually violent) has to occur in order for hate speech laws to even apply. One can’t be convicted of saying a naughty word by itself. Which makes our hate crime laws different that what they are in Canada or the UK. Of course – the conveniently ignore that in their little rants.

Emily K
September 16th, 2010 | LINK

personally, i find the ads cheap. I also found the Folsum Street Fair ad with the last supper of sex toys cheap, too. This is in that vein IMHO.

catholic clergy have been sexualized by various media for decades at least. There’s the idea of the catholic clergy and religious being so repressed that they can’t help but let their sexuality loose.

Making the clergy in the ads physically “sexy” doesn’t really help matters either. I’m not opposed to free speech. But I do grow weary of this type of thing.

A priest who’s GAY??? GASP!!!

A “hot” nun I’d want to screw?? GASP!! How TANTALIZING!! JUST LIKE THE ICE CREAM!

A “hot” priest ready to tear through his collar and into her habit?? GASP!! JUST LIKE THAT PORNO I SAW THE OTHER DAY!! /caps

It’s cheap just like a lot of advertising, but it also runs with the tradition of mocking a culture that has sexual restrictions in its clergy’s vows.

I don’t think it’s worth trying to “ban”.. it would just create the opposite effect – more publicity and more eyeballs viewing. Which it has already.

But I would never confuse this stuff for “art,” either. (This is an artist talking.)

Just my opinion.

Priya Lynn
September 16th, 2010 | LINK

Emily, I’m sure they never intended it to be art. Personally I think its great.

Lindoro Almaviva
September 16th, 2010 | LINK

Their excuse: This ad campaign is for a specific country and this has nothing to do with us.

Taking bets…

David
September 16th, 2010 | LINK

Yeah, I don’t know if these are worth fighting over. Well, I suppose for just the principle of free speech. But these really are a little not-good.

Chris McCoy
September 16th, 2010 | LINK

Emily K wrote:

catholic clergy have been sexualized by various media for decades at least. There’s the idea of the catholic clergy and religious being so repressed that they can’t help but let their sexuality loose.

Sexy Nuns have been a Trope for more than a few decades. Same with the Catholic School Girl stereotype. This is not a new phenomenon.

But I would never confuse this stuff for “art,” either. (This is an artist talking.)

“Art” is subjective. What one person considers Art, another may consider garbage. This does not make it any less Art. That this Art does not appeal to you, does not make it not-Art.

Pender
September 16th, 2010 | LINK

I hate NOM as much as the next halfway decent guy, but I don’t think it’s particularly hypocritical. The Sierra Club, for example, has an interest in defending pro-environmental speech, but it’s hard to see it bending over backwards to protect, say, speech critical of U.S. tax policy, simply because the latter is outside of its purview.

Adrian-T
September 16th, 2010 | LINK

Oh emily, honestly, these wonderful ads should be on the ceiling of the sistene chapel.

Emily K
September 16th, 2010 | LINK

LOL Adrian-T, you “got it right” with your comment.

Gee Chris, thank you for setting me right! If you hadn’t told me anybody can interpret something to mean “art” I wouldn’t have known it myself! Not after 8 years of spending time almost exclusively around other artists and sitting through hours upon end of critiques and art history classes! :C

Of course, I did not give a reason as to why I didn’t consider these ads “art” (or at least “high art” as some call it). You assumed it was because it’s unappealing to me. Ok. Assume that.

As I said before, “It’s just my opinion.” As in, I formed an opinion that I do not consider something to be “art.” Isn’t that what you yourself did? Why it brought up a need to preach to me about post-modernism is lost on me. But really I don’t care that much what the reason is. I don’t have the energy to care.

Other Fred in the UK
September 16th, 2010 | LINK

Just as a point of information, a right of freedom of speech is a acknowledged and respected in the U.K., although obviously not to the degree that it is in the U.S. The difference is that in the U.K. that right is possessed by individuals (and to a lesser extend political and religious groups) but not companies.

Mocking Catholicism may be acceptable in political and religious discourse but not to help sell ice-cream.

Timothy (TRiG)
September 16th, 2010 | LINK

To be clear: The ad is being published by UK media. You can find it on the BBC website. No one’s freedom of speech has been in any way curtailed. The ASA is an industry regulatory body: advertising is self-regulated. The company can no longer run their ad as an ad, but that doesn’t mean newspapers can’t print it. And newspapers do print it, because it’s a news story. Voilà: free advertising!

(I picked most of this up from the discussion on Pharyngula.)

TRiG.

Rob Tisinai
September 16th, 2010 | LINK

Timothy, thanks for the correction. I’ve updated the post to reflect this information.

customartist
September 17th, 2010 | LINK

Let’s put it to the test…

Run the ads in the USA! Let’s all contact the company and send in our requests for them to offer the product for American consumption?

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