Freedom & Liberty,  Freedom of Expression

Religious satire censored in Newtownabbey [updated]

The Reduced Shakespeare Company has also devised a show based on the Bible – ‘the complete word of God (abridged)’ as its publicity material explains.

The website of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, the play’s writers and performers described it as “an affectionate, irreverent roller coaster ride from fig leaves to Final Judgment”.

“[The RSC team] tackle the great theological questions: Did Adam and Eve have navels? Did Moses really look like Charlton Heston? And why isn’t the word ‘phonetic’ spelled the way it sounds?

“Whether you are Catholic or Atheist, Muslim or Jew, Protestant or Purple People Eater, you will be tickled by the RSC’s romp through old time religion. Remember… Someone is watching.”

This is hardly Jerry Springer the Opera or The Last Temptation of Christ territory.  However because of pressure from local councillors performances at the Theatre at the Mill in Newtownabbey have been cancelled.

But Democratic Unionist Party Councillor Billy Ball claimed it was offensive to Christians (although it is unclear if he personally has seen it).

“For Christians the Bible is the infallible word of God and it’s not something to be made fun of.

DUP councillor Mandy Girvan .. was quoted in the Belfast Newsletter as saying “It shouldn’t be shown if it’s going against the Bible’s principles.”

It gets worse:

Fraser Agnew, the mayor of Newtownabbey Council, was quoted in Yahoo News saying: “As the guardians of all that is right in society we have got to take a stand somewhere, and that is what happened in this instance.”

Here’s a saner response:

Sinn Féin Newtownabbey councillor Gerry O’Reilly said “certain councillors [are] forcing their religious views onto everyone else in the constituency”.

“What the councillors are basically saying is that they can dictate what type of dramas people can view. This is censorship at its worse and I have not heard the like since the Life of Brian was banned in Belfast in 1979,” he said.

And here is an irritated response to the ban from a Christian fan of the show.

Update (via amie): The ban has been reversed.