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Atheist Ireland defends mock broadcast depicting God as rapist

RTÉ apologised yesterday for the sketch after receiving some 600 complaints.

Image: Niall Carson/PA

ATHEIST IRELAND HAS defended RTÉ’s “blasphemous” broadcast of a comedy sketch which depicted God being arrested for rape. 

The national broadcaster yesterday apologised for any offence that may have been caused by the Waterford Whispers sketch. 

The clip was broadcast as part of RTÉ One’s NYE Countdown Show on Thursday night and dubbed blasphemous by Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, the following day. 

In a mock year-in-review news bulletin, portrayed as a broadcast from satirical website Waterford Whispers News, former RTÉ newsreader Aengus MacGrianna reads a report over video footage of a man dressed in white robes being led by gardaí from a court.

“A shocking revelation this year,” MacGrianna’s says, “God became the latest figure to be implicated in the ongoing sexual harassment scandal”.

Martin called for the “outrageous” clip to be removed immediately and “denounced by all people of goodwill”.

“To broadcast such a deeply offensive and blasphemous clip about God & Our Blessed Mother Mary during the Christmas season on ‘NYE Countdown Show’ on @RTE , @RTEOne & on Eve of the Solemn Feast of Mary, Mother of God is insulting to all Catholics and Christians,” Martin tweeted. 

RTÉ issued an apology yesterday to those offended by the segment after reviewing feedback and complaints it received. 

Atheist Ireland said it was pleased that RTÉ had not removed the clip from its catch-up services, and called for both religious people and atheists to support the right of other people to see and hear ideas that they personally believe to be offensive “unless the statements are defamatory of identifiable people or inciting discrimination, hostility or violence”.

“The people of Ireland recently voted overwhelmingly to remove the offence of blasphemy,” Atheist Ireland chairman Michael Nugent said, citing the 2018 referendum. 

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The provision of blasphemy in the Constitution had been in place since the 1937 Constitution but the legislation that provided for it had been long obsolete as there had never been a successful prosecution over blasphemy.

“Criticism or mockery of religious ideas is just as acceptable as criticism or mockery of secular ideas. People have rights. Their beliefs do not,” said Nugent. 

“Many people of goodwill find Bible stories about a God killing innocent people just as offensive as Archbishop Martin finds this comedy sketch. But we are not calling on RTE to remove discussions of the Bible from its programmes or to remove criticism or mockery of atheistic ideas.

“What RTE should remove is the daily unpaid advert that it gives to the Catholic Church in the form of the Angelus. And that is not because it is offensive, but because it breaches RTE’s duty to be impartial with regard to religious and non-religious beliefs.”

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Adam Daly

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