Spanish Court Moves Forward With Prosecution Of Man Who Offended A Bunch Of Religious Lawyers

from the priming-itself-for-another-Inquisition dept

Spain’s speech laws continue to be a nightmare. What started out as merely terrible has progressively gotten worse over the years as the government continues to strip protection from speech for the stupidest of reasons. The country’s laws against hate speech have resulted in the prosecution of comedians, artists, and critics of the government. The laws forbidding speech supporting terrorism have seen more of the same locked up as jokes about a politician’s assassination were determined to be promoting an “unhealthy humoristic environment” and “justifying terrorism.”

Yes, the Spanish government gets to decide what’s funny in Spain. It also apparently gets to decide how offended followers of certain faiths will be when dead/imaginary religious figures are disparaged on social media. Thanks to Spain’s insane laws, a complaint from a religious group is enough to get someone arrested.

That someone is an actor and activist who made the mistake of saying nasty things about Jesus and his mom.

A Madrid judge has decided to press ahead with a court case involving Spanish actor and activist Willy Toledo, in which he is accused of offending religious sentiments by insulting God and the Virgin Mary in messages posted on Facebook.

Toledo was arrested on September 13 on orders from the judge, after he failed to appear in court on two prior occasions to answer questions about the case in a preliminary probe. After spending a night in the cells, and then appearing before the judge the next morning, he was released.

Technically, Toledo’s arrest is due to his failure to appear in court. But that “failure” was due to Toledo’s belief he had committed no crime. A legal complaint by the Spanish Association of Christian Lawyers says otherwise. This complaint was ignored by Toledo, resulting in a failure-to-appear arrest.

Here’s what prompted the Christian Lawyers into action: Toledo’s response to the arrest of three women for staging their own religious procession featuring a giant model of female genitalia. (Language NSFW)

In his comments, Toledo said: “I shit on God and have enough shit left over to shit on the dogma of the holiness and virginity of the Virgin Mary. This country is unbearably shameful. I’m disgusted. Go fuck yourselves. Long live the Insubordinate Pussy.”

The Christian law group said this comment “offended religious sentiment.” Instead of being told to GTFO, the court decided to move forward with the case. Unfortunately for citizens of Spain, this insane-looking legal charge is actually legitimate.

Article 525 of the Spanish Criminal Code sets out monetary fines for those who offend the feelings of the members of a religious confession by “publicly disparaging their dogmas, beliefs, rites or ceremonies.”

Having finally faced a judge (against his will), Toledo is now facing the possibility of being fined for annoying an association of lawyers and disparaging their chosen religious beliefs. The judge says this comment is “potentially offensive,” which seems to be enough to follow through on prosecution. It’s also “devoid of any critical sense,” which means judges in Spain know “legitimate” criticism when they see it.

Toledo won’t have to spend any more time in jail (provided he shows up for future court dates…) but he’ll be out the money spent to defend himself and possibly a whole lot more if the court decides figuratively shitting on religious figures is a criminal violation.

The Christian lawyers believe this is the most righteous outcome. In its statement to El Pais, a spokesperson said Toledo has repeatedly delivered “deliberate and intense attacks” against a concept valued by everyone in this particular law association. How that makes it a crime worth prosecuting is beyond me, but if you’ve got a bunch of terrible laws on the book, they will be used by terrible people to harm their critics.

Filed Under: , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Spanish Court Moves Forward With Prosecution Of Man Who Offended A Bunch Of Religious Lawyers”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
67 Comments
Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Inquisition Redux

Another thing Spain is famous for is the Spanish Inquisition. Back then they appear to have gotten creative in both what they were looking for as well as how they ‘inquired’. Seems like religious intolerance is back in vogue…again. Will they so as far this time? Don’t know, but it looks like a good start.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Three things.

  1. It is sharia, not “Sharia law”. (This has been your language pedantry of the day.)
  2. “Christian sharia”, which seems to be what you are alluding to with that comment about sharia, is more accurately referred to as Dominionism.
  3. Sharia does not outlaw having a sense of humor, no matter how much you believe/imply otherwise.
Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I can draw a picture of Mohammed without any legal or ethical hang-ups. (Muslims are forbidden from making an image of Mohammed; I am under no obligation to abide by that belief.) Morally, however, I see no need to do so, for it would be provocation for its own sake—an unnecessary attempt to inflame the emotions of Muslims for no reason other than “freeze peach”.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 'Our religion says you can't draw that!' 'Where's my pen...?'

Morally, however, I see no need to do so, for it would be provocation for its own sake—an unnecessary attempt to inflame the emotions of Muslims for no reason other than “freeze peach”.

It can be that to be sure, but I suspect a good number of pictures along those lines are intended as a protest against those muslims telling people that they cannot draw such things(and/or flat out killing those that do), insisting that people not of their religion follow it’s rules.

Ask someone not to do something your religion prohibits and so long as there’s an independently good reason to avoid doing it odds are at least decent that they’ll humor you.

Demand someone not do something your religion prohibits, simply because of the religious reasons, and there will almost certainly be more than a few that’ll do it anyway just to spite you and/or make use of the freedom you’re trying to strip from them.

Unrelated to the topic, but related to your comment, ‘freeze peach’? Deliberate spelling, or hunger-caused typo?

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4

I suspect a good number of pictures along those lines are intended as a protest

Plenty of people say that this is their intent, yes—but in practice, non-Muslims creating images of Mohammed do so to intentionally inflame the emotions of Muslims. As I am fond of saying, execution overrides intent. And while I do not specifically denounce the act (because I would then have to do so for provocations of all other religions and I’ll be goddamned if I can’t make fun of the Catholic Church), I have no desire to take part in it.

‘freeze peach’? Deliberate spelling, or hunger-caused typo?

That was a deliberate spelling. “Freeze peach” is a derogatory term used to mock the idea that we must listen to everyone’s opinions and amplify their voices wherever possible. It is about the entitlement some people feel in re: wanting to be heard by an audience instead of just their pet rock. Drawing Mohammed is free speech; thinking you deserve to have your drawing shared by thousands to millions of other people because you drew Mohammed—regardless of intent—is “freeze peach”

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 'NO in fact you do NOT get to tell me what I can draw.'

Plenty of people say that this is their intent, yes—but in practice, non-Muslims creating images of Mohammed do so to intentionally inflame the emotions of Muslims.

That strikes me as attributing motivations and intent without a solid ground to back it up, and likely more than a little insulting to those that perform the act more to defend their rights than to attack the feelings of muslims.

I’m sure some do draw those things just to spite the fanatics that throw fits over the act, but I’m also sure that there are those that do so as a protest and an exercise of the freedoms that others would strip from them, with the fact that it offends certain people almost as an aside.

As I am fond of saying, execution overrides intent.

If, as a hypothetical, I supported a particular event/cause, say equal treatment for gays, and I know that said event/cause offends certain religious groups, does the fact that I did it anyway mean that my intent(supporting equal rights) gets tossed to the side because my execution(supporting an event/cause that I know offends someone) results in something else in addition? In that hypothetical I would be deliberately supporting something that those in those religions find highly offensive, so would it be fair to then say that my motivation was in fact to ‘inflame the emotions of religious fundamentalists’ by supporting something that offends them and their religious beliefs?

I can somewhat see where you’re coming from with that argument, the best intentions in the world aren’t going to help if your execution is terrible(those that supported FOSTA because they were conned into thinking it would help, rather than cause damage would be a nice example), however it seems far too easy to use that argument to stawman someone’s position as something that it isn’t, able to be dismissed in turn.

A better way to look at it perhaps would be to point out that the intent may be one thing, but the result can vary if not be completely counter-productive, from which the discussion could then focus on how different those other results are from the goal, are they helping the original goal or hindering it, and so on.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6

it seems far too easy to use that argument to st[r]awman someone’s position as something that it isn’t

A fair point. While I do believe the execution of an act often overrides its intent, that axiom isn’t foolproof. A punch thrown to protect an innocent life and a punch thrown to harm an innocent life are still the same basic act, but the intent behind either act makes all the difference.

My point in the Mohammed example was that the execution of the act—one designed on principle to offend Muslims—largely overrides any intent that says “I didn’t mean to offend Muslims”. As I see it (at least in the comments above), the act intentionally violates Islamic dogma to provoke Muslims, which means the act largely overrides the intent behind it. That said: I understand that any offense taken by the act is the fault of the person offended, not by the person who drew Mohammed (regardless of intent). Criticism of religious beliefs should never be off the table in any way, shape, or form—again, regardless of intent—because ideas do not deserve protection from criticism.

And yet, I still would not do that deed myself—not because of fear of a reaction, but because I believe doing so is morally unsound. Making fun of assholes who hurt other people over drawings of Mohammed is a little more morally righteous; they hurt people due to their dogma, so fuck them. Making fun of the “average” Muslim for having a odd-yet-benign religious belief that has no discernible effect on the everyday lives of others, however, is a line I have no desire to cross.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

My point in the Mohammed example was that the execution of the act—one designed on principle to offend Muslims—largely overrides any intent that says “I didn’t mean to offend Muslims”

Given how well known that prohibition is(people have been killed over it) even those that don’t draw those pictures with intent to offend are almost sure to know that it will offend, my argument is rather that for a good number offense is not the goal, even if it is a known side-effect.

‘I know this will offend you but I’m doing it anyway as a protest against you telling me that I, someone who is not a member of your religion, must still follow it’s rules. If my making use of the freedom you are trying to deny me offends you maybe you shouldn’t have tried to force your religion’s rules on me in the first place.’

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I do not “apologize” for Islam—or any other religion. (Agnostic atheist, for the record.) Any debate about religion should be predicated on correct details instead of misleading broad strokes or outright bigotry. Your clear hatred for Islam/Muslims does not give you the right to proclaim the religion/all its adherents as intrinsically evil—at least, not without opening the door for people to do the same with your religion.

Jim P. (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:Humor & "god"

“Sharia does not outlaw having a sense of humor, no matter how much you believe/imply otherwise.”

People who take religious-based law seriously, those who genuinely think some “god” ordained such and so are not noted for their lighthearted whimsical approach to life, the universe and everything.

If you can laugh and be happy while believing someone should be stoned to death for dressing immodestly or loving the wrong gender of person or no longer buying into your religious fantasies, there is more wrong with you (any you) than can be readily cured.

Very few Mullahs start off their sermons with a “Joke of the day” before outlining the benefits of (other people, never them) blowing themselves up for god.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

If you can laugh and be happy while believing someone should be stoned to death for dressing immodestly or loving the wrong gender of person or no longer buying into your religious fantasies, there is more wrong with you (any you) than can be readily cured.

Does this apply to Christians who believe gay people should be put to death (per Leviticus) but are otherwise “joyous” people, or (per your last paragraph) are you confining your criticism just to Islam?

Anonymous Coward says:

Scientologists apparently need to move to Spain

Based on this insane law and application, it sounds like crazy cults need to move themselves to Spain and cash in on the public sentiment by charging all of their critics under this law. Until they start having it used against them, they won’t get rid of it. Moronic people who read the words about Jesus having literal brothers, but ignore it and pretend his mom is a super-powered virgin. Hint, the virgin lady figure already existed and had cult followings in Europe long before Jesus was born. The church stole it and pretended it was their own. Crying about it doesn’t change the facts.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Scientologists apparently need to move to Spain

Believe it not, there are idiots who proclaim the Bible to be literal truth, yet deny to the heavens that Jesus had any siblings, despite that literally being IN THE BIBLE. Well, do you believe the Bible, or don’t you? Too many “Christians” who pick and choose which parts of the Bible they believe…

Cdaragorn (profile) says:

Re: Scientologists apparently need to move to Spain

Hint: all sorts of writings talk about Jesus being born of a virgin long before he was actually born. Trying to figure out who originally came up with the idea is an exercise in futility and pointlessness.
When crying about “facts”, let’s keep to facts we can actually prove. It really doesn’t help our position to pretend our opinions fit into that category.

Killercool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Scientologists apparently need to move to Spain

The complaint here is not that Jesus was "born of a virgin," but that Catholicism’s Virgin Mary stayed one after. He was just her firstborn, and, even biblically, her marriage to Joseph was not sexless since Jesus had at least one biological brother. James, just off the top of my head.

Believe what you will about Jesus’ pedigree, the book you got it from says that Mary had other, non-deity children.

edit before posting I misread the complaint. He’s probably talking about Zoroastrianism. It did exist before Christianity, but not Judaism. However, his "virgin birth" origin was added much later.
If referring to Mithras, however, he just appeared. No women involved.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Bethany: Jesus didn’t have any brothers or sisters. Mary was a virgin.

Rufus: Mary gave birth to Christ without having known a man’s touch, that’s true. But she did have a husband. And do you really think he’d have stayed married to her all those years if he wasn’t getting laid? The nature of God and the Virgin birth—those are leaps of faith. But to believe a married couple never got down? Well, that’s just plain gullibility!

— from the film Dogma

A Lert says:

Re: Fake Christian alert!!!

If he was a real Christian, he’d have him stoned or crucified….

You have missed the ENTIRE point of the New Testament, Timmy.

Short version: feed the multitude, throw money-changers out of the temple, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. — Note that they all went away, shamed. — And then perhaps most important of all: “Go thou and sin no more.”

Pay no attention to the Old Testament: it’s full of Stone Age nonsense and murder. There is yet worth in the New.

Anonymous Coward says:

Hmmm...

What exactly does this law say and how exactly is it being used over all relevant cases?

If it’s being used as a stick to hurt people for generally expressing unchristian / unislamic / unwhateverish views, then I’m entirely in favour of it’s reform or repeal, with great vengeance and furious anger.

If, on the other hand, it’s only being used to financially slap around some asshats who are going into Christian social spaces purely to troll them with blasphemy, then I don’t care quite so much.

One doesn’t have to have any particular faith to recognise a deliberate public order offence – or to see that ignoring abuse isn’t really an ideal choice for the local police.

— dg100

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Hmmm...

“only being used to financially slap around some asshats who are going into Christian social spaces purely to troll them with blasphemy, then I don’t care quite so much.”

… until it is you they come for

“public order offence”

Not sure what this entails but I’m quite certain it can be manipulated into just about anything an upstanding dictator may enjoy playing with.

Jim P. (profile) says:

God, are you there? Thi is a Summons To Appear

“insulting God and the Virgin Mary in messages posted on Facebook.”

Unless this alleged “god” and/or woman appear in person to file complaints and provide satisfactory evidence as to their identity, I fail to see how these lawyers have any claim. This is on a par with PETA claiming to represent that monkey in the selfie trials.

Every time religion “A” claims to be the one true faith, all other religions would now have a legal claim under laws like that. Someone ought to try pursuing that to force this to its logically absurd conclusion.

Anonymous Coward says:

EU is supposed to contain only democracies.

But Spain has been a totalitarian thought-police state for a while now, where you can be punished for not following the government mandated state religion and beliefs or for espousing any sort of free speech at all.

Hell, they murdered hundreds of civilians for DARING to vote to become independent of Spain.

So WHY hasn’t Spain been kicked out of the EU?

because they’re pumping hundreds of millions of Euros directly into EU ministers private bank accounts.

Anonymous Coward says:

What a dufus law.

‘Article 525 of the Spanish Criminal Code sets out monetary fines for those who offend the feelings of the members of a religious confession by “publicly disparaging their dogmas, beliefs, rites or ceremonies.”’

So offending a supposedly omnipotent and omniscient being is illegal… They’re totally on God’s side and stepping up to do his work for him. Apparently.

Let’s forget about the logical fallacy that God, who according to their religion created the universe and everything else, who can turn people to pillars of salt, rain molten sulfur down on sinful villages, make people spontaneously combust, cause widespread droughts and floods, requires the help of a paltry, insignificant, otherwise useless and himself sinful judge to do what supposedly he doesn’t deign to do… cuz God is too busy or something to stand up for himself or his followers. Right.

Oh lord, I just disparaged someone’s religious feelings, I’m going to… oh wait… nope… nothing happened.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »