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.
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