Here’s another reason to love the First Amendment. Sanal Edamaruku, president of Rational International, faces possible arrest in India after he debunked a ‘miracle’ at a Catholic church in that country, where a statue of Jesus had water dripping from its feet. Stephen Law has a letter from the organization explaining what happened:
On 10th March, Sanal Edamaruku, President of the Rationalist International, flew to Mumbai. The TV channel TV-9 had invited him to investigate a “miracle” that caused local excitement. He went with the TV team to Irla in Vile Parle to inspect the crucifix standing there in front of the Church of Our Lady of Velankanni. This crucifix had become the centre of attraction for an ever growing crowd of believers coming from far and wide. The news of the miracle spread like wild fire. For some days, there were little droplets of water trickling from Jesus’ feet. Hundreds of people came every day to pray and collect some of the “holy water” in bottles and vessels. Sanal Edamaruku identified the source of the water (a drainage near a washing room) and the mechanism how it reached Jesus feet (capillary action). The local church leaders, present during his investigation, appeared to be displeased. See the investigation in detail on YouTube.
Some hours later, in a live program on TV-9, Sanal explained his findings and accused the concerned Catholic Church officials of miracle mongering, as they were beating the big drum for the drippling Jesus statue with aggressive PR measures and by distributing photographs certifying the “miracle”. A heated debate began, in which the five church people, among them Fr. Augustine Palett, the priest of Our Lady of Velankanni church, and representatives of the Association of Concerned Catholics (AOCC) demanded that Sanal apologize. But Sanal refused and argued against them. [The whole TV program is recorded. You can watch an abridged version of it on YouTube.]
When they saw Sanal refused to bow to their demands, they threatened to file a blasphemy case against him. And they did.
Yesterday (10th April,2012) Sanal received a phone call from a Police official of Juhu Police Station in Mumbai directing him to come to the said police station to face the charges and get arrested. He also said that FIRs have also been filed in Andheri and some other police stations u/s 295 of Indian Penal Code on the allegations of hurting the religious sentiments of a particular community. Mumbai police has announced that they were out to arrest him. It is apprehended that he can be arrested any moment.
The filing of FIRs by Mumbai police and threatening to arrest a well known rationalist who has been exposing miracles and superstitious beliefs for more than three decades is a serious attack on the freedom of expression. Clause (h) of Article 51-A of Constitution of India states that :
‘It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to develop the scientific temper, humanism and spirit of inquiry and reform.’
In exposing the said miracle, Sanal was performing his fundamental duty enshrined in our constitution.
It is distressing that the Mumbai police has chosen to harass and victimize him for doing his fundamental duty.
‘Sanal Edamaruku Defence Committee’ appeals to all progressive individuals and organizations to protest and oppose the reprehensible steps of the Maharashtra police in filing FIRs against Sanal and stand behind him in solidarity for the cause of scientific thinking and freedom of expression.
11 April, 2012 Convenor,
Sanal Edamaruku Defence Committee
PS. Please have a look at ‘www.rationalistinternational.net’.
This is appalling, needless to say, and unfathomable to me. Can you imagine Peter Popoff being able to file charges against James Randi for offending his religious sensibilities by exposing him as a fraud? This is the problem with all laws against “defamation of religion” or “offending” anyone’s religion.