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May 16 2013

Bishop: No Freedom to ‘Dismiss or Disrespect’ Religious Beliefs

There’s a bit of a controversy going on at Carnegie Mellon University, where two art students are being charged with misdemeanors for indecent exposure for going to an on-campus parade partly naked. Here’s how the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette describes the incident:

The parade, a College of Fine Arts tradition known as the “Annual Anti-Gravity Downhill Derby,” took place April 18 on the area of CMU’s campus known as the “cut” as part of the university’s spring carnival. That afternoon, campus police were notified that a naked woman was on campus, according to the criminal complaint.

The woman, later identified as Ms. O’Connor, was wearing a pope costume, but had no clothing below her waist, and on her pubic area was the shape of a cross.

Mr. Godshaw’s outfit, or lack thereof, had not received much public notice prior to Friday’s announcement of the charges. On Mr. Godshaw’s Facebook page, he is tagged in a photo taken at the parade that depicts a man wearing only socks and shoes. The criminal complaint says Mr. Godshaw had been walking on a giant wheel textured like the moon and had been dressed in an astronaut’s costume before he disrobed.

The school has decided not to punish the students beyond what the police are charging them with, which isn’t that big of a deal. But Dr. X forwarded the article to me because of this passage:

The nudity incidents, noted by campus police on the day of the event, became more high profile after Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik expressed concern about Ms. O’Connor’s display, saying it was offensive. CMU officials investigated following Bishop Zubik’s complaint, and on May 1, Mr. Cohon wrote a letter to the community apologizing to those who were offended.

The decision today, to file charges, was greeted positively by Catholic officials.

Bishop Zubik, in a statement Friday, acknowledged that CMU “has taken the time to treat this unfortunate incident in a serious manner.

“Once again, and as I have said over these last few weeks, this is an opportunity for all of us to be reminded that freedom of speech and freedom of expression do not constitute a freedom to dismiss or disrespect the beauty of anyone’s race, the sacredness of anyone’s religious belief or the uniqueness of anyone’s nationality.”

Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Yes we can dismiss and/or disrespect the “beauty” of your religious beliefs, no matter how sacred you think it is. You don’t get to decide what we can and can’t say about your religion. I know this may come as a shock to a Catholic given that church’s long history of torturing and killing those who criticize or disagree with them, but this is not Spain in the 1500s. This is America and it’s 2013. Get used to it. Or don’t, I really don’t care.

42 comments

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  1. 1
    Kevin

    I dismiss and disrespect his opinion.

    What’s he going to do about it? So sorry, Bishop, you’re not allowed to burn me at the stake.

  2. 2
    RickR

    Bishop: No Freedom to ‘Dismiss or Disrespect’ Religious Beliefs

    Keep wishing, Bishop.

  3. 3
    IslandBrewer

    Gah!!!!!!! Please tell me someone like the ACLU is going to back her up? She’s being selectively prosecuted because of the anti-Catholic message, while all the other naked CMU students (and trust me, there was likely a lot of nudity at this event.) get off because they failed to piss off a bishop.

    FUCK! (Sorry for the all caps.)

  4. 4
    Larry

    If I understand it, they are charged with indecent exposure, not crimes against the church. At best, its going to result in a fine, not a public burning at the stake. And it still won’t stop people from expressing their disgust and disrespect for the bishop’s beliefs and church.

  5. 5
    eric

    I’m not sure who Mr. Cohon is, but if he’s a Uni official, he should not be apologizing for his students’ legal free speech expression, he should be supporting it.

    Now, if the student did something illegal, an apology is in order. But it sends a really crappy message for an Institute of higher learning to apologize because one of their students expressed their opinion.

  6. 6
    badgersdaughter

    Oh, we should start a campaign stating baldly that we do in fact dismiss and have no respect for his religious beliefs. :)

    I suppose I do have a sliver of respect for the extent to which his beliefs are a product of his rational and proper interaction with reality.

    Yeah, OK, square circles, sorry.

  7. 7
    Raging Bee

    “…freedom of speech and freedom of expression do not constitute a freedom to dismiss or disrespect the beauty of anyone’s race, the sacredness of anyone’s religious belief or the uniqueness of anyone’s nationality.”

    I believe this word-salad falls into the “not even wrong” category.

    This bishop is taking a misdemeanor indecent-exposure charge and using it as an opportunity to bluster and threaten people of differing views. If he can attach his bluster to a criminal charge, it could have more resonance in people’s memories. Just more sleazy manipulation from abusive religious authoritarians.

  8. 8
    marcus

    Obviously as the purpose of this behavior is artistic and political expression, they should not be charged with anything at all. Generally speaking unless the statedetermines ‘prurient intent’ (lewdness or lustfulness; lustful behavior) it does not rise to the level of ‘indecency’ and should be regarded as constitutionally protected speech. (IMNOHFO)

  9. 9
    Pierce R. Butler

    … a naked woman was on campus…

    Clearly our nation is doomed!

    Why wasn’t the whole university put on lockdown, with SWAT teams, helicopters, hazmat squads, and trauma counselors scrambled to contain the disaster?

    We still bear the scars of that half-second of bare nipple exposed during the hellacious 2004 Super Bowl – and now this?

    The air-raid-siren wailing of Baby Jesus summons us to action!

  10. 10
    Doug Little

    Oh, we should start a campaign stating baldly that we do in fact dismiss and have no respect for his religious beliefs

    I’m in. I unequivocally have no respect for and dismiss his religious beliefs with a passion.

  11. 11
    Synfandel

    Eric @5: Jared L. Cohon is the president of the university.

    From the article:
    “While I recognize that many found the students’ activities deeply offensive, the university upholds their right to create works of art and express their ideas,” he said. “But, public nudity is a violation of the law and subject to appropriate action.”

    Under the circumstances, I think Mr. Cohon’s response was appropriate and measured. He made a point about the right to express ideas, but he had no choice but to condemn a violation of the law.

  12. 12
    TGAP Dad

    Time to desecrate another cracker!

  13. 13
    scienceavenger

    The good Bishop’s comment is not a word salad. It is perfectly, intelligibly, ignorantly wrong.

    I spit on your religious beliefs Bishop. What are you going to do about it?

  14. 14
    Synfandel

    …do not constitute a freedom to dismiss or disrespect the beauty of anyone’s race, the sacredness of anyone’s religious belief or the uniqueness of anyone’s nationality.

    How did this incident have anything whatsoever to do with race or nationality?

  15. 15
    Gregory in Seattle

    It would seem the bishop is envious of what they can do in Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Indonesia and other such countries.

  16. 16
    Modusoperandi

    Synfandel “How did this incident have anything whatsoever to do with race or nationality?”
    Mr. Godshaw was racing on a giant wheel, textured like the moon [nationality].

  17. 17
    jenny6833a

    @ Synfandel, #11

    It’s far from clear that there was, in fact, a violation of law.

    “Pennsylvania Statutes, Chapter 31, § 3127. Indecent exposure.

    “(a) Offense defined.–A person commits indecent exposure if that person exposes his or her genitals in any public place or in any place where there are present other persons under circumstances in which he or she knows or should know that this conduct is likely to offend, affront or alarm.”

    Under the circumstances, it’s unlikely that the state can prove the students who were arrested knew or should known that their conduct was likely to offend, affront or alarm.

    And, of course, only people present have the right to claim offense, etc. Was this nutcase bishop present?

    I suspect this is another case where the so-called authorities made an harassment arrest with full knowledge that the charge will be dropped if the “perp” has the guts to fight it.

    The effort and cost of contesting the charge, or the conviction if the students don’t contest, is the way the fuzz punish people they don’t like who have committed no crime.

    I see a lot of such bogus arrests.

  18. 18
    Draken

    Zubik is wilfully conflating race and nationality with religious belief. That way he makes it seem that criticising his ‘sacred’ beliefs is racism. Nice try.

  19. 19
    Modusoperandi

    jenny6833a, when you’re talking about naked people, using terms like “fuzz” gets confusing. And amusing. But more that other one.

  20. 20
    Nepenthe

    A student, naked, on campus!? Shock horror. From what I remember of college, nudity was part of pretty much all of our traditions.

  21. 21
    busterggi

    Of course being naked in front of god is a sin, that’s why babies are born fully clothed.

    In fact its against one of the Ten Commandos.

  22. 22
    dnorrism

    PA is a great state, but I’m glad to be out of it after an ardurous multistate drive yesterday evening. Now I’m back to Ohio, where people are at least allowed to go topless. RE: CMU, they weren’t so prudish when I was there. In my other adopted University (Ohio State) students would slather their bodies with acrylic paint and roll around on big sheets of newsprint to create Art of a sort. Attractive, IMHO.

  23. 23
    poxyhowzes

    @ #17, Jenny 6833a
    IANAL but the quoted section is almost certainly unconstitutional, perhaps even facially so, under both the PA and the federal constitution.

    Imagine a law that read: “A person commits a crime if that person covers his or her genitals in any public place or in any place where there are present other persons under circumstances in which he or she knows or should know that those other persons desire to be aware of the gender of the person they are dealing with.

    That law will fail because it postulates YOUR rights upon someone ELSE’s sensibilities (someone not an agent of the government), because it is unconstitutionally vague, because it advances no rational interest of the State, and perhaps for other reasons.

    It is extremely difficult to construct constitutional laws against public nudity, despite the ubiquitous occurrence of (unconstitutional) such laws on the books of many jurisdictions.

  24. 24
    Karen Locke

    We should find out the Bishop’s email address and all send him links to Tim Minchin’s “Pope Song”.

  25. 25
    poxyhowzes

    Were I In the area, I’d love to participate in a “nude-in” at Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik’s church some coming Sunday. In its simplest form, that “nude-in” might consist of a number of people showing up in robes or capes from which they disemburden themselves as soon as they sit in the pews, leaving their nude bodies in all their “God-given,” birthday-suit glory.

    In a more elaborate version, perhaps the nudies would find zip-front, caftan or muumuu or choir-robe garments they could “discreetly” peel fully open as they knelt at the communion rail while Bishop Zubik offered each one of them the “body and blood of Christ.”

    I suspect that the latter scenario, “exposing” oneself only to the officiant, could result in a legitimate claim amounting to “PUBLIC nudity?” what PUBLIC nudity.?”

  26. 26
    slc1

    Recall one Andrew Martinez who used to attend class at, where else, U. C. Berkeley in the buff.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Martinez

  27. 27
    Moggie

    freedom of speech and freedom of expression do not constitute a freedom to dismiss or disrespect the beauty of anyone’s race, the sacredness of anyone’s religious belief or the uniqueness of anyone’s nationality.

    Notice how he doesn’t include gender or sexual orientation in that list.

  28. 28
    whheydt

    Strikes me that the “nudity” in question isn’t, given where the young lady was wearing the cross. Perhaps the Bishop would rather that she hadn’t worn said cross to go with the rest of her outfit?

    Now what used to happen at Berkeley, *years* before Andrew Martinez was on the scene, was to dress for Halloween in dinner jacket, white tie, and the sklmpiest available swim suit.

    Then there is the story that Randall Garrett used to tell about an Episcopal Church near Times Square involving an off-shift topless dancer that had the punch line, “And you have a perfect left, but you have to wear a hat!”

  29. 29
    jenny6833a

    @poxyhowzes, who wrote “It is extremely difficult to construct constitutional laws against public nudity, despite the ubiquitous occurrence of (unconstitutional) such laws on the books of many jurisdictions.”

    I agree with your post, but the courts aren’t ready for that topic and, IMO, won’t be for a long time. It’s much the same as the gay sex and now the gay marriage situation. It would take many years of very strong, public activism to force the public and the courts to examine the topic rationally. The difference is, the gays got pissed off and did it. Nudists haven’t, and probably never will.

    The predominant reaction from nudists and non-nudists aike is, “Yes, your arguments are powerful. I find no fault with them. But it’s just not important to me, so I won’t get involved.”

    Oregon law is the only one in the country that makes sense, but even there arrests and convictions are common in spite of what the statute says. It takes several years of appeals and big bucks to overturn them.

    Nudity is the Great American Taboo. It’s terrible, awful, and OBVIOUSLY illegal. Note how the CMU president just knee-jerk assumed it was.

  30. 30
    Ichthyic

    Perhaps the Bishop would rather that she hadn’t worn said cross to go with the rest of her outfit?

    just to be clear, I think the implication was that she had shaved her pubic mound into the shape of a cross?

    pretty cool idea I thought, at least as a protest.

  31. 31
    jenny6833a

    “Recall one Andrew Martinez who used to attend class at, where else, U. C. Berkeley in the buff.”

    Andrew got no support whatever from the organized nudist/naturist community. He needed advice from those who had BTDT before. He didn’t get it. Instead, he got concerted opposition. He was making waves, and waves create backlashes, and risks aren’t worth taking, and hiding is safer, and so on ad infinitum.

    The surest way to get shunned by nudists is to vigorously seek to advance nudism.

  32. 32
    Ichthyic

    The surest way to get shunned by nudists is to vigorously seek to advance nudism.

    MLK used to say that the biggest problem facing civil rights in the US wasn’t actually the bigots. It was the moderates.

  33. 33
    bad Jim

    whheydt @28, the version I heard was

    “You can’t come in here like that.”

    “I have a divine right!”

    “You have a divine left, too, but you aren’t wearing a hat.”

    (Yes, I am very old. Do people still wear hats to church?)

  34. 34
    dan4

    @32: You’re seriously equating walking around nude in public with civil rights? You’re fucking nuts.

  35. 35
    DaveL

    freedom of speech and freedom of expression do not constitute a freedom to dismiss or disrespect…the sacredness of anyone’s religious belief

    After centuries of oppression and bloodshed, secular society has at long last succeeded in depriving religion of its fangs. Does he really imagine that, if he bares his gums at us, we will give them back?

  36. 36
    democommie

    “And it still won’t stop people from expressing their disgust and disrespect for the bishop’s beliefs and church.”

    I think it will prolly have pretty the opposite result.

    Dear Bishop Zuprick:

    Did you know that every time a priest fucks an altar boy up the ass, the Vatican gets to make a new saint?

  37. 37
    kermit.

    dan4: @32: You’re seriously equating walking around nude in public with civil rights? You’re fucking nuts.

    No, he didn’t say that. He implicitly acknowledged that they are both movements of sorts to change society’s mind on an issue, and was pointing out that some (respectable) people would say that the movement will not succeed if it depends on moderates.

    Whether he would equate nudity with civil rights (for races) I don’t know. I would say myself that gay rights are equivalent to racial equal rights, but nudity is more like freedom of speech. We should have the right to speak our mind, and maybe walk around naked (it doesn’t bother me, anyway). But we can’t help being gay or black or short or whatever.

  38. 38
    jenny6833a

    I’m not interested in debating what variety of right would apply to public nudity. That’s silliness.

    I think we all have the right to be or do anything that doesn’t TANGIBLY harm others, where “tangible” harm excludes irrational emotional reactions whether such reactions are sincere or faked.

    I can’t imagine how anyone could be tangibly harmed by the sight of mere, simple nudity. Therefore, I think there should be no laws prohibiting mere, simple nudity.

    I note that people yak about walking around “naked” without bothering to tell us what they think the word means. Exactly what body parts must be covered? And exactly where must they be covered? The definition in Saudi Arabia is rather different than in most of Europe and both are different from, say, the state of Oregon. In fact, the definitions vary widely throughout the United States — by state and even by various political subdivisions within states.

    Oregon seems to be getting along just fine with what I consider to be a model statute.

    “Oregon Revised Statutes 163.465 Public indecency.
    “(1) A person commits the crime of public indecency if while in, or in view of, a public place the person performs:

    (a) An act of sexual intercourse; or

    (b) An act of deviate sexual intercourse; or

    (c) An act of exposing the genitals of the person with the intent of arousing the sexual desire of the person or another person.

    “(2) (a) Public indecency is a Class A misdemeanor.”

    If Dan4 or anyone else finds such a law unpalatable, I think he/they are obligated to explain why.

  39. 39
    Ichthyic

    @32: You’re seriously equating walking around nude in public with civil rights? You’re fucking nuts.

    you seriously think that’s what I was doing?

    you’re a fucking idiot.

  40. 40
    Ichthyic

    I would say myself that gay rights are equivalent to racial equal rights, but nudity is more like freedom of speech.

    ayup. you nailed it.

  41. 41
    dan4

    @39: “you seriously think that’s what I was doing?”

    Yes, because that’s what you were doing; otherwise, your comment about MLK and civil rights is just a non sequitur, and not a reply at all to the quote from jenny6833a above it.

  42. 42
    Dan J

    dan4 @41

    Yes, because that’s what you were doing;

    That’s certainly not the way I understood it.

    Ichthyic @32

    The surest way to get shunned by nudists is to vigorously seek to advance nudism.

    MLK used to say that the biggest problem facing civil rights in the US wasn’t actually the bigots. It was the moderates.

    This clearly illustrates to me that in order to change public opinion about a divisive issue, one must bring on board those who “don’t want to rock the boat.” Preserving the status quo is what bigots and prudes want. The easiest way for that to happen is for others to never challenge them, whether it be for human rights or freedom of expression.

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