A photographer in Italy has been found guilty of blasphemy after he compared the Catholic Church to a “masochist club” during a radio interview.
During the 2014 interview, Oliviero Toscani said of the Catholic Church, “Imagine to be an alien who has just landed in Italy. You enter in a beautiful Catholic church, without knowing anything about religion. You enter and you see a bloodied man hanged and nailed to a cross, an altar with naked babies flying. … I believe that a masochist club wouldn’t be such at the upfront.”
Toscani also criticized the church for being dominated by men and said that as a child, he was molested by a priest.
Toscani was charged with blasphemy, which remains a criminal offense in Italy. In October, he was fined 4,000 euros (about $4,444).
The judge who heard the case, Ambrogio Moccia, ruled that Toscani had insulted the Catholic faith.
“Defining Christ on the cross as ‘someone hanged’ is a manifestation of the profound disrespect for the values of Christianity, disrespect comparable only to the worst propagandist language of a Muslim fundamentalist preacher,” Moccia said. He added that by mocking the crucifix, Toscani had run afoul of the law with “overflowing and striking surplus.”
The Italian Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics issued a statement condemning Toscani’s conviction.
“Beyond what one can think of Toscani’s point of view, it’s disconcerting that we still see this kind of punishment for blasphemy in our country,” read the organization’s statement. “It is also emblematic [of] the fact that the language used in the sentence is so peremptory and religious.”
Toscani has said he plans to appeal to the Constitutional Court of Italy, the highest court in the country, on constitutional grounds.
The eighth annual “Freedom of Thought Report,” which was published by Humanists International last month, found that eight countries have abolished anti-blasphemy laws in the past five years. But the report also noted that 69 countries still retain such laws, and that prosecutions have increased in some nations.
“Blasphemy and apostasy laws are an injustice in themselves, but they also lend a false legitimacy to those who commit acts of murder and terrorism in their name,” asserted Andrew Copson, president of Humanists International.