Archive for the ‘Blasphemy’ Category

Read more Latest UK Cuts at

See Detailed Cuts: Blasphemy at the BBFC

Visions of Ecstasy DVDThankfully religion doesn’t feature very often in British film censorship decisions. However the few instances that have been spotted to date have been gathered together onto this page.

Cuts and bans for blasphemy have been recorded for the following films:

  • Belladonna: My Ass is Haunted. 2004 US adult video by Belladonna.
  • The Big Bang. 1987 France/Belgium animated comedy Sci-Fi by Picha
  • Catacombs. 1988 Italy/US horror by David Schmoeller.
  • The Devils. 1971 UK drama by Ken Russell
  • The Last Temptation of Christ. 1988 US/Canada drama by Martin Scorsese.
  • Multiple Maniacs. 1970 US comedy crime film by John Waters.
  • Visions of Ecstasy. 1989 UK erotic short by Nigel Wingrove.

See Detailed Cuts: Blasphemy at the BBFC

Read more Latest UK Cuts at

Thanks to Jon
See more at Melon Farmers cuts details: Visions of Ecstasy

Visions of Ecstasy DVDVisions of Ecstasy is a 1989 UK erotic short by Nigel Wingrove. With Louise Downie, Elisha Scott and Dan Fox. See IMDb

Passed 18 uncut for nudity and sex involving religious images for:

  • UK 2012 4Digital/Redemption R2 DVD at UK Amazon for release 26th March 2012

Previously Banned

Previously banned by the BBFC for:

  • UK 1989 Axel VHS

The BBFC decision was subsequently appealed to the Video Appeals Committee who upheld the ban.

DVD Features

Included with this historic film is a 40 page, booklet written by the films director, Nigel Wingrove, in which he explains how the film came to be made, the effect its banning had on his life and future work, and how his continuing battles against film censorship led eventually to the resignation of the BBFC’s then director, JamesFerman, the legalisation of pornography and a general relaxations of film classification overall.

Also included on this DVD are the director s first erotic short film, Axel (1986) and his nunsploitation feature, Sacred Flesh (2000), in which a Mother Superior struggles with her sexual desires in a series of imagined dialogues with Mary Magdalene will her mind torments her with images of sexual perversion, lesbianism and sadomasochism. Sacred Flesh was cut by 25s by the BBFC when it was submitted in 2000.

Additional extras include extensive stills, press gallery and interviews.

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radio times logoFollowing Salo, Ai No Corrida and Cannibal Holocaust, the BBFC has recently granted another notorious banned film, Visions of Ecstasy, an 18 certificate.

The film was outlawed for 23 years in this country for fear of its release breaking UK blasphemy laws, but following the repeal of those laws and the film’s subsequent resubmission to the Board, it will finally be issued legally and fully uncut in the UK later this year.

One of the most puzzling things about censorship from the public’s point of view is the apparently arbitrary way in which films are cut, banned and un-banned in Britain. For instance, the video nasties of the early 1980s were once the subject of media hysteria and bans, but today almost all of them can be bought entirely legally in your local DVD emporium. What’s changed? Why are they no longer a threat to society?

[…er because 25 years is an awfully long time…]

…Read the full article

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visions of ecstasyVisions of Ecstasy is a 1989 UK erotic short by Nigel Wingrove. With Louise Downie, Elisha Scott and Dan Fox. See IMDb

It was originally banned by the BBFC for a 1989 Axel VHS. It was the only film banned in the UK solely on grounds of blasphemy.

The BBFC decision was subsequently appealed to the Video Appeals Committee, who upheld the ban. Then director Nigel Wingrove then took his case to the European Court of Human Rights, but again lost his case.

In 2008, section 79 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act abolished the common law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel. And now the film has been passed 18 uncut for a 2012 4Digital home video release.

But don’t expect too much. Director Nigel Wingrove was a bit defensive when talking to the BBFC:

If I made the film now I would make it very differently, I was exploring areas of dark eroticism, but I had worked chiefly in prints, not films.

People say I should put it out, but on a personal level I have reservations. If I did release it, I would need to put it into context and perhaps release a documentary to accompany it.

The BBFC have explained their decision to unban the film in a press release:

Visions of Ecstasy is a 19 minute short film, featuring a sequence in which a figure representing St Teresa of Avila interacts sexually with a figure representing the crucified Christ. When the film was originally submitted to the BBFC in 1989, for video classification only, the Board refused to issue a classification certificate. This decision was taken on the grounds that the publication of the film, which the issue of a BBFC certificate would permit, might constitute an offence under the common law test of blasphemous libel.

The Board is required, as part of the terms of its designation under the Video Recordings Act 1984, to seek to avoid classifying any work that might infringe the criminal law. Therefore, the Board had no alternative at the time but to refuse a classification. The Board’s decision to refuse a classification to the film was subsequently upheld by the independent Video Appeals Committee.

In 2008, section 79 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act abolished the common law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel. This means that the BBFC is no longer entitled to consider whether the publication of the film might comprise a blasphemous libel.

The BBFC has carefully considered Visions of Ecstasy in terms of its current classification Guidelines. These reflect both the requirements of UK law and the wishes of the UK public, as expressed through regular large scale consultation exercises. With the abolition of the offence of blasphemy, the Board does not consider that the film is in breach of any other UK law that is currently in force. Nor does the Board regard the film as likely to cause harm to viewers in the terms envisioned by the Video Recordings Act.

The Board recognises that the content of the film may be deeply offensive to some viewers. However, the Board’s Guidelines reflect the clear view of the public that adults should have the right to choose their own viewing, provided that the material in question is neither illegal nor harmful. In the absence of any breach of UK law and the lack of any credible risk of harm, as opposed to mere offensiveness, the Board has no sustainable grounds on which to refuse a classification to Visions of Ecstasy in 2012. Therefore the film has been classified for video release at 18 without cuts.

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Satanica BehemothA judge in Poland has ruled a death metal singer who tore up a Bible during a show was entitled to do so as an artist acting in a way consistent with the genre. Adam Darski, who goes by the stage name Nergal and is the frontman for the death metal band Behemoth, was charged with offending religion after he ripped up the Bible during a 2007 concert in the Polish town of Gdynia.

He was found innocent by a court last year but prosecutors appealed, and again the court cleared him.

Concert video footage shows Darski throwing the torn pages to the audience and asking fans to burn them. According to Polish news agency PAP, he also called the Bible a deceitful book and the church a criminal sect.

In his ruling Judge Krzysztof Wieckowski said he considered Darski’s actions a form of art consistent with the style of his band. He added that the court had no intention of limiting freedom of expression or the right to criticise religion.

The musician said on his band’s website: I’m so glad to see that intelligence won over religious fanatics in my home country.

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antonio federici advertA magazine ad for Antonio Federici ice cream showed a heavily pregnant woman dressed as a nun standing in a church holding a tub of ice cream in one hand and a spoon in the other. Text stated Immaculately Conceived … ICE CREAM IS OUR RELIGION.

Ten readers challenged whether the ad was offensive to Christians, particularly to those who practised Catholicism.

Antonio Federici said the idea of conception represented the development of their ice cream. They said their decision to use religious imagery stemmed from their strong feelings towards their product (they cited the text ICE CREAM IS OUR RELIGION) and also from their wish to comment on and question, using satire and gentle humour, the relevance and hypocrisy of religion and the attitudes of the church to social issues. They believed the small number of complaints the ASA had received represented a very small proportion of the readership of the publications. They did not believe offence had been so deeply felt as to affect their right, as marketers, to free expression and that offence caused to a small minority should not affect the ability of the wider public to see their ad. They believed that, as a form of art and self-expression, advertising should be challenging and often iconoclastic.

The publishers of The Lady magazine had received eight complaints made direct to them. They said that, in hindsight, it had been a misjudgement on their part to publish the ad. They regretted the offence that had been caused to their readers and said they would not publish the ad or anything similar to it in future.

Grazia said they considered the statement ICE CREAM IS OUR RELIGION suggested that the ad was intended to be lighthearted and not mocking of any religious groups. They said the editorial content of Grazia encouraged debate and questioning. As such, they believed the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence to their readers.

ASA Assessment: Upheld

The ASA noted that the CAP Code stated that ads should contain nothing that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Particular care should be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or disability. Compliance with the Code will be judged on the context, medium, audience, product and prevailing standards of decency. We considered the use of a nun pregnant through immaculate conception was likely to be seen as a distortion and mockery of the beliefs of Roman Catholics. We concluded that to use such an image in a light hearted way to advertise ice cream was likely to cause serious offence to readers, particularly those who practised the Roman Catholic faith.

We noted that the number of complaints was relatively small but that the ad had been placed in a small number of publications only.

The ad breached CAP Code clause 5.1 (Decency).

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New Inquisition Jon Gower DaviesHate legislation removes an increasing quantity of matters traditionally dealt with in civil society to the domain of the state and the courts. In a new report from the independent think tank Civitas, A New Inquisition: religious persecution in Britain today, Jon Gower Davies, formerly the Head of Religious Studies at Newcastle University, reveals the bizarre and oppressive nature of judicial attempts to prosecute individuals for religious hatred – this new legal concept has resulted in some singularly worrying court cases.

Blasphemy Law by the Backdoor

The Blasphemy Law was abolished in 2008, but has re-emerged in a new and radically augmented guise. Today, individuals are not charged with blasphemy, but with causing religiously aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress under the Public Order Act. Jon Davies argues that the growth in accusations of hate crime threatens freedom of speech because they destroy the possibility and practice of open, sociable and critical discussion of religion.

Hatred in the legal sphere

Whilst the total number of racial and religious hate crimes fell from 13,201 in 2006-7 to 11,845 in 2008-9, the volume of hate legislation has rapidly expanded. Yet legal definitions of hatred are elusive. A government action plan states: A (religious) hate crime is a criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice based on a persons religion or perceived religion.

In addition, hatred is not only presented as an offence on its own account, but can also be seen as something which aggravates ordinary public order offences. When an ordinary offence is aggravated by hatred based on race, religion, gender, or age, then the sentence too is aggravated (i.e. increased).

Judges become theologians!

Jon Davies argues that these definitions are without substance, and inevitably result in confusion and silliness in their application. The attempt to define a hate Incident in terms of hostility results in perilous imprecision: it is not possible to know when individuals have been hated – or, indeed, when they have themselves been hating! – and for how long and to what depth and to what effect. The essence of the criminal justice system should be justice and impartiality, but turning religious hatred into a criminal offence turns police, the Crown Prosecution Service and judges into surrogate theologians – a kind of theocracy (an uncomfortable theocracy at that) by the backdoor.

Are judges, even judges giving the “right” verdict, so qualified in theology that they feel able to offer doctrinal guidance? Is the Crown Prosecution Service so prudent in its understanding of “religious hatred” that it should be free, with no penalty for error, to mobilise the power and resources of the state against ordinary citizens who make comments about religion?

A danger to freedom of speech

One of the great triumphs of liberalism has been to separate the discovery of factual truth from the assertion of religious doctrine. And yet, when Judge Richard Clancy dismissed the case against the hoteliers, Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang, in December 2009, he commented that it might be best for individuals not to engage in discussions about religion! As a result: It becomes “wise” to “be careful”, to restrict the compass of what we say about what we believe, or do not believe, or about what others believe or do not or should not believe, and to turn what were once vigorous public conversations into a frightened, if safe, if amiable and fundamentally humourless chat about small and dwindling things. (p.49)

Because freedom of speech is the prevailing view in Britain, we are not as alert to the risk of its overthrow as we should be. The freedom to speak our minds without fear or favour is worth fighting for. In A New Inquisition, Jon Davies shows why the liberal majority needs to reassert the convention that the law should be used not as a weapon to suppress unpopular opinions, but rather as the protector of free speech.