Paging former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: Another “disgusting and reprehensible” image has been produced that requires your immediate condemnation. This time, the religion targeted is not Islam and the figure ridiculed is not the prophet Muhammad. Thus, there may not be the same urgency to dispatch federal agents to arrest the party responsible for the blasphemy.
The image that created the stir is a cartoon which appeared on the cover of the Santa Fe Reporter’s “Summer Guide 2013,” published on June 12. At the center of the picture is a likeness of the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe — a cherished and respected icon among Catholics — clad in a skimpy bikini, neon lipstick, and shades, sipping a margarita.
According to Santa Fe station WAVE, the paper has a weekly circulation of only about 20,000. The drawing nevertheless drew fire from locals, several of whose letters to the editor were reproduced in the June 26 edition. One, signed by the Very Rev. Adam Lee Ortega y Ortiz and three other clergymen, reads in part:
I would urge the Reporter not to take Our Lady, who we Catholics venerate and adore, and use her image to shock and mock the faithful and the Catholic faith. Many politicians and faith leaders condemned the efforts by certain faith-based groups as well as certain members of our armed forces to spite, demean and denigrate the religious beliefs of other religions when the burning of the Koran took place some time back. They did the right thing. We must respect the beliefs of others, even though the United States has been at war with those countries that believe fundamentally in those religious texts. They were joined in the condemnations of those who did not respect the religious beliefs of others by a multitude of national, international and other leaders throughout the world.
I wonder whether the Reporter would feel free to depict Mohammed as an alcohol-guzzling, womanizing hedonist? I certainly hope not, not because to do so might be seen as a comppr[om]ise of journalistic expression or free speech, but rather because it too has respect for our diverse cultures and religious beliefs and does not use its powers of the press to insult the faith beliefs of a large segment of its community.
Another, by a reader named Sammy Quintana, notes:
Northern New Mexico, and in particular Santa Fe, has a significant Catholic population. Many of our celebrations and feast days, dating back to the 1600s, are centered around the Catholic religion. I’m sure that all my fellow Catholics have found your cover to be in very bad taste and offensive to all. If it was an attempt at humor, you failed miserably. I can only assume that the person who made the decision to print the cover is an agnostic or atheist. If so, I respect his or her views. However, that does not give anyone the right to mock a very revered and sacred symbol of the Catholic religion, which happens to be the patroness of the Americas. Shame on you!
None of the letters printed carries a death threat against the publisher or editor, the latter of whom offered this response:
The intent of our Summer Guide cover design was not to insult or denigrate any religion or ethnicity, but rather to incorporate an important part of Santa Fe’s culture into an image that also unites other diverse cultures that flourish in our city. We do, however, appreciate our readers’ perspectives on the issue, as we hope they appreciate ours.
Whether readers appreciate the publication’s “perspectives on the issue” is quite beside the point, as any libertarian will tell you. The paper’s right to publish words or images that are offensive to members of a religious group is covered by the First Amendment. Now, if only liberals could get it through their thick skulls that this most fundamental of freedoms applies to all religions, we’d really be getting somewhere.
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