Friday, 12 September 2008

Pope gag could land Italian comedian in jail

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We used to have a blasphemy law, but it never stopped our comedians cracking Pope gags (even if they may have stopped NH contributor Christina Martin from getting on the telly). In Italy, however, they have articles 278 and 313 of the penal code, which have left comedian Sabina Guzzanti facing five years in jail for "offending the honour of the sacred and inviolable person". Perhaps unsurprisingly, this law comes from the 1929 Lateran Treaty, in which Mussolini agreed to allow the Vatican to exist as a state, and it gives the Pope "sacred and inviolable" status alongside, funnily enough, the Italian president (or PM as it would have been in Il Duce's day).

Speaking at a political rally in July in protest at the Vatican's interference in Italian politics, Guzzanti said that while in 20 years all teachers in Italy will be vetted by the Vatican, "In 20 years Ratzinger will be dead and will end up in hell, tormented by queer demons - not passive ones, but very active ones."

She didn't say whether he'd enjoy it, so you can have a think about that yourselves. But, more seriously, Guzzanti could end up with five years in jail, as Italian right-wingers look to make an example of her, in a climate where the government is becoming increasingly close to the Vatican.