Priest lodges blasphemy complaint against C4

By Simon Collins

Auckland's last remaining priest who celebrates the Mass solely in Latin, Dr Denzil Mueli, is asking police to prosecute C4 for blasphemy over its decision to screen last week's episode of South Park.

Dr Mueli, who tried to prosecute Te Papa over the Virgin in a Condom exhibit in 1998, said South Park's depiction of a bleeding statue of the Virgin Mary met the dictionary definition of blasphemy as "profane or sacrilegious talk about God or sacred things".

Blasphemous libel is punishable under the Crimes Act by up to a year in jail. However, prosecutions under this clause require leave of the Attorney-General, and no prosecution has been allowed in New Zealand since 1922.

A spokeswoman for the Crown Law Office, Jan Fulstow, said Solicitor-General Terence Arnold was already investigating another complaint against South Park for blasphemy lodged by Catholic Action last week. By convention, the Attorney-General normally delegates such issues to the Solicitor-General.

Responding to Dr Mueli's complaint against Te Papa, the Solicitor-General at that time, John McGrath, declined to allow a prosecution for blasphemy. "The main factor against allowing prosecutions to proceed is the recognition New Zealand law now gives to freedom of expression," he said.

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