Herald readers are divided over C4's decision to screen a South Park episode which shows a statue of the Virgin Mary spurting blood. On Sunday C4's owner CanWest rejected a plea by Catholic bishops to drop the programme. Some readers say the cartoon is offensive, others defend the channel's right to screen it.

As an Agnostic and a huge fan of South Park I am very much looking forward to seeing the "Bloody Mary" episode. The creators of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, are renowned for poking fun at almost everything in the 9 years they been on the air. This is not the first time Catholics, the Pope and religion in general has taken a hit from them, with the film "Passion of the Christ" taking a big mocking. The boys are not out to offend. They are not taken in by the hypocrisy in the world today - in politics, society and religion, and nothing and no one is sacred. While Catholics are free to plead with the public to not watch the South Park episode, they are in no position to dictate what the general public should and shouldn't watch. This is no longer the Middle Ages and religion is no longer Big Brother. 40% of this country have no religion affiliation at all. CanWest will lose a lot of respect from their loyal viewers if they bow down.

- Lexy Rendell

I think that the portrayal of our Mother Mary by this program is humiliating, very sad and hurtful to us Christians. You have not only offended our Lady but you have also offended me as a woman by depicting grotesque references to females in general. Is it because we are such an easy target? No I don't think it is, I think it is a lack of morals and understanding on your part. I understand how the Muslim Community felt when their religion was being mocked. And then you wonder why this world is full of disasters, war, hatred and cruelty? You wonder why our children are starting to kill, you wonder why nation is starting to go against nation? I could not see me or any other Christians going into extreme terrorism but what we will do is pray for you and everyone involved in this disrespectful and tasteless show, pray that you will realise what you are doing. Our Mother Mary is a force to be reckoned with and if I were you I would tread carefully with your decisions in the future.


- T. Poe

As an atheist, I am offended by television broadcasts that implore me to find religion and, in doing so, give up my own beliefs and 10 per cent of my gross income. But I don't organise a boycott - I just change the channel. Religions like to preach messages of peace and tolerance. But the tolerance they preach is never practised when reacting to something that offends their particular beliefs. The Catholic Church has consistently shown throughout the ages that it is guilty of acts of gross hypocrisy. CanWest should be congratulated for sticking to its guns and showing the "offensive"

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Dan Halford.

It has become cool to display images of religious figures - Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary and Muhammad - that are intended to cause offence. There is a parallel with the naughty child throwing a tantrum in the supermarket. When Mum reacts it gets just the attention it wants. Although a small number of leaders are reacting, note how many others are treating the recent events with the contempt they deserve. They are showing the greatest wisdom of all, as the Apostle James taught, knowing when to keep their mouths shut.

Robert Densem.

I have been a viewer of C4 and TV3 since they began broadcasting. And I have enjoyed the edgier nature of C4, but there is a difference between edgy and a blatant disregard for people's beliefs. I am asking that


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"Bloody Mary" episode not be screened. Mary, mother of Jesus and, indeed, all women, should not be demeaned in any media in this fashion. As a Catholic woman I find the whole idea of this episode offensive and certainly will not be watching it.

Furthermore, the Catholic faith is our life and should not be regarded as a "pressure group".

Shannon Leahy.

Freedom of speech is not an absolute right and if abused it brings the whole concept into disrepute. Rights are balanced by obligations. A civilised society is not one where one part of society broadcasts denigration of the core beliefs of another simply because it can or "is funny". Reasoned argument and criticism are one thing, but gratuitous insults are another. This is not acceptable behaviour on a personal level. Why is it acceptable on a public level? CanWest's broadcasting of "Bloody Mary" is not so much an exercise in freedom of speech as arrogance.

D. Gibbs.

We are appalled that CanWest has declined the request by New Zealand church leaders to not screen the "Bloody Mary" episode. CanWest will deeply insult regular viewers of TV3 such as ourselves by the misuse of its channel to promote derision and intolerance based on religion. Not only is the "Bloody Mary" episode demeaning of Mary in particular, it is demeaning of women in general. We will be expressing our disgust to CanWest's major advertisers and will advise them that we will stop using their products/services until such time as the screening is cancelled. If CanWest screens the episode we will use its products/services only if they stop advertising on CanWest. And we will boycott TV3 news and programmes.

John and Kerry Williams.

The Catholic Church, the same church that took a few hundred years to admit that Galileo was right, the same church that enslaved, tortured and burnt to death hundreds of thousands of people, is not an institution to which I belong nor one for which I feel any great respect. But I don't mind them pursuing their beliefs.

That's their right, but it is a private right. I want to see this episode of

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that they find so upsetting, and I have the right to watch it. They have the right not to turn on their televisions at that time. They do not have the right to try to make the rest of society follow their medieval mindset. I respect the right of anyone to follow the religion of their choice, but they do not have the right to try to shape my life according to their religious beliefs. Their tactics are those of a bully.

Michael Stevens.

Let's be blunt. We cannot be tolerant of intolerance. All intolerant irreligious and political beliefs should be lampooned into oblivion. Their advocates should also be left in no doubt that any resort to force will be met with uncompromising and overwhelming counter-force. To do otherwise is to invite yet another round of religious and political oppression and suffering to add to the millions of deaths already caused by the many opponents of freedom. Bishops, imams and all control freak politicians and bureaucrats, please note.

Alan Wilkinson.

Despite TV3, the Herald and others pontificating about not publishing "those" cartoons for reasons of respect for Islam, there can be little doubt the real reason was fear - fear of a backlash from the Muslim community, fear of criticism from the Government and fear of an economic backlash. But, of course, blasphemy against Christians holds no risks. There are unlikely to be mobs on the streets, marches to TV3 headquarters, and certainly less likely to be petrol bombs and torching of buildings. And of course the Prime Minister is unlikely to criticise the media for blasphemy towards Christians as she did when it happened to the Muslims - after all, there are not likely to be any repercussions to embarrass the Government. It is because the Christian faith stands for love, peace and goodwill that TV3 knows it can be as offensive as it wishes. Why not the same for the Islam cartoons? Such hypocrisy is hard to swallow.

J. H. Coomer.

We have registered our disgust with TV3/Canwest about this proposed programme and will do our best to boycott all listening/watching stations that associate with this organisation. Women are being degraded by this type of garbage.

David Pond.

It is a sad and sorry thing to see clever, capable people sinking to gutter tactics in an attempt to attract customers to buy their wares. In this instance a TV corporation wants to increase its standing with the public so more advertisers will use it and bring in the revenue necessary to maintain and expand it. Under the guise of taking a stance in favour of freedom of the press, the chief operating officer of CanWest-owned TV Works is abdicating his responsibility towards upholding the finest traditions of the entertainment field. Satire is a legitimate, clever and, when used properly, acceptable form of ridiculing and exposing vice or folly. From publicity given to the Mary episode, it is obvious this is not true satire but a scurrilous attempt to lampoon a much loved and sacred icon and womanhood itself. If CanWest persists in showing the episode it will lose more than a great many viewers. It will lose the respect and support of companies with high standards of decency looking for quality ways to promote the sale of their products.

Judy Hocquard.

TV3 is a significant medium and has a responsibility to choose its moral and spiritual standards for whatever segment it targets. This broadcast is a considered statement by TV3 of the standards it chooses to advocate. It is disingenuous for TV3 to say it is resisting a "pressure group".

David Jorgensen.

Regarding the offensive depiction of Mother Mary, I would like to call on everyone who feels this to be an outrage to switch off their TV sets, or at least avoid TV3 for the entire day. If everyone does so, perhaps the advertisers will put pressure on Canwest to refrain from screening the cartoon. If not, maybe we should take a leaf out of the Muslims' book and march on TV3's studios. Freedom of speech is a duty and not a right. Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres and the Broadcasting Standards Authority should have the final say in this matter.

Nigel D'Souza.

It is not a very nice response from TV3 and C4 to tell people to turn off their TV sets when so many are protesting against the

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item. Why do programme- makers think they have to abuse their viewers just to be found "funny".

T. Rutten.

What this lamentable episode reveals is a gap in the rules of the Broadcasting Standards Authority. As its chief executive, Jane Wrightson, says in the


: "The BSA is not a censorship body, it's a post-facto organisation that every once in a while says 'whoops, there was a line, chaps, and you've just walked over it'."

For an organisation whose very first charge in respect of free-to-air broadcasting is "the observance of good taste and decency", there needs to be a change in its rules to give it power, on receipt of a complaint, to become an ante-facto organisation with authority to ensure that the line is not crossed in the first place. It's not a matter of censorship, but the observance of the good taste and decency that is the New Zealand, but apparently not the Canadian, way.

Terry Dunleavy.

As a Catholic I am appalled that Canwest chief executive Rick Friesen plans to run this

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episode which I understand portrays Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ, menstruating. Catholics and most other Christians believe Mary is the mother of Jesus and that Christ is the Son of God. Therefore an insult aimed at Mary is an insult aimed at God. Catholics believe we have two mothers - Mary as our spiritual mother and our own earthly mother. Therefore an insult against Mary deeply offends us. We know that God does not look kindly on mockery. His judgment and justice is applied to those who mock Him in this world and the next. The Herald reports that Friesen will not listen to the protests of Catholics and cancel this programme. How would Friesen like his own mother depicted menstruating on television?

Leon Schollum.

It is disappointing that TV3 appears to have one rule for Muslims and one for Christians. Its decision to allow obscenity and gross disrespect for Catholics by showing the South Park programme is hypocrisy. I am not a Catholic but TV3, like so many other media that backed away from any disrespect to Muslims over the Muhammad cartoons because they were afraid of being attacked, are so hypocritical. Do Catholics have to threaten to burn and kill anyone who shows disrespect to their faith in order to be treated fairly by organisations such as TV3? Perhaps it's time that Catholics and all people of Christian faith switched off TV3 and boycotted its advertisers.

W. Wilson.

Perhaps CanWest, coming from abroad, is unaware that throughout New Zealand and the Pacific Islands we have many long-standing, highly valued institutions of culture, education, health and sports, to say nothing of various denominational churches, all dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Spread throughout our corner of the world there are St Marys and Marist schools and colleges, St Marys Church communities, Mercy hospitals and Marist sporting clubs. Their basic history, inspiration and names all come from Mary as their patron and model. So to show of the episode of South Park which satirises such a revered icon as Mary in such a crude and degrading manner is not only insensitive in the extreme for so many ordinary folk of our country and Polynesia but also an act that contravenes sporting fair play and, I would have thought, smart commercial judgment for CanWest's investors and advertisers.

Richard Dunleavy.