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05/22/2007

Donohue tries to mar Maher

by Jeremy Hooper

As you've probably already heard or seen, Bill Maher said this on Friday night's edition of "Real Time"

Well, in reaction to that piece, Catholic League president Bill Donohue has issued the following statement:

"We are writing to the 14 members who sit on the board of directors of Time Warner (the parent company of HBO) asking each of them whether Maher's gratuitous and highly offensive attack on Jesus Christ merits the same punishment afforded Imus for his racist remark. Maher is a serial anti-Catholic bigot who mocked the Eucharist as recently as April 16.

"Time Warner's Standards of Business Conduct--revised last month by the board of directors—includes the following principle: 'While our content may sometimes engender controversy, we want no one to question our character.' We know Maher lacks character. What the public needs to know is whether Time Warner's board has any."

Uhm, this was an "offensive attack on Jesus Christ", Mr. Donohue?! Did he call the son of God "a nappy headed ho" and we somehow missed it? Because call us short-sighted if you wish, but what we heard was him making a humor-laden statement about the state of organized religion and the religious right, not an offensive attack on Jesus, Catholicism, or Christianity themselves. In fact, he doesn't even say the word "Jesus" in the over four minutes that the piece spans! Bill is doing what he does, which is speak on the matters of the day in a satirical, irreverent tone. Falwell was in the news; Bill said his piece.

The thing is, we can actually understand how and why one might be offended by the first part of Maher's rant, especially if you have a person connection with the late Reverend. However, that's not even the sticking point for Donohue! He's instead trying to make it look as if by mocking the way people have claimed to have had visions of the Virgin Mary and by presenting comedic alternatives to certain religious customs (mass, the nunnery, etc.), Maher is giving the finger to Catholicism and Jesus. But he is not doing that! He is mocking RELIGION and HYPOCRISY across the board! And it is especially annoying for Donohue to claim that Maher IS disparaging the characters or appearances of a group of people (like Imus did), considering the focus of the piece is on a man who attacked gay folks' characters loudly and frequently!

Look, religion is a universal concept to which nobody holds ownership. It is both a uniter and a divider. And just like anything so prevalent, influential, and complicated, it is going to be a subject for comedians and pundits. We all, including Bill Maher, have the right to question, scrutinize, and even parody the practices of ALL of the world's faiths. Mr. Donohue does not have to agree with or like what Maher said in this piece, or like some of the tenets of his faith being applied to gays. However, by suggesting that if Time Warner doesn't fire Maher for the opinion piece then the board of directors have no character, it would seem to us that this Catholic leader is himself launching an "offensive attack on the characters of those who understand the true meaning of religious freedom."

Time Warner Needs to Check Bill Maher [Christian News Wire]

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Your thoughts

Donohue is a loud-mouthed boor and I'm sure Time Warner has had to deal with the gas bag before. Maher is right in trying to disqualify religion's being a shield for prejudice and hatred and Donohue and Falwell and the rest of the thumpers should not be given a pass for their bigotry simply because they are churched.

Posted by: TomChicago | May 22, 2007 3:36:41 PM

Maher committed blasphemy but mocking a person's or a religion's ideas and mocking their person are two very distinct activities. Hence the facile Imus comparison from Donohue.

That is his schtick. Every religious joke is slap in the face of Jesus Christ himself.

Posted by: ellenbrenna | May 24, 2007 4:43:42 PM

Maher made satirical comments, as G-A-Y points out, about the foibles of the Christian religion and the hypocrisy he sees there. Interestingly, Donohue seems to have taken this personally. Could it be that Donohue is really irritated because he feels he's been attacked, himself? Maher isn't mocking God or god or Jesus or even Catholicism. He's making fun of people who think they have some corner on absolute righteousness, and who have nothing but irrationality to substantiate it ("The Bible says the Bible is absolutely true so it must be true.").

So if Donohue feels personally attacked -- well, maybe he should.

Posted by: Robin Reardon | May 25, 2007 2:25:52 AM

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