Newspaper Cartoons Lampooning Jesus Spark Outrage

July 7, 2008 - 8:22 PM

(CNSNews.com) - A pro-family organization is lashing out at a student-run newspaper at the University of Oregon for the publication of two cartoons, one showing Jesus in sexual arousal and the other showing him kissing another man.

It's "one of the strongest attacks on Christianity" that the American Family Association (AFA) claims it has ever seen. The AFA has launched a campaign to urge its members to speak out against the cartoons, which ran in The Student Insurgent newspaper.

Dan Goldman created the cover for the newspaper's March edition. "I did the one of Jesus with a boner," he said. Goldman told Cybercast News Service that Johnny Correa created the other "piece of art," the one portraying Jesus kissing another man. The two cartoons were among 12 overall that were published in the newspaper.

Randy Sharp, director of special projects for the AFA, said the group's members, especially those living in Oregon, are angry about the cartoons. "They want to do more than just send an email," Sharp said. "They want phone numbers so that they can make sure their voice is heard. The taxpayers of Oregon don't want their taxes being used this way."

According to Sharp, $191 of the mandatory semester student fees at the University of Oregon are set aside to fund the Associated Students of the University of Oregon (ASUO), which is the student body government for the university. ASUO then decides how much money is allocated to various events and publications at the school.

Sharp said ASUO directed that $18,349 go the student newspaper this year. This is money given "to a paper at a school that is on government property and is under the control of the state government," Sharp said.

An official grievance over the cartoons was filed by Students of Faith on April 21. But the University of Oregon ruled that, ?The Student Insurgent did not practice discrimination.? The university also declared that the newspaper, ?through its publication, continues to add to the cultural and physical development of The University Community.?

"There are no grounds for demanding an apology from The Student Insurgent," the university concluded.

The grievance quotes Insurgent editor Jessica Brown as allegedly saying that "it is really fun to offend people."

"It is fun to break the rules. If it pisses people off," Brown allegedly said, "good. That's the point!!!"

University President Dave Frohnmayer released a statement, indicating to Students of Faith that he shared their concern "about the offensive nature of the content contained within the publication."

"I understand why it may seem as if the University should have prevented publication or should take some action against those responsible for the publication. The Student Insurgent is not owned controlled or published by the University of Oregon and is funded with student fees. Therefore, the University cannot exercise editorial control over its content," Frohnmayer stated.

He also explained that the university, based on Supreme Court rulings, cannot "exercise control over content by using a threat of removal of fee support."

"Simply put, neither content nor viewpoint is a lawful basis for denying an allocation of incidental fees to a student group," Frohnmayer wrote.

Sharp agreed that Frohnmayer is unable to control the content of The Student Insurgent, but said the university president does have the authority "to make sure incidental fees are not used to spread hate-filled messages on his campus." If the Insurgent had run cartoons with messages disparaging other religions or homosexuals, Frohnmayer could have and would have done something in response, according to Sharp.

In an April 27 statement, Goldman and the other employees of the Insurgent claimed that the cartoons were a form of satire.

"Our March issue, 17.4, satirizes and critiques Christianity, which has proved to be controversial," Goldman stated. "You may be aware that a Danish newspaper published 12 cartoons last fall depicting Islam in a way intended to be humorous. Muslims around the world found the cartoons offensive and blasphemous, provoking angry protest in many countries. Western media picked up this story. The Insurgent decided to present its own perspective."

The statement added that Christianity needs to be "lampooned."

"People have asked why we chose to target Christians. As the dominant religion in the US, Chrisitianity (sic) forces its morals on us all. Christian ideas pervade every aspect of our lives and government. We decided such a force needed to be lampooned, so we published 12 satirical cartoons, an art piece centerfold and some opinion pieces," Goldman explained.

"This has created a gathering storm of outrage from Christian groups who are claiming to be victimized." However, Goldman wrote, "Christianity in this country is NOT marginalized in any way and using their power to claim victim status is ridiculous.

"Fortunately we have the right to speak against this. We are attacking ideas, not people, and in no way did we promote violence or hatred, yet we are accused of hate speech. We anticipated these criticisms and dealt with them in our March issue and the cartoons are clearly intended as humor," he stated.

The full March edition of the Insurgent, with all 12 cartoons, can be viewed here.

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