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Saturday 20 September 2014

Row as 'blasphemous' play cancelled

Published 24/01/2014 | 17:12

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The Reduced Shakespeare Company's production of a play about the Bible was originally cancelled in Newtownabbey amid a blasphemy row

Amnesty International has said the cancellation of a play in Northern Ireland after Christians claimed it was blasphemous interferes with freedom of speech.

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The Bible: The Complete Word Of God (Abridged) was due to be staged in the Theatre At The Mill in Newtownabbey on the northern outskirts of Belfast later this month.

The Democratic Unionist-led borough council decided to call it off amid strong opposition from religious conservatives.

Amnesty Northern Ireland director Patrick Corrigan said: "It is well-established in international human rights law that the right to freedom of expression, though not absolute, is a fundamental right which may only be restricted in certain limited circumstances to do with the advocacy of hatred.

"It is quite obvious that those circumstances are not met in the context of this work of comedy and, thus, that the cancelling of the play is utterly unjustified on human rights grounds.

"Such interference with freedom of speech and artistic expression should be of concern to freedom-lovers everywhere."

The Reduced Shakespeare Company's production asked "Did Adam and Eve have navels? Did Moses really look like Charlton Heston (the Hollywood actor)?"

In its promotion for the play, the company added: "Whether you are Catholic or Protestant, Muslim or Jew, atheist or Jedi, you will be tickled by the RSC's romp through old-time religion."

A total of 800 seats were available over two nights and 150 tickets were sold, a 19% take-up.

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