Free Speech: Bath Student Union and chaplains banned this Mohammed and Jesus joke
You won’t see Bath University’s Comedy Writing, Improvisation and Performance Society’s sketch Cooking With Christ. It’s been censored by the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, known locally as the Student Union.
This Morality Council was supported by university chaplains in ordering a line featuring Mohammed cut from the show. The censors said the joke caused “great offence”.
Bath Impact reports:
The Bible According to CWIPS was the title of the performance that had the cramped, upstairs-corner of the Bath Brew House roaring with laughter. The show combined pop culture, Richard Dawkins, and the bestseller of all time – the Bible – to construct an amusingly witty performance. However, prior to the opening night, the society was met with some rather strong requests to edit the show.
The CWIPS then made a bad move: it asked the Student Union to decide if one sketch that mentioned Mohammed went too far?
Two SU officials concluded with the committee that the sketch crossed the fine line between humour and offensiveness, and the sketch was swiftly removed from the show.
Slap the word ‘CENSORED’ across the flyers and watch the punters flock in.
Sneak preview: The “Cooking with Christ” sketch portrayed the use of Jesus’ body as an ingredient and included a line which referred to the Prophet Mohammed as a potential alternative ingredient, along with John, Jehovah and The Lost Prophets. And, er, that’s it.
However, during the opening week one of the SU officials quietly attended one of the rehearsals. Just four hours prior to opening night the committee of CWIPS was told that a sketch involving the depiction of the Prophet Mohammed titled ‘Cooking with Christ’ should be cut. “The SU couldn’t give more of an explanation,” recalls one of the members of the committee regarding the lack of justification given for the changes being made the show, especially on such short notice.
Once you invite the censors in, the line has been crossed.
It became known that the Chaplaincy of the University had become involved in the decision making process of the SU. “We were told that the chaplaincy had read it and pronounced that sketch too graphic”, the committee member said, “we come under the authority of the SU, so whilst we don’t necessarily agree with what they asked us to cut we have to respect them as they are elected to their position, however the chaplaincy is not part of the SU.”
‘BANNED BY THE STUDENT UNION’ and ‘TOO GRAPHIC FOR GOD’ are teaers that should seduce any student worth their salt to rock up.
Nick West, Assistant Director for “The Bible According to CWIPS”, tells the National Secular Society:
“At a university with such diversity of religion among students it’s important to try to make sure no person feels alienated by the work we do. But the line needs to be drawn somewhere.”
In trying to please everyone, you end up with something limp and sanctioned by the very people you should be lampooning. The thick-headed get to speak and protect the thin-skinned.
The NSS report adds:
Despite advising that the line featuring Mohammed and the “Cooking With Christ” sketch be cut, the chaplaincy commented that “freedom of speech is important and should be respected”.
You can feel the huge BUT coming…
NSS president Terry Sanderson goes on the record:
“This is another example of blasphemy codes being normalised. It is extraordinary that the mere mention of Mohammed was considered unacceptable and that students were threatened with disciplinary action. The decision taken about the single line of dialogue mentioning Mohammed assumes that Muslim students would have been offended, and takes that as a sufficient reason to curtail these students’ artistic expression.
“It is also very troubling to see ‘inclusivity’ being used as a spurious reason to shut down parts of the performance. There is an atmosphere of hysteria around satirising or criticising Islam, particularly since the Charlie Hebdo attack. We must start reclaiming ground from those who would silence free expression and satire.
“It is sheer hypocrisy from the chaplaincy to say freedom of speech should be respected while seeking to censor material lampooning Christianity.”
Well, yes. We agree with all of that.
Maybe next time the Comedy Writing, Improvisation and Performance Society want to stage an edgy show, they should improvise it. It’s hard to censor your thoughts – although many are trying…