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College cartoon insinuating Jesus’ mother had an STD creating controversy

Over at the University of Virginia, there is a religious cartoon controversy brewing. Two comics ran on the 23rd and 24th of August – the first depicting the Crucifixion with a parabolic graph superimposed over Christ and the second features dialog between Mary and Joseph about an immaculately transmitted rash.

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and people from all over the U.S. have written almost 2,000 letters in protest, but the student paper’s editor has decided not to issue an apology – citing that no policies were broken.

Cavalier Daily editor-in-chief Michael Slaven said a journalistic apology differs from a personal apology in that the paper will not apologize simply because someone takes offense to something that was published.

“We cannot apologize for something that did not violate any policies that we have,” Slaven said.

In an April 24 lead editorial, The Cavalier Daily unveiled a new policy stating how comics and columns are to be evaluated for censorship on the basis of three criteria. First, editors determine whether a verifiable historical or contemporary situation is truthfully depicted. If this standard is not met, two other criteria are evaluated: whether the author makes a “serious, intentional point, the censoring of which would constitute viewpoint discrimination” and whether the author criticizes a group “for any reason other than their own opinions or actions.”

According to the editorial, “this policy seeks to limit material that criticizes people for traits or situations they cannot change.”

That last part is important to the story because last year the paper did issue an apology for a cartoon that ran that was anti-homosexual.

Catholic League president Bill Donohue stated on the League’s Web site that when the queer community was offended, The Cavalier Daily apologized, “yet when it comes to Christians, not even a shallow apology can be mustered.”

“So it can be implied that the Mother of Jesus has a sexually transmitted disease–and that’s okay with the editors–but making flip comments about homosexuals is unacceptable,” Donohue stated.

The student newspaper is independently published and the university is staying out of the fire.

You can see the comics in the archive. Here’s the crucifix cartoon (6th comic down from top) and here’s the STD one (sixth from the bottom).  While looking for these, the one above the STD cartoon was pretty offensive as well.

Community Comments

#1 Brian Powers
September/13/2006
@ 7:39 pm

I guess if they believe that God predetermined who would be Christians then an apology would be forthcoming from the paper. So they must be in the “Free Will” camp.

#2 Brian Powers
September/13/2006
@ 1:39 pm

I guess if they believe that God predetermined who would be Christians then an apology would be forthcoming from the paper. So they must be in the “Free Will” camp.

#3 Paul
September/14/2006
@ 9:54 am

Okay, I’ll be first with the comparison.

Isn’t this deja vu? Oh, wait, this is just about offending Christian traditions. To save a lot of time, just read the following reprint and substitute “Christian” for “Moslem” or “Islam”, “Jesus” for “Mohammed” “Eastern” for “Western” and… oh, sorry, if there’s a tradition of offending one group but not another, or if the beliefs aren’t “as deeply held,” then it’s different.

Editorial cartoonists reaction round-up
By Alan Feb 08, 2006
0 Comments | Filed under: Editorial cartoonists, Controversies, Interviews
With the growing Danish cartoons of Mohammad controversy, news media is turning to their local editorial cartoonists for their reaction. Here is a round up of several cartoonists from around the United States:

AAEC, â??While the motivation and judgment of the Danish artists and their publishers may be debatable, their right to free expression without threat or intimidation cannot be compromised.â?

Scott Adams, Dilbert, â??Apparently the indirect method of causing embassies to be burned down is both totally legal and also a highly prized right. As you know, there aren?t many ways you can burn down an occupied building and get away with it. But it is completely legal to use your freedom of speech to indirectly incite other people into doing almost any dumb ass thing you can think of. That?s a big reason I became a cartoonist.â?

Nick Anderson, Courier-Journal, tells the that the cartoon was a â??technical blunder in that war of ideas.â?

Tony Auth, The Philadelphia Inquirer, was interviewed by his paper which posted the interview on their website.

Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune, â??the point of a cartoon is to provoke.â?

Khalil Bendib, Berkeley (who also considers himself to be the only Muslim political cartoonist in the US), â??Thereâ??s a general aversion to iconography in the Muslim faith, and itâ??s something that should be respected.â?

Jim Borgman, Cincinnati Enquirer, â??All of that said, the current controversy owes more to gross insensitivity on the part of the Danish cartoonists and their offending newspaper than it does to anything lost in translation. We in the western world have learned to roll our eyes at offending material, write it off as idiocy and turn the page. The Islamic culture, on alert to signals from an unsympathetic and dismissive world, has had enough of western condescension.â?

Daryl Cagle, MSNBC, â??And by describing these cartoons as so terribly offensive and not showing them, I think you?re giving people the false impression that it wasn?t such a small spark that set off this big bomb. Another element that we?re seeing now is that there are a whole lot of truly offensive Mohammed cartoons finding their way around the Web and blogs and being passed around.â?

Matt Davies, The Journal News, â??This indicates how much, globally, the Muslim world misunderstands the West and how the West misunderstands the Islamic worldâ?

Brian Duffy, Des Moines Register, â??Letâ??s push this dialogue. Well, they pushed it right off the cliff, in my opinion,â?

David Fitzsimmons, Arizona Daily Star, â??Why? I censor myself. All cartoonists do from time to time. Would I have drawn Muhammad? No. To draw a likeness of Muhammad is to ridicule a core, heartfelt belief of many Muslims.â?

Joe Heller, Green Bay Press-Gazette, â??The reaction outweighs the message and the message is whatâ??s important. The Denmark newspaper is making a statement about freedom of the press that overrides everything including taste. If most Americans had seen the cartoon, they would have said, â??Whatâ??s the big deal?â??â? Thatâ??s the cultural difference between Muslim and American culturesâ?¦â?

Lynn Johnston, â??For Better or For Worse,â? â??Freedom of speech does not give us the right to ridicule, to flaunt power, or to invent explosive cover stories for the sake of sensationalism.â?

Doug Marlette, â??This is a war of two cultures, it?s really a war, and it?s really important that in the West we stand up for these hard-won freedoms and that we stand up to bullying and intimidation in the name of sensitivityâ?

Signe Wilkinson, Philadelphia Daily News, â??I have nothing but sympathy for my Danish colleagues who have incurred the wrath of the godly by publishing a portfolio of cartoons making fun of one of the world?s greatâ??but apparently humor-impairedâ??religions.â?

#4 Paul
September/14/2006
@ 3:54 am

Okay, I’ll be first with the comparison.

Isn’t this deja vu? Oh, wait, this is just about offending Christian traditions. To save a lot of time, just read the following reprint and substitute “Christian” for “Moslem” or “Islam”, “Jesus” for “Mohammed” “Eastern” for “Western” and… oh, sorry, if there’s a tradition of offending one group but not another, or if the beliefs aren’t “as deeply held,” then it’s different.

Editorial cartoonists reaction round-up
By Alan Feb 08, 2006
0 Comments | Filed under: Editorial cartoonists, Controversies, Interviews
With the growing Danish cartoons of Mohammad controversy, news media is turning to their local editorial cartoonists for their reaction. Here is a round up of several cartoonists from around the United States:

AAEC, â??While the motivation and judgment of the Danish artists and their publishers may be debatable, their right to free expression without threat or intimidation cannot be compromised.â?

Scott Adams, Dilbert, â??Apparently the indirect method of causing embassies to be burned down is both totally legal and also a highly prized right. As you know, there aren?t many ways you can burn down an occupied building and get away with it. But it is completely legal to use your freedom of speech to indirectly incite other people into doing almost any dumb ass thing you can think of. That?s a big reason I became a cartoonist.â?

Nick Anderson, Courier-Journal, tells the that the cartoon was a â??technical blunder in that war of ideas.â?

Tony Auth, The Philadelphia Inquirer, was interviewed by his paper which posted the interview on their website.

Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune, â??the point of a cartoon is to provoke.â?

Khalil Bendib, Berkeley (who also considers himself to be the only Muslim political cartoonist in the US), â??Thereâ??s a general aversion to iconography in the Muslim faith, and itâ??s something that should be respected.â?

Jim Borgman, Cincinnati Enquirer, â??All of that said, the current controversy owes more to gross insensitivity on the part of the Danish cartoonists and their offending newspaper than it does to anything lost in translation. We in the western world have learned to roll our eyes at offending material, write it off as idiocy and turn the page. The Islamic culture, on alert to signals from an unsympathetic and dismissive world, has had enough of western condescension.â?

Daryl Cagle, MSNBC, â??And by describing these cartoons as so terribly offensive and not showing them, I think you?re giving people the false impression that it wasn?t such a small spark that set off this big bomb. Another element that we?re seeing now is that there are a whole lot of truly offensive Mohammed cartoons finding their way around the Web and blogs and being passed around.â?

Matt Davies, The Journal News, â??This indicates how much, globally, the Muslim world misunderstands the West and how the West misunderstands the Islamic worldâ?

Brian Duffy, Des Moines Register, â??Letâ??s push this dialogue. Well, they pushed it right off the cliff, in my opinion,â?

David Fitzsimmons, Arizona Daily Star, â??Why? I censor myself. All cartoonists do from time to time. Would I have drawn Muhammad? No. To draw a likeness of Muhammad is to ridicule a core, heartfelt belief of many Muslims.â?

Joe Heller, Green Bay Press-Gazette, â??The reaction outweighs the message and the message is whatâ??s important. The Denmark newspaper is making a statement about freedom of the press that overrides everything including taste. If most Americans had seen the cartoon, they would have said, â??Whatâ??s the big deal?â??â? Thatâ??s the cultural difference between Muslim and American culturesâ?¦â?

Lynn Johnston, â??For Better or For Worse,â? â??Freedom of speech does not give us the right to ridicule, to flaunt power, or to invent explosive cover stories for the sake of sensationalism.â?

Doug Marlette, â??This is a war of two cultures, it?s really a war, and it?s really important that in the West we stand up for these hard-won freedoms and that we stand up to bullying and intimidation in the name of sensitivityâ?

Signe Wilkinson, Philadelphia Daily News, â??I have nothing but sympathy for my Danish colleagues who have incurred the wrath of the godly by publishing a portfolio of cartoons making fun of one of the world?s greatâ??but apparently humor-impairedâ??religions.â?

#5 Brian Powers
September/14/2006
@ 1:50 pm

At least the comic produces dialogue. If you want to put a crucifix in urine – fine. Just be prepared to talk about it.

#6 Brian Powers
September/14/2006
@ 7:50 am

At least the comic produces dialogue. If you want to put a crucifix in urine – fine. Just be prepared to talk about it.

#7 The Daily Cartoonist | News and blog about comic strips, editorial cartoons, cartoons
September/6/2007
@ 7:04 am

[…] year, I reported about Grant Woolard, a student cartoonist at the University of Virginia, who created a national stir for two cartoons that were published in the Cavalier Daily. Both the editor and cartoonist later apologized for […]

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