Sunday, August 21, 2011

Freedom of expression under attack? Russian court bans Mickey Mouse painting because it offends Christians

A court in central Russia has ruled that a painting of the Sermon on the Mount that features Mickey Mouse instead of Jesus Christ is extremist, the regional prosecutor's office said on Friday.

Unless the Kaluga Region court's ruling is successfully appealed, the painting will be banned from exhibitions, newspapers, magazines or television. The case was heard in the Kaluga Region after a local complained to the authorities.

Alexander Savko's Sermon on the Mount painting - part of a series entitled Mickey Mouse's Travels Though Art History - was first shown at a controversial 2007 exhibition called Forbidden Art.

"During the court hearing, it was established that Savko's technique of uniting the image of Jesus Christ, which is sacred for Christians, and the comical image of Mickey Mouse, which in this situation is vulgar, has turned the graphic work into a caricature of Jesus Christ," a statement on the prosecutor's office's website says.

"The Gospel story is therefore presented by the artist in the form of a comic, which is an extremely cynical and mocking insult to the religious beliefs and feelings of Orthodox Christian believers," it says, adding that the court agreed with the prosecutor's reasoning.

A probe into the legality of the painting was launched in 2007 after a Christian organization accused the Forbidden Art curators of defacing religious symbols. The Moscow City Court in 2010 ruled the exhibition's organizers were guilty of inciting national and religious hatred and fined them.

"It's hard to comment on this news, as this is utter absurdity," an official at Moscow's Aidan Gallery - where Savko's paintings have been exhibited, told

Savko was unavailable for comment.

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