Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Blasphemy in Democracy's Birthplace? Greece Arrests Facebook User

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Blasphemy in Democracy's Birthplace? Greece Arrests Facebook User

Article excerpt

Blasphemy laws have been the subject of hot debate in recent weeks around the world, particularly in the Muslim world, where such laws are commonplace. But the latest controversy isn't somewhere in the Muslim world, its the cradle of Western civilization: Greece.

A man was arrested last week in Evia, Greece, on charges of posting malicious blasphemy and religious insult on the known social networking site, Facebook according to a press release by the Greek police.

The accused, whose identity has not been made public, had created and managed the Facebook page Elder Pastitsios the Pastafarian, a name that plays on a combination of Elder Paisios, a famous, late Greek-Orthodox monk, and the Greek food pastitsio, a baked pasta dish made of ground beef and bchamel sauce. The term "pastafarian" is a reference to the satirical pseudo-religion "Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster," which has been used to lampoon creationism. The picture of Elder Pastitsios has a pastitsio where the monks face should be.

Paisios, who died in 1994, is well-known in Greece for his spiritual teachings. There have been dozens of books published about him and his prophecies, including such topics as the end of the world, the upbringing of children, couples' relationships, even the diet Paisios supposedly followed. Some high-ranking priests have proposed that the Orthodox Church sanctify him a kind of elevation to sainthood.

Pastitsios was pure satire and without any vulgar language or insults, the accused said in an interview with the Greek website Pandoras Box, where he explained how he wanted to criticize the commercialization of Paisios. I take the books and criticize them. I use satire.

Greece is among the few countries in the European Union with active blasphemy laws. Under Article 189 of the Greek Criminal Code, those convicted of breaking the law can be imprisoned for up to two years. …

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