Offensive T-shirt or free speech

If you are sensitive about Christian and nun stuff be wary of what follows (or skip this one).

There’s a controversial T-shirt on display at Canterbury museum. A Catholic bishop, a Cahtolic blogger, Christchurch’s Anglican Bishop and Bob McCoskrie arel complaining about it’s offensiveness with Family First planning laying a complaint with police about the “highly offensive” display.

Should offensiveness be shut up? Shades of Charlie Hebdo.’

Stuff describes the problem in Offensive t-shirt in Canterbury Museum exhibition.

A Canterbury Museum exhibition is sparking outrage ahead of its display of a banned t-shirt depicting a graphic image of a nun and explicit abuse of Jesus.

The image and words are printed on a t-shirt that appears in the T-Shirts Unfolding exhibition, which opens at the museum tomorrow.

Entitled Vestal Masturbation, the shirt is the design of English heavy metal band Cradle of Filth.

On the front it shows an image of a masturbating nun while on the reverse it has the phrase “Jesus is a c***”.

I can understand some people being offended by that but I find it quite interesting, thought provoking and a bit clever when you think it through.

But some just see offence they want to shut down.

Christchurch’s Anglican Bishop Victoria Matthews…

…questioned why the t-shirt needed to be included in the exhibition at all.

Cartoons and ridicule of the prophet Mohammed had led to violence and outrage in Islamic countries, and the public needed to consider whether what happened here could “have repercussions across the globe”.

“At a time when we are seeking ways to reconcile extreme views in the international community, this exhibit could feed the accusation that the West is morally bankrupt,” she said.

“The inclusion of this t-shirt as art in an exhibition is a conversation for the wider community with issues of mutual respect, common decency and what the public wants and does not want.”

I’d be surprised if this sparks repercussions around the globe. It would be more eyebrow raising if religious groups get it banned.

And it’s ironic the Bishop sidesd with Muslims wanting to shut down anything critical of their religion.

Catholic blogger Brendan Malone…

…said in a blog post that a museum should bring a community together, but Canterbury Museum’s decision to hold this exhibition was “irresponsible” and would “result in unnecessary harm” to the public.

“Canterbury Museum has chosen to make itself a place that fosters intolerance and division – and what’s worse; as a ratepayer I am being forced to fund this intolerant and divisive behaviour.”

He questioned whether the museum would display a t-shirt that “attacked and ridiculed Islam” in the same way.

Malone also launched an online petition on asking for Canterbury Museum to “remove the hateful t-shirt” and “stop dividing the community”.

The petition said the museum should act with more community responsibility and respect for its local funders by removing the t-shirt from its exhibition.

Clainming the display fosters “intolerance and division” is a tad ironic given the intoelrance of expression tha Malone displays.

Catholic Bishop Barry Jones…

…also criticised the controversial t-shirt. “Anglican and Roman Catholic nuns enjoy wide respect and the misogynistic message on the t-shirt is appalling,” he said.


Family First…

…planned to lay a complaint with police about the “highly offensive” display.

“The museum should show some respect to the many families who will be horrified and offended by this and remove the offensive material,” national director Bob McCoskrie said.

“Sinking to these low levels is an insult to many families.”

I’ve been insulted by Christians but I haven’t thought of complaining to the police.

Canterbury Museum director Anthony Wright…

…said the shirt was a small part of a large exhibition examining the garment’s place in popular culture.

“When you do a show like this you deal with the edges of our culture and society. There are inevitably going to be some items and themes that are going to be offensive to some.

“It’s there because it is a valid part of an overall story about a whole cultural movement. We want to tell the whole story without unduly censoring things.”

So is it ok in that context?

Or should anything that could be found offensive by religious people be banned?

I wouldn’t go to see it but I wouldn’t try and stop others from seeing it.

Leave a comment


  1. Kittycatkin

     /  13th February 2015

    I find it revolting and can’t see why anyone would display it. I believe in freedom of expression, but won’t go out of my way to support this repellent item. Why show something that will not only disgust but distress so many people ?

    I wouldn’t prance around crying ‘Je Suis Charlie’, either, as je ne suis pas une personne who finds rape, racism (depicting a black senior politician as an ape), antisemitism and blasphemy amusing and won’t support a magazine that does.

  2. Becoming a Habit

     /  13th February 2015

    Well, it’s not the first time today that the ‘C’ word has been used……I see Matthew Hooton has used it in his latest article in the NBR, with reference to Key and Joyce 🙂

  3. Kittycatkin

     /  13th February 2015

    I don’t care about this word, which has been around for centuries. But the t-shirt is gross and I can’t see that there is a place in an art gallery for this sort of designed to offend, puerile capping mag level thing. If the various church leaders-not Bob ‘Family Fist’ McCroskie-find it distressing, it would be a nice gesture if it was not displayed,

    I find Mr McC’s attitude that a level of violence that would land someone in court if used on an adult is acceptable when used on a child and is ‘good parenting’ extremely offensive.

  4. David

     /  13th February 2015

    What is the point ? Well it’s so someone who at the pinnacle of his career runs a tinpot museum that attracts less visitors than the next door coffee shop wants to generate his 15 minutes and come across as edgy.
    What a cock, Wright is the most pathetic girly man with a spine of jello who needs to find some other way to rescue his relationship.

    • Simon Fisher

       /  16th February 2015

      There is no coffee shop next door. Canterbury Museum has received similar numbers of visitors & as much support as other well known cultural institutions around the world. The Director is more then you ‘David’ will ever hope to be. You obviously are jealous of his success, his mana, his impeccable dress sense and apparently his height. So, David the dog…go fetch, chase your tail & eat your own excrement, you have proven with your post you know nothing more than to do as dogs do.

  5. Brown

     /  13th February 2015

    Pray tell Pete how Christians have insulted you.

    If I had a T shirt that named the museum’s director’s mum and called her a two bit hooker that swallows with her face cut and pasted onto a slapper’s body, stated that the director was a slut’s faggot offspring and wore it around the museum he’d suddenly be less inclined to call rubbish art. It would be seen as crass as it should be. Its easy to slag of Christianity when the biggest reaction will people grumbling – art is a convenient medium for the tacky to do so. The fact there’s nothing about slagging or homos shows what a pack of slinking cowards they are. I’m not offended because i don’t need to defend Jesus Christ but if you want to defend free speech at least defend what is worth defending by being honest in what is said.

    • A good example – I often see so-called Christians being extremely insulting towards homosexuals. I’ve been told I’ll rot in hell for having a different opinion.

      Your examples regarding the director are personal insukts rather than general which makes them different.

  6. aleister crowley

     /  13th February 2015

    “Queen Of Winter, Throned”

    Even a man who is pure in the heart
    And speaks in prayer by night
    May become a wolf when the wolf’s bane blooms
    And the winter moon is bright”

    Listen to them
    The children of the night
    What sweet music they make

    I share Carmilla’s mask
    A gaunt mephitic voyeur
    On the black side of the glass
    Peering through the mirror
    Deep dark and ominous
    Consorting themes, demons I weave
    Subservience from thee to lost

    I am Corinthian light
    A snake in flowers by night
    The last temptation of christ
    Evil in mortal…

    Disguise the guilt
    Sharp-eyed, impassive whore
    Burn the asafoetida
    and rank petriachor
    Lure me panthered Faustia
    With cunt and veiled womb
    To prowl thy inner sanctum walls
    In Tirgoviste to resume

    Seduction, my obsessive art
    A pantheon of tragedies inscribed upon the stars
    Like thistled ruin, garbed around thy heart
    Bacchanal Cinderella, desirious midnight passed
    Leaving thee as sacrifice asleep within my arms
    ‘Midst dreams od robed redemption versed in sexual aftermath
    When we ebb as tides together, carnal souls entwined
    And orgasms expire, come puppet wires and the blind
    Fires work in me
    A lithe supremacy
    I tear asunder heaven as I would all enemies
    Impaler Lord
    Flesh upon the sword
    My lower lusts are sated, the greater herald war

    I am thirst, spearheaded hunger
    Sacrament and pain
    Nails raked in savagery
    When the cruel Countessa came

    The Queen of death-white winter enthroned
    Evil resplendent, in dusk red seething skies
    Foam-flecked nightmares drag a moon
    Of Draconian design

    A love that never dies
    Nefarious silhouettes to rise

    When stars fall pale
    And to drown back in Her eyes
    Is to madden ghosts within
    To unhinge a thousand sins
    From Death’s dark vale

    “Blessed be these spells of winter
    Unto us that wait with patience in
    This secret garden
    To storm our way into another
    As yes undone”


    Desert claims Eden
    And Hyperborean
    Visions of Utopia are driven from the sun
    Before thee angels clasped
    In nakedness their ochre flesh
    Shall yield to thy advance

    She is all to me
    Mysterious, alive
    The howling in the deep woods
    When cold festal stars aligned

    A lurid moon looms; phosphorent, evil
    Yesod vested in despotic upheaval
    Silvering wolves that scarlet forest snow
    Forgotten ones ebter as above, so below

    The trees groan aghast as ghostly pallored clouds are rent
    When the drunken earth heaves, sweep aside seas to ascend
    From Sheol’s dank haunted wilderness
    Thy seal upon Nuit’s starry vault to incense the sleepers,

    Queen of Winter, throned
    The murderess lurked in vulgar caresses
    Vestal masturbation
    (Purity) Overthrown

    In raven feathered dress
    Sides with Death at chess
    Their pawns are many and the enemy
    When the miscreants fell dead
    She took to conjuring spells in the cusp of the night
    And the bestial floor shook with terrible life
    I rise before thee Queen
    To feed our lusts on the blood of the weak
    To rule heaven and worlds crawling beneath
    Satanic Tyranny

    • The IT Crowd (British comedy) did great piece where a Cradle of Filth fan couldn’t understand how his newfound obsession with dark metal made him a pariah at work.

  7. Budgieboy

     /  14th February 2015

    Agree with Kitty, revolting but I wouldn’t go to see it – or try to ban it.

    But Pete, genuine question for you: why have you posted the image of this shirt (front and back) when you wouldn’t post the Charlie Hebdo cartoons?

    • I agree. This would never fly if it offended muslims. So do tell Pete, why have you posted this and not the CH cartoons?

      • It relates to New Zealand. Opening today in Christchurch.

        And I get to choose what I post, like everyone else does.

        Havr you posted the CH cartoons artcroft?

        • artcroft

           /  14th February 2015

          You do choose to post what you like. And you explained your choice not to post the CH cartoons as one of respect for muslim beliefs. When its images offensive to christians though you merrily cut and paste away. Why is there no need to respect christian sensitivities? Why do muslims merit more courtesy than other faiths? You seem to have two rules on this issue, something you would hold others to account for.

          • There’s no rules.

            “you explained your choice not to post the CH cartoons as one of respect for muslim beliefs”

            I’d be surprised if I said anything like that.

            I don’t respect Muslim beliefs. I respect the right of Muslims to choose their own beliefs, as I respect the right of Christians to choose their beliefs and for athesist to choose not to have godly beliefs.

      • Pete, you refused to show pictures apparently offensive to Muslims (even though it was obviously central to the entire issue. Yet you have no trouble showing pictures offensive to Christians.

  8. Brown

     /  14th February 2015

    Your insult example is ridiculous and shallow Pete (and the homo thing was what I expected). Someone saying you’ll rot in hell is not insulting because we all face that no matter how good we think we are. The bible does mention homosexuality, along with all sorts of sexual immorality, as bad behaviour. You may not like it as a statement but its not personally insulting.

    Jesus Christ was a historical figure, believed by a couple of billion or so, to be still alive so the T shirt insult is, in my view, personal. In Jesus’s case there is no evidence that he was other than a kind, generous and forgiving man at worst so the statement is factually incorrect at best. If you are going to trumpet free speech at least say something decent.

    The comment about Charlie Hebdo above needs an answer so I’ll take care of it here. Artcroft and others, Pete didn’t post anything insulting to Muslims because he’s a typical progressive coward. He’s a Brian Williams – hiding safely in the rear while bragging about fighting for freedom. There we go Pete, a real insult.

    • ” If you are going to trumpet free speech at least say something decent.”

      That’s an interesting comment. I can talk about free speech as long as you think it’s decent enough?

  9. Brown

     /  14th February 2015

    Not at all but if I’m going to defend your right, as opposed to ignore you if someone gets grumpy, the message needs to be arguably factual and expressed in a respectful manner as would be expected in a civil society where basic manners are taught – these are objective rather than subjective measures that most speech falls within. This shirt satisfies neither a factual or respectful test but passes the “lets offend Christians” test so on that basis alone was included. You can say what you like about Christ or anything else but if some deranged christian writes to the editor about it be it on your own head. Publish some anti Muslim cartoons and I’ll respect you as a real believer in free speech.

  10. Yes we do have freedom of speech in our society but in the name of freedom of speech would it be ok to display a t-shirt of a peodophile in action or a woman being abused on a T-Shirt because some heavy metal band thought it was a “cool” t-shirt to make? Whether you believe in Jesus or not, he stands for social justice, showing kindness to the poor and
    sick – why would someone want to mock someone who cared for those that society looked down apon and showed only love and kindness? I think some people get Jesus mixed up with religion, something that Jesus spoke out against often. Would it be ok to put Mother Theresa is a C*&*

    • Whether you believe in Jesus or not, he stands for social justice…

      No, socialism really wasn’t part of the message. The story of the woman caught in adultery was a late addition and bit about turning the other cheek doesn’t fit the overall context either. The ethical baseline was retributive justice, but restorative justice through forgiveness and appreciation of life was also described.

  11. Brandon Hutchison

     /  14th February 2015

    Mother Theresa was not very nice or kind despite widespread perceptions that she was. What is C*&*?


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