The Australian and international blogosphere is abuzz with news of New South Wales’ antidemocratic laws protecting Catholicism from criticism during the World Youth Day festivities:
EXTRAORDINARY new powers will allow police to arrest and fine people for “causing annoyance” to World Youth Day participants and permit partial strip searches at hundreds of Sydney sites, beginning today.
The laws, which operate until the end of July, have the potential to make a crime of wearing a T-shirt with a message on it, undertaking a Chaser-style stunt, handing out condoms at protests, riding a skateboard or even playing music, critics say.
Police and volunteers from the State Emergency Service and Rural Fire Service will be able to direct people to cease engaging in conduct that “causes annoyance or inconvenience to participants in a World Youth Day event”.
People who fail to comply will be subject to a $5500 fine.
An organisation by the name of the No To Pope Coalition is prepared to take the $5500 challenge. Which brings to mind recent police crackdowns on anti-Scientology protests in London and Glasgow, as well as the arrest last week of a Gold Coast teenager for wearing a T-shirt deemed “blasphemous.” Having our delicate religious sensibilities offended, it appears, is something we want the police and the government to protect us against.
But what do you think? Do the religious have a right not to be offended?
UPDATE: T-shirt vendors have already begun to capitalise on the niche trend carved out by these inane laws: Annoying Catholics.