Freedom of Expression


Click below for more information

Home Page - Index
Authorities Assessed
Old Testament
New Testament
Apostolic Traditions
Church Fathers
General Church Councils
Early Christian History
What Jesus Believed
Who Founded Christianity?
Creation of Doctrine
Origin of Ideas & Practices
The Concept of Orthodoxy
Origin of the Priesthood
Maintaining Deceptions
Suppress Facts
Selecting Sources
Fabricating Records
Retrospective Prophesy
Ambiguous Authorities
Ignore Injunctions
Invent, Amend and Discard
Manipulate Language
Case Studies
Re-branding a Sky-God
Making One God out of Many
How Mary keeps her Virginity
Fabricating the Nativity Story
Managing Inconvenient Texts
Christianity & Science
Traditional Battlegrounds
Modern Battlegrounds
Rational Explanations
Religion in General
Christianity in Particular
Divine Human Beings
Ease of Creating Religions
Arguments for and Against
Popular Arguments
Philosophical Arguments
Moral Arguments
Supernatural Arguments
  • Miracles
  • Revelation
  • Faith
  • Practical Arguments
    Record of Christianity
    Social Issues
  • Slavery
  • Racism
  • Capital Punishment
  • Penal Reform
  • Physical Abuse
  • Treatment of Women
  • Contraception
  • Abortion
  • Divorce
  • Family Values
  • Children
  • Romanies
  • The Physically Ill
  • The Mentally Ill
  • The Poor
  • Animals
  • Ecology
  • Persecution
  • Persecutions of Christians
  • Persecutions by Christians
  • Church & State
  • Symbiosis
  • Meddling in Governance
  • Interference in Politics
  • Abuse of Power
  • Church Law and Justice
  • Exemption from the Law
  • Unofficial Exemption
  • Financial Privileges
  • Control Over Education
  • Human Rights
  • Freedom of Belief
  • Religious Toleration
  • Freedom of Expression
  • Freedom of Enjoyment
  • Attitudes to Sex
  • Celibacy
  • Sex Within Marriage
  • Sex Outside Marriage
  • Incest
  • Rape
  • Homosexuality
  • Transvestism
  • Prostitution
  • Pederasty
  • Bestiality
  • Sadomasochism
  • Necrophilia
  • Consequences
  • Science & Medicine

  • Ancient Times
  • Dark and Middle Ages
  • Sixteenth Century
  • Seventeenth Century
  • Eighteenth Century
  • Nineteenth Century
  • 20th and 21st Centuries
  • Medical Records Compared
  • Violence & Warfare
  • Crusades
  • God's Wars
  • Churches' Wars
  • Christian Atrocities
  • Cultural Vandalism
  • The Classical World
  • Europe
  • The Wider Modern World
  • Possible Explanations
    Summing up
    Marketing Religion
    Marketing Christianity
    Continuing Damage
    Religious Discrimination
    Christian Discrimination
    Moral Dangers
    Abuse of Power
    A Final Summing Up
    Search site
    Bad News Blog
    Religious Quotations
    Christianity & Human Rights
    Christian Prooftexts
    Social Media


    I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.
    S. G. Tallentyre's summary of Voltaire's attitude to Helvétius


    Perhaps the most spectacular example of Christians imposing their views on others is censorship. Pope Gelasius issued a list of prohibited writings as early as AD 494, although there had been specific prohibitions before that. Soon Christians were burning anything that did not agree with their own beliefs. They would burn whole books because of a single passage with which they disagreed. As the edict of Worms explained in 1521:

    we want all of Luther's books to be universally prohibited and forbidden, and we also want them to be burned. We execute the sentence of the Holy Apostolic See, and we follow the very praiseworthy ordinance and custom of the good Christians of old who had the books of heretics like the Arians, Priscillians, Nestorians, Eutychians, and others burned and annihilated, even everything that was contained in these books, whether good or bad.

    Within a century of the introduction of printing in Europe a formal process was required to keep track of books that the Church had ordered to be destroyed. In 1557 Pope Paul IV established the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, a list of prohibited books, usually known simply as the Index. A vast range of books was put on this Index, scientific, philosophical, religious and artistic. Jewish books were placed on the Index under Pope Clement VIII in 1596.

    The Index was primarily a matter of church law, but in some countries before the mid-19th century it also had the force of secular law.

    Specific authors whose works have been put on it include most of the great names of Western literature and learning. Amongst them have been Galen, Chaucer, Bacon, Erasmus, Milton, Dante, Montaigne, Rabelais, Copernicus, Galileo, Hobbes, Descartes, Voltaire, Goldsmith, Locke, Gibbon, Hume, Rousseau, J. S. Mill, Darwin, and Victor Hugo. Also placed on the Index were writings that told the truth about the forged documents that the Church had produced to support papal claims and, more recently, books about family planning. On the other hand works such as Mein Kampf have never been prohibited. The Index was abolished in 1966. Now the Church has to be content with censoring the writings of its own priests. Their work is reviewed by censors and given an imprimatur only if the sentiments conform to the current official line.

    On the Index Librorum Prohibitorum
    All of Daniel de Foe's works were put on the Index

    Not on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum
    Considered - but not regarded as immoral

    Uncomfortable public statements by Roman Catholics scholars continue to be suppressed. For example, in 1985 the Vatican banned Father Leonardo Boff from making public statements. Some Roman Catholic countries maintained their own equivalent of the Index. The Irish Free State, as then was, banned all of the works of Synge and Yeats, along with other dangerous books such as Modern Utopia by H. G. Wells, The Origin of Species by Darwin, and a book about fairies by Arthur Conan Doyle. In Eire, the successor to the Free State, the Irish Censorship Board, assisted by the Catholic Truth Society, continues to uphold the faith. Although now regarded as a figure of fun in educated circles, its decisions could still cause offending authors to lose their jobs at the end of the twentieth century*. Christians in secular states have often managed to ban respectable works, again well into the twentieth century: Webster's Dictionary for example was banned in Arkansas because of its entry on Darwinian evolution. Information about family planning and birth control has been banned in many Christian countries.

    Over the centuries the Christian Churches have burned countless thousands, perhaps millions, of books of which it disapproved. The Protestant record may not be quite as bad as that of Roman Catholics, but it is not much better. English Parliaments and juries were keen book burners, and the Public Hangman was kept occupied burning political and religious "naughty writings" as well as their naughty authors. The Commons had them burned, the Lords had them burned, bishops had them burned, judges had them burned and magistrates had them burned.

    Detail from The Feast in the House of Levi (1573), by Paolo Veronese (1528 – 1588).
    This painting of the Last Supper was investigated by the Roman Catholic Inquisition because it included a dwarf, a dog and a man in German clothes. The inquisitors required the offenting items to be removed, but Venose escaped punishment by changing the name of the work, so that the presence of the dwarf, dog and man dressed in German clothes ceased to be blashemous*.
    In the twentieth century, this incident provided the inspiration for a Monty Python sketch.

    Some writers destroyed their own unpublished works, fearing the consequences of discovery. Thomas Hobbes, who had been lucky to keep his life after publishing Leviathan in 1651, is known to have burned some of his papers while under threat. Even sceptical ecclesiastics were vulnerable. Edmund Gibson, Bishop of London, destroyed an incriminating manuscript in the early 1730s. Theologians sometimes published posthumously for fear of the consequences. The atheist priest Jean Meslier left manuscripts to be published after his death. Voltaire published extracts , but Meslier's work was not published in full until the nineteenth century.

    Philosophers were also obliged to publish posthumously or anonymously, for fear of the consequences. Blaise Pascal published his Lettres écrites à un provincial secretly and anonymously in 1656-7 because they exposed Jesuit morality. Spinoza's Theologico-Political Treatise, which attacked Christian supernaturalism, was published anonymously in 1670. In France, Denis Diderot had his rational encyclopaedia suppressed, and he himself was imprisoned in 1749. The Paris Parliament had burned his Pensées Philosophiques in 1746 , and he felt obliged to publish his Pensées sur la Religion anonymously in 1763. Some of his work, such as Rameau's Nephew and D"Alembert's Dream, were published only posthumously.

    Voltaire had ridiculed conventional Christian ideas in his novel Candide and other works. His Letters Concerning the English, published in France as Lettres Philosophiques, were burned by the public executioner, and an order was made for his arrest. Fearing Christian retribution from a number of countries, he lived on an international border, so that he could escape, whichever authorities proceeded against him. David Hume worked for 25 years on his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, a critique of the religious Argument from Design. Because it was likely to be regarded as seditious it could not be published during his lifetime. It was published, in the teeth of fierce opposition, three years after his death.

    Francisco Goya, La maja desnuda (The Nude Maja) c. 1800.
    The painting was never publicly exhibited during Goya's lifetime as the Catholic Church prohibitted the creation and display of artistic nudes. The picture was owned by Manuel de Godoy, the Prime Minister of Spain and a favorite of the Queen. In 1808 all Godoy's property was seized by Ferdinand VII.
    In 1813 the Inquisition confiscated the work as 'obscene'.

    Francisco Goya, La maja vestida (The Clothed Maja, c. 1803)
    The painting was never publicly exhibited during Goya's lifetime. It too was owned by Manuel de Godoy, and seized by King Ferdinand VII. In 1813 the Inquisition also confiscated this work as obscene.


    It is more than likely that contributions from other philosophers were suppressed or destroyed by Christian friends and relatives to avoid posthumous criticism from the God-fearing classes. All manner of existing works needed tailoring to meet Christian sensibilities. The devout Dr Thomas Bowdler produced an expurgated version of Shakespeare's works in 1818. He also bowdlerised Gibbon's monumental work The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, probably the most thoroughly researched, best-written, and authoritative history ever produced. He expurgated all the religious material, judging, perhaps correctly, that Christians would not wish to learn the truth about the early history of their faith. In the USA Noah Webster was more considerate still. He produced an expurgated version of the Bible. It is a mixed blessing that he could not have done this in England. In England he would have needed a special licence from Parliament to publish a translation of the Bible.

    Because of contemporary Christian mores, Dr James Murray felt unable to include a number of ancient English words in the Oxford English Dictionary, so marring one of the greatest works of English scholarship ever undertaken. The omissions had to be rectified in supplements by Dr Robert Burchfield in the twentieth century. In the USA the position is the same as it was in England. Webster's Dictionary omitted these words and still omits them. Even at the end of the twentieth century there was only one American dictionary that included what publishers call the "big six" four-letter words*. Christian sensitivities extend to many areas of life. The Bishop of Wakefield burned Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure because it did not support the Church's current view of the sanctity of marriage. Not until well into the twentieth century was it possible freely to publish works describing abortion or birth control. In England, the USA and elsewhere, books on the subject were regarded as pornographic and those involved in their publication could be, and were, prosecuted under obscenity legislation. In Roman Catholic countries offending books were placed on the Index, and sympathetic governments like Hitler's suppressed them by force*.

    In England all conventional media have been controlled at one time or another. Plays for example were strictly regulated. By the fourteenth century the only performances permitted in England were religious ones such as morality plays, miracle plays and mystery plays. By the sixteenth century the monopoly had been broken, and to the Church's irritation it was possible to stage public plays. Theatre censorship was introduced in 1551, but this was not enough. In 1642 Puritans closed the London theatres altogether. They opened again in 1660 when the Puritans had fallen from power.

    From 1843 the law required new play scripts to be submitted to the Lord Chamberlain, who would issue a licence for public performance only if the play was deemed suitable. Many playwrights had to amend their work in order to get it staged. George Bernard Shaw had problems with a number of plays, including Mrs Warren's Profession (1894). Ensuring suitability often involved sanitising history. For example, a play in 1966 was denied a licence unless it was amended to include a favourable view of the papacy's wartime record with respect to the Jews*. This prior censorship, as it was called, ended two years later. By then the unfortunate Lord Chamberlain had become a laughing stock to all but the keenest moralists.

    Books had also been subjected to prior censorship (i.e. review and possible suppression before publication). The first notable essay arguing "for the liberty of unlicensed printing" was Areopagitica, published by the Unitarian John Milton in 1644. His ideas were espoused by the philosopher John Locke. On Locke's advice Parliament repealed the Licensing Act in 1695, so ending the practice of prior restraint. It was possible to push through this repeal largely because the then censor, one Bohun, had already become a figure of fun — just as the Lord Chamberlain was to become a figure of fun for the same reason almost three centuries later. Cinema films have been subject to prior censorship since 1912 and still are, having been joined by video films in 1984. For many years the American film industry was constrained by the US Production Code, the infamous Hays Code, inspired by God-fearing Christians. So it was that from 1934 to 1968 cinema storylines had to have "moral" endings, kisses could not last more than three seconds , and people were allowed onto a bed only in the most innocent circumstances. By 1968 the Hays Code had become such a joke that, like the British Lord Chancellor's role, it had to be abandoned, despite vocal Christian protestations.

    In the late Middle Ages, Christian authorities had been keen to prevent unauthorised translations of the Bible getting into the hands of the public. Secret printing was heavily penalised, but public demand ensured a thriving black market. Printers" apprenticeships were strictly controlled. Printing was limited to Oxford, Cambridge and London. Laws were introduced to permit the search of imports for concealed bibles. But none of it worked, and bibles became ever more common. Once the bible battle was over the censors" focus changed to political and religious sedition; and when that battle was lost too, it changed to sex. The traditional Christian obsession with sexual matters resulted in prosecutions for obscenity not only against books about birth control, but also against respectable literature and even books on psychology. Amongst the victims of obscenity prosecutions have been Flaubert's Madam Bovary, Havelock Ellis's Studies in the Psychology of Sex, James Joyce's Ulysses, and Norman Haire's Encyclopaedia of Sexual Knowledge. Christian morality suffered a setback in 1961 when D. H. Lawrence's last book Lady Chatterley's Lover was published in paperback. Innocuous as it now seems, it caused outrage at the time, selling three million copies to top the best seller lists thanks to the publicity. So too, Hubert Selby's Last Exit to Brooklyn incurred the wrath of Christians and landed his British publishers in court, though they won the case on appeal. In 1968 a play called The Romans in Britain was prosecuted for obscenity. In 1977 a piece of poetry by Professor James Kirkup, The Love that Dares to Speak its Name, was found to be criminally blasphemous*.

    Christians still seek to impose their views on others. Because of Christian sensitivities the film Monty Python's Life of Brian was banned by some local authorities in Britain when it was released in 1979. The Independent Broadcasting Authority also banned it, so that it could not be shown on British commercial television*. The film's subject is not explicitly Jesus or Christianity, so it is not clear why Christians should be so sensitive about it, but in any case people are being prohibited from seeing a film that they want to see, both in Britain and in other Christian countries around the world*. Neither is this a lone example. In Britain and the USA attempts were made to ban Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ when it appeared in 1988*. In 1989 a 20 minute video Visions of Ecstasy was banned in Britain because it was held to be blasphemous, although it was based on St Theresa of Ávila's own accounts of her visions. Eastern Churches have similar attitudes. For example when Theodore Angelopoulos started shooting The Suspended Step of the Stork in Greece, a local bishop condemned the film, inciting violence against the set and crew.

    Poe's law, named after its author Nathan Poe, states that without a clear indication of the author's intent, it is difficult to tell the difference between an expression of sincere extremism and a parody of extremism

    Since it has become impossible for Christians to deny the existence of atheists, they have taken to denying the possibility of atheist morality. Many Christians seem to be offended by the idea that atheists might be capable of leading fulfilled and morally upright lives. In 1955 the BBC decided to allow rationalists a voice. Margaret Knight, an eminent psychologist, gave a talk in which she suggested that people could lead honest and meaningful lives without the aid of religion. The reaction from Christians was powerful. Mrs Knight was attacked for immoral and seditious teachings. Since then, the BBC has never again dared to give rationalism a fair hearing, preferring a safe diet of religion produced by its Religious Department. At the time of writing you can “listen again” to twice as many Radio 4 religious and "ethical" broadcasts as science broadcasts. No philosophical or genuinely ethical broadcasts are available at all. Many of the religious and ethical programmes are thinly disguised religious propaganda but are never identified as such, and no right of rely is available to those attacked in the course of these programmes. One such programme, Thought For The Day, is smuggled every weekday morning at prime time into the Today programme, the UK's premier morning news programme. It is never identified as a production of the Religious Department or even as a separate programme. It annoys the audience as much as it does the Today broadcasters. Again, the Today programme used to run a competition each year to identify the most popular and most unpopular person in the world — but stopped the latter competition after the Pope won it two years in a row, eliminating any possibility of him winning it again. In effect, public opinion has been censored to protect religious sensitivities.

    Even television advertisements are censored because of Christian sensitivities. Tunes that happen to resemble hymn tunes seem to cause especial offence. In 1988 Volkswagen had to redub a television commercial because it had used an Alan Price song, Changes, the tune of which also features in the song What a Friend We have in Jesus*. An advertisement for Quality Street chocolates had to be withdrawn because its tune sounded like that of the hymn When the Roll is Called Up Yonder, I"ll Be There*. Cardinal Basil Hume's office felt compelled to report Tatler to the Press Council because an advertising feature, based on a genre of 1950s Italian films, included religious artefacts*. Christians also routinely complain about television advertisements for condoms and tampons, which have been permitted on British television only since the late 1980s. Earlier advertisements by the Family Planning Association had been removed from the London Underground because of Roman Catholic sensitivities. In Britain the police will also step in to enforce religious compliance and suppress dissent — as for example in April 2005 when football fans were arrested and charged with hate crimes for declining to join in one minutes" silence for a recently deceased pope*.

    European television has never benefited from the distinctive brand of Christian morality characterised by the Anglo-Saxon low churches. Christians in Britain are now concerned at the quantity of European satellite TV programming now being seen by British viewers. Similar low-church attitudes are popular in the USA. In some areas the USA is well ahead in religiously inspired censorship. Fundamentalists in California have managed to ban schoolbooks that deal with a wide range of subjects, including the theory of evolution, race relations, nuclear war, sex discrimination, human sexuality, birth control and the Holocaust.

    In the UsA, after the American Civil War Anthony Comstock became an active worker in the Young Men's Christian Association in New York City. In 1873, he created the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, an institution dedicated to supervising the morality of the public. Later that year, he induced the United States Congress to pass the Comstock Law, which made illegal the delivery or transportation of "obscene, lewd, or lascivious" material as well as any information concerning birth control or venereal disease. He was a clever political operator and had himself made a special agent of the United States Postal Service, with police powers - including the right to carry a weapon. With his new powers he prosecuted those he suspected of the distribution of pornography.

    Comstock's ideas of what might be "obscene, lewd, or lascivious" were broad. They aroused intense support from church-based groups worried about public morals and equally intense loathing from early civil liberties groups. The term "comstockery", came to mean "censorship because of perceived obscenity or immorality" Comstock alerted the New York City police to the content of George Bernard Shaw's play Mrs. Warren's Profession. As a result of which Shaw remarked that "Comstockery is the world's standing joke at the expense of the United States. Europe likes to hear of such things. It confirms the deep-seated conviction of the Old World that America is a provincial place, a second-rate country-town civilization after all."

    Comstock scored a number of notable successes, notably

    • Against the men's journal The Days' Doings which had published popular images of Victoria Woodhull and Tennessee Claflin which Comstock considered lewd. He also took legal action against the paper for advertising contraceptives.
    • When the sisters Victoria Woodhull and Tennessee Claflin published an expose of an adulterous affair between Reverend Henry Ward Beecher and Elizabeth Tilton, he had the sisters arrested under laws forbidding the use of the postal service to distribute 'obscene material'.
    • He prevented textbooks being sent to medical students by the United States Postal Service.
    • As the self-labeled "weeder in God's garden", he arrested D. M. Bennett for publishing his "An Open Letter to Jesus Christ". Bennett was prosecuted, subjected to a widely publicized trial, and imprisoned. Comstock also entrapped the editor for mailing a free-love pamphlet.
    • Ida Craddock, was found guilty under the Comstock Act for distributing marriage manuals through the U.S. Mail, but committed suicide before on the eve of reporting to Federal prison.. Her final work was a suicide note condemning Comstock.
    • He was also involved in shutting down the Louisiana Lottery, which was the only legal lottery in the United States at the time.
    • In 1927 his organisation under John S. Sumner shut down Mae West's first starring role on Broadway, the play Sex. West spent ten days in jail as a result.

    Inthe first year alone Comstock claimed to have seized 130,000 pounds of books, 194,000 “bad” pictures, 5,500 indecent playing cards, and 3,150 pills and powders used by abortionists. Later he boasted that he had been responsible for 4,000 arrests. He claimed to have driven fifteen persons to suicide in his "fight for the young". He destroyed 15 tons of books, 284,000 pounds of plates for printing 'objectionable' books, and nearly 4,000,000 pictures.

    Saint Anthony Comstock The Village Nuisance
    The cartoon lampoons Comstock's interest in unclothed animals and undressed manequins,
    and shows him bathing fully dressed and being burned in hell by naked demons.

    The so-called "Comstock laws" (ch. 258 17 Stat. 598 enacted March 3, 1873) had prohibitted the sending of any matter through the mails which the Postal Authorities choose to call "obscene". But the target was not just pornography. It was any mention of anything that offended Christian sensibilities, from sex education to irreligious philosophy and birth control. The laws were used against, for example, book sellers who sent medical textbooks through the US mail. As Margaret Sanger put it, the Comstock laws were “designed and enforced to destroy the liberty of conscience and thought in matters of religion and against the freedom of the press.” Anthony Comstock had been Secretary and Special Agent for the Society for the Suppression of Vice since 1873 and U. S. Post Office Inspector from the same year. He recorded that he had destroyed 160 tons of literature and brought 3,760 "criminals" to "justice". The New York branch of the Society was so proud of its record of imprisoning people and burning books that it featured scenes of them on its publicity.

    John Sumner, President of The Society for the Suppression of Vice and Martin H.
    Meany, New York City Deputy Police Commissioner, supervise the burning of
    forbidden books (1935)

    Matterials considered "lewd", "indecent", "filthy", or "obscene" ander The Comstock Law of 1873 (officially known as the Federal Anti-Obscenity Act) included Aristophanes' Lysistrata, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Boccaccio's Decameron, Defoe's Moll Flanders, and various editions of The Arabian Nights. Using Christianity as its criterion of morality, U.S. Customs In 1930 seized copies of Voltaire's Candide, claiming obscenity. In 1944, the US Post Office demanded the omission of the book from a mailed Concord Books catalog.

    The Comstock laws, now largely unenforced, remain for the most part on the books today; the Telecommunications Reform Bill of 1996 even specifically applied some of them to computer networks.

    The Comstock law also forbade distribution of birth control information. In 1915, Margaret Sanger's husband was jailed for distributing her Family Limitation, which described and advocated various methods of contraception. Sanger herself had fled the country to avoid prosecution.

    Comstock fought his last battle in San Francisco, while attending the International Purity Congress. He initiated a prosecution against a San Francisco department store for dressing nude mannequins in the store window in public view. He lost the case and never recovered from the ridicule that it generated. He died in 1915.

    Because of its history, book burning is generally regarded with horror in the West. But many Christians still regard it as acceptable. After the Scopes trial in 1925, a Christian High School superintendent in Meridan, Mississippi, organised a public bonfire of pages torn from textbooks dealing with evolution. Following public burning of Salman Rushdie's book The Satanic Verses in the 1980s, an Iranian fatwah was issued calling for the killing of the author. All secular opinion concurred that this was intolerable. The only influential Western voices raised against Rushdie and in favour of censorship came from the Christian Churches.

    On the Index Librorum Prohibitorum
    Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

    Not on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum
    Books on Guns, mines, weaponry and killing
    Not considered immoral

    On the Index Librorum Prohibitorum
    The most famous French dictionary

    on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum
    Ant-semitic propaganda
    Not considered immoral

    On the Index Librorum Prohibitorum
    The most famous of all - Galileo's book on the solar system

    on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum
    Books justifying torture and judicial murder - considered highly moral and issued under papal authority

    On the Index Librorum Prohibitorum
    any book that like this one mentioned contraception, even for married couples

    on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum
    Support for capital punishment, mutilation, torture and corporal punishment - all considered moral

    On the Index Librorum Prohibitorum
    The most famous French Enlightenment Dictionary

    on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum
    Racists tracts like this one - never considered immoral by the Church for the centuries when the Index operated

    On the Index Librorum Prohibitorum
    All translations of the bible not authorised by the Roman Catholic Church

    on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum
    works onwarfare
    Warfare not considered immoral


    On theIndex Librorum Prohibitorum
    Voltaire's history of the Crusades

    on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum
    Works advocating slavery
    Not considered immoral

    On theIndex Librorum Prohibitorum
    Favourite French stories

    on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum
    Books advocating wife beating and sexist nonsense
    Not considered immoral

    On the Index Librorum Prohibitorum
    Casanova's Memoires

    on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum
    Bogus and fraudulent stories about the supernatural
    Not considered immoral

    On theIndex Librorum Prohibitorum
    Edward Gibbon - the leading historian of the English speaking world

    on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum
    Lies and misinformation about natural history
    Not considered immoral

    On the Index Librorum Prohibitorum
    All of the works of Alexandre Dumas (pere) containing love stories

    on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum
    Murderous sadistic fantasy
    Not considered immoral

    On the Index Librorum Prohibitorum
    All of the works of Alexandre Dumas (fils) containing love stories

    on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum
    Deranged religious fantasies
    Not considered immoral

    On the Index Librorum Prohibitorum
    The holy books of faiths other than Roman Catholicism

    on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum
    Discredited and dangerous Nonsense
    Not considered immoral

    On theIndex Librorum Prohibitorum
    Works by almost all of the most influential western philosophers of all time

    on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum
    Books in favour of killing
    Not considered immoral





    Further Reading


    Beisel, Nicola Kay. Imperiled innocents: Anthony Comstock and family reproduction in Victorian America. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1997.

    Miller, Neil. Banned in Boston: the Watch and Ward Society's crusade against books, burlesque, and the social evil. Boston: Beacon Press, 2010.

    Sante, Luc. Low life: lures and snares of old New York. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1991.




    Buy the Book from



    Buy the Book from
    Beyond Belief: Two Thousand (2000) Years of Bad Faith in the Christian Church
    More Books






    § English translation of the Edict of Worms by Dennis Bratcher - the text, both in Latin and English, is available on the internet

    § The Inquisitors examination of the artist included the following exchange - suggesting that the presence of a German might have been though to imply heresy, since some Germans were Protesants:

    Q: Does it seem fitting at the Last Supper of the Lord to paint buffoons, drunkards, Germans, dwarfs and similar vulgarities?

    A: No milords.

    Q: Do you not know that in Germany and in other places infected with heresy it is customary with various pictures full of scurrilousness and similar inventions to mock, vituperate, and scorn the things of the Holy Catholic Church in order to teach bad doctrines to foolish and ignorant people?

    Here is a summary of the whole incident by Haldane MacFall, A History of Painting (1911) pp 199-201

    Back again in Venice, he painted in 1573 for the convent of San Giovanni e Paolo his next great banqueting picture, the stately Christ in the House of Levi, now at the Academy in Venice. This great work was destined to put Paolo Veronese foul of the Inquisition, before which he was called to answer for irreverence, being charged with the serious indictment of heresy. He had called the painting the Lord's Last Supper, meaning thereby the last supper that Christ had shared with His host Saint Matthew, and it is significant that, after his trial, he renamed it the Feast in the House of Levi. The root of the trouble with the Inquisition was the group of detested German soldiery, and the difficulty in guessing which of the three recorded Feasts the picture intended. Paolo, in a sad state of dread, appeared before the Inquisition sitting in the Chapel of S. Teodoro on the 8th of the July of 1573, anxious to mollify the deadly Inquisitors, and knowing that his friends and admirers were in a feverish state of fear that his great career was at an end. He took the policy from the start of trying to convince his judges that what he had done had been without heretical, impious, or evil intention. It is clear, however, that the hated and dreaded tribunal of the Inquisition realised its limited powers in Venice-contenting itself with threats. At any rate, in Venice it admitted mitigating circumstances, and did not push towards the brutalities. It was probably content to frighten an artist from further daring. It knew that its every judgement and act were jealously watched by the Senate, who were only too eager to bring a charge against it of usurpation of the liberty of a Venetian subject. It was fortunately so for Paolo Veronese, for he showed nothing but weakness in his suit ; the feebleness of his defence came near to a plea of guilty. Answering his name, and giving his Galling as painter, he was asked if he guessed why he had been summoned, to which he replied that he believed it was because he ought to have painted the Magdalene instead of a dog, and would have done so but that he did not think the figure "fitting or would look well," and pleading that the irrelevant figures had been introduced for decorative effect, as was usually done by artists, as " it seemed fit that the master of such a house as that of the host of our Lord, who he had been told was both rich and great, should have such attendants." " Does it, then, appear fit to you," sternly asked his judge, " that at our Lord's Supper you should paint buffoons, drunkards, Germans, dwarfs, and the like fooleries ? " Germans as fooleries was unconscious humour which Paolo was too frightened to smile upon ; but scenting danger in a flash, he answered, fearfully, that he knew what he had done was bad, but he had the example of great painters before him, and stupidly cited the nudes in Michelangelo's Last Judgement as an excuse. It brought the wrath of his judge in a storm about him-indeed, the Inquisitor seems to have been a good critic, a sane man from his narrow point of view, and certainly a logical one-for, be it remembered, this canvas was called The Last Supper. Hotfoot came the crushing question : "Do you not know that, in such a painting as that in the Pope's chapel at Rome, drapery is not expected, disembodied spirits only being seen ; and do you dare to compare them with your buffoons, dogs ... and other absurdities? ... Do you hold that it is right or even decent to have painted your picture in such manner ?" Paolo bowed to the storm, meekly replied that he could not defend his conduct-that he had not considered all these things that were now so clearly put before him and calmly evaded all promise to change his ways. To his profound surprise, he was told that he was free, but that he must paint out the dog, paint the Magdalene in its place, and blot out the German soldiers, within three months' time. Paolo Veronese, once outside the dread Inquisition, shrugged his shoulders, breathed a sigh of relief, and never touched the picture again. He got him back airily to his painting ; and the only consequence of his dangerous adventure was a vast popularity and the increase of demand for his work. One astute thing, however, he did do-he straightway changed the name of the picture from The Last Supper to Feast in the House of Levi, craftily removing the need for the repentant Magdalene who had had no part in it, and removing any sense of irreverence from the more tragic and dramatic supper-at the same time proving how little he was concerned with the religious motive of his pictures, which were merely a peg upon which to hang a paean to the glory and splendour of Venice. "

    § The Congregation of the Index had been abolished in 1919, and responsibility for the Index was then taken back by the Congregation of the Holy Office (The Inquisition), which had controlled it up until 1571.

    §. Banned in Ireland (ed. Julia Carlson), Routledge ( London, 1990).

    §. Stuart Berg Flexner and Harold Wentworth (eds.), Dictionary of American Slang {WiT p 243}.

    §. The German bishops almost unanimously declared Hitler to be "a bastion against Bolshevism and the epidemic of obscene literature". The obscene literature they had in mind included books such as Ideal Marriage by Theodor Hendrik van de Velde, a Dutch gynaecologist. See Uta Ranke-Heinemann, Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven, p 249.

    §. Lord Cobbold, the Lord Chancellor, declined to give a licence to Rolf Hochhuth's play The Representative, unless it omitted back-projected scenes of concentration camps and gave a favourable view of the Pope's behaviour {press cutting 186 p 19}. Roman Catholics tried to ban the play around the world (Der Stellvertreter in Germany, Deputy in the US) often with success. The play exposed the Pope's failure to speak out against the Nazis.

    §. A concise account of this trial, the so-called Gay News Case, is given by Nicholas Walter, Blasphemy, Ancient and Modern, Chapter 11.

    §. "Life of Brian Ban", The Guardian, 3 rd January 1985.

    §. Robert Hewison, Monty Python the Case Against, Eyre Methuen ( London, 1981).

    §. "Biblical Love on the Screen Tempts Evangelists" Wrath", The Independent, 12 th August 1988.

    §. "The Evangelicals Marching as to War", The Independent, 20 th April 1988.

    §. "Anomalies that Vex the TV Admen and their Censors", The Independent, 9 th March 1988. {press cutting 34a}

    §. "Cardinal Attacks Fashion Feature", The Independent, 27 th April 1988.

    §. Football supporters charged with sectarian hate crime






















    •     ©    •     Further Resources     •    Link to Us    •         •    Contact     •