St Peter cleared of 'blasphemy'

2010-06-21 14:04

Cape Town - St Peter was expressing his feelings, not swearing or blaspheming, when he urged Jesus not to "fuck around" in a golf game, the office of the press ombudsman ruled on Monday.

The ruling followed a complaint by a member of the public against an article in the March edition of the Sports Illustrated magazine, about the pursuit of sporting perfection.

Deputy ombudsman Johan Retief said the article included a joke about St Peter and Jesus playing golf in heaven.

He said the joke went that when Jesus hooked his first tee-shot, an angel guided the ball back into play, the dove of peace caught the ball in its beak and dropped it on the green, from where the holy spirit blew the ball into the hole.

"So St Peter said to Jesus: 'Do you wanna play golf or do you wanna fuck around?'"

Retief said the complainant, André Williams, maintained the article went too far by telling a joke about Jesus, and that the word "fuck" was a swearword that amounted to blasphemy.

Williams had asked what would happen if the names of St Peter and Jesus were replaced with Muhammad and Allah.

However Retief said that in the joke, St Peter felt done in, and that Jesus was not playing fair.

"The phrase 'fuck around' is used to express this feeling, and does not as such amount to swearing. 'Fuck you' would have been swearing."

"Although it can be said that the use of the phrase 'fuck around' constitutes bad taste, it does not, by definition, amount to a breach of the Press Code."

He also said the context of the joke in the story - that technology could turn sport into a joke in its pursuit of perfection - was of vital importance.

The fact that the joke had been published many times all over the world indicated a moral climate that tolerated it.

The question of what would happen if the names were replaced with Muhammad and Allah was hypothetical as each case had to be considered on its own merits.

Retief dismissed the complaint.