After a year of scandals in which celebrities such as Mel Gibson, Don Imus, and Isaiah Washington have reminded us that fame does not cancel out bigotry, Kathy Griffin last week became the latest public figure to make such headlines with her Creative Arts Emmy acceptance speech. Referring to the tendency of some of her colleagues to invoke divine sanction for their success, she said, among other things, that “no one had less to do with this award than Jesus.” Her remarks were censored on the telecast, and at least one Christian public figure has since implied on CNN that her words were more offensive than Imus’ racist comments about the Rutgers basketball players, or Washington’s homophobic remarks about Grey’s Anatomy co-star T.R. Knight. The questionable logic that led to this assertion is that “85% of Americans believe in Jesus,” while only a minority are black, and a much smaller number are gay. First of all, the suggestion that only the groups who are targeted in dehumanising rhetoric should be offended by them is absurd — of course you don’t have to be the victim of prejudice to be offended by it. It’s understandable that people get offended when the names of religious figures are used in a derogatory fashion. It is also true to say that today it is more publicly acceptable to criticize Christianity than most other faiths. And sometimes it may be appropriate to protest this.
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