Albert Voss, a former physics teacher and avowed atheist, was convicted of blasphemy after he daubed the rear window of his car with anti-Christian slogans.
The 66-year-old drove around his home city of Münster, in western Germany, with the slogans clearly displayed. One read:
The church is looking for modern advertising ideas. I can help.
Jesus, our favorite artist: hanging for 2,000 years and he still hasn’t got cramp.
Münster is a heavily Catholic city, and an unnamed local filed a complaint with the police, who seized Mr Voss’ car and suspended his driving license.
The former teacher argued the anti-Christian messages were protected by his right to free expression. But the court ruled the slogans amounted to defamation of religion and had broken Germany’s blasphemy laws.
He was told by the judge:
You should have known that what you did is a criminal offence. The Pope and the cross are central elements of the Catholic faith. I do not consider this art. Freedom of expression is limited by the law.
I come from a Christian home, I was an altar boy. Later I realised faith rests on dubious foundations.
Under German law, blasphemy is only illegal if it is considered to be “capable of disturbing the peace”.
Those found guilty can be sentenced to up to three years in prison, but the law is rarely enforced.
People can be convicted of blasphemy for defaming any religion. In 2006, a man was given a one-year suspended sentence for g distributing sheets of toilet paper with the word “Koran” printed on them.
Hat tip: Peter Sykes (Russian report)