The Supreme Court has dismissed Cardinal’s appeal associated with Oliver Frljić’s productions

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The Supreme Court has dismissed the appeal filed by Cardinal Dominik Duka and lawyer Ronald Němec in their dispute over theatres in Brno. They failed to request an apology for the infringement of their personal rights, which was allegedly caused by staging two plays at the Theatre World Brno festival. Both plays provocatively depicted a few Christian symbols and criticized the Roman Catholic Church and the Western interpretation of the Muslim world. However, the ruling says that it did not apply to the discrimination of Christians or infringement of the freedom of religion.

The Supreme Court states that if the Cardinal had wanted to express his indignation over the contents of the play, he could have actively made an appearance in public and employed the authority of his office. The resolution has been made available on the public noticeboard. “The knowledge of the contents and meaning of the plays would have been needed to have a privy and convincing role in the discussion. However, the plaintiffs do not have any,” the Court said in reference to the fact that Duka and Němec did not see the performance and criticized only some of the scenes highlighted in media.

According to the Supreme Court, it is not possible to say that the plays offended all Christians. The Court quoted the article by priest Tomáš Halík, who wrote that he did not like one of the plays, but the “goal of ‘cool theatre’ is not to appeal and entertain, but to provoke thinking”. The Court said nobody bars Duka and Němec to keep practicing their religion or critically comment on Islam in a free society.

The legal action was associated with Oliver Frljić’s “The Curse” and “Our Violence and Your Violence” staged in Brno in May 2018. The first one depicts child abuse by clergymen and includes an indication of oral sex on the statue of Pope John Paul II. The play caused uproar in Poland and Croatia. The other play critically assesses the relation of Western society to the Muslim world and features a scene when an actor descends from a cross and fakes the rape of a Muslim woman.

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the theatre before the performance of “Our Violence and Your Violence”. About 20 people interrupted the performance on the stage and they left only after the police intervened. The theatremakers finished the play with the support of audiences left.

The legal action on the National Theatre Brno, the organizer of the festival and Center for Experimental Theatre, which hosted the performances, was first dismissed by the Municipal Court in Brno. Duka and Němec were not successful in their appeal to the Regional Court in Brno. The courts in Brno emphasized the freedom of speech and artistic expression and the fact that both performances depicted the topics of grave social importance – sexual offenses by Catholic clergymen and church’s approach to their solution, as well as violence with religious context and its perception in association with the clash of Eastern and Western civilization, Christianity and Islam.

The Supreme Court also observed that the legal code guarantees freedom of religion and the right not to be offended and the freedom of speech related to shocking or disturbing ideas. When the two freedoms clash, it is necessary to determine which is more important and the courts in Brno did the right thing. Both performances pursued a specific idea and their goal was not to attack Christians. “It was not an autotelic, offending and intolerant behavior,” said the Supreme Court.

Source: České noviny
Photo: festival Divadelní svět Brno / Theater World Brno, 2018