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Spain still doesn’t understand the separation of Church and State

Comedian Leo Bassi is facing legal charges for performing a show that made fun of the Pope and Catholic Church. His provocative pranks have once again brought out the ugly side of Spanish justice and the wrath of the far right.


Pedophile priests who will never see the inside of a court, child robbers at large, unpunished crimes from the Franco era, corrupt politicians at all levels and in most parties, a banking system in cahoots with construction companies that has dragged the economy into ruin… Meanwhile a provincial court in Valladolid, seemingly unaware of the Spanish Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of expression nearly four decades after the death of the dictator, has hauled comedian Leo Bassi up before a judge to answer charges of “offending religious feelings, slander, and libel.”

The Italian-born actor and comedian, noted, it might be safely said, for his love of political controversy, gave a show at Valladolid University on October 6, 2010, during which he imitated the Pope, blessed condoms, and distributed them to the audience.

“In reality, this was a conference about the fraudulent assertion that the roots of Western culture lie in the Judeo-Christian tradition. I entered the hall dressed at the Pope, and explained that Ratzinger was changing his mind about condoms,” Bassi said at a recent news conference. “I told the audience that a bomb had been planted at the theater where I had last done this. I wanted to illustrate what the far right is prepared to do.”

Bassi soon had an example of how far the far right is prepared to go: the charges have been brought by the Association of Christian Lawyers and other Catholic Church fringe groups deeply concerned about the truth. They say they warned the rector of the university, Marcos Sacristán—who also faces charges—,that Bassi’s conference could “involve crimes that are clearly detailed in the Penal Code.”

The judge overseeing the case believes that there may be grounds for a prosecution, and has called Bassi to testify. On the basis of that testimony, she will decide whether to proceed with charges. Needless to say, in a country with no Freedom of Information Act, she is not required to tell anybody exactly which laws Bassi might have broken.

If the judge is unwise enough to admit proceedings she and the Spanish judicial system will simply provide Bassi with an opportunity to garner international attention and highlight this country’s disturbing refusal to grasp the concept of separation of Church and State.

“The far right is making a comeback,” said the comedian. “It no longer has any fear.” Readers may remember that judge Baltasar Garzón lost his job after a far-right group brought charges against him for trying to investigate repression during the Franco era.

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Published: Mar 30 2011
Category: Iberoblog
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
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2 Comments for “Spain still doesn’t understand the separation of Church and State”

  1. que tienen que ver , bassi (bufón) Garzón (jeta) y la Iglesia? macho llevarás 20 años viviendo en España pero sigues pensando como un inglés pro leyenda negra…las leyes están para cumplirlas y cuando muchos no estamos de acuerdo las cambiamos… los tres anteriores la han vulnerado,

  2. Is “Offending religious feelings” a crime in Spain? And what happens when the Church offends my atheist feelings? I feel offended when they worship a statue, or when they claim that their their God is the only god, and all the others, except theirs, don’t exist. Well I know, if I don’t want to be offended, I just don’t attend their offensive Sunday shows. But if they are offended by this show, why do they go there and watch it? Holy Shit!!

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