BAI rejects ‘haunted bread’ complaints against The Rubberbandits

The Rubberbandits have accused members of the Catholic Church of orchestrating a campaign against them over comments made on the Late Late Show.

BAI rejects ‘haunted bread’ complaints against The Rubberbandits

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) rejected 11 complaints it received after one of the Rubberbandits referred to the Eucharist as “haunted bread” while appearing on the programme.

“The church printed out complaints then handed them out for people to sign in mass all over country. My 78 year old Ma was mortified,” tweeted the comedians.

The broadcast, aired on January 6, featured a panel discussion between David Chambers, also known as Blindboy Boatclub of the Rubberbandits, Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope writer Stefanie Preissner, and columnist Michael Harding.

The conversation turned to the topic of young people returning to the Church.

“I mean, anyone who I know that goes to midnight Mass, they’re not going for the haunted bread,” said Mr Chambers.

“They’re going there because their grandmother made them go, their whole family is there, you know what I mean? Everyone who goes to midnight Mass is half-cut anyway,” he said.

Complainants said the remarks were “hurtful and offensive”, “a gross mockery of something that is sacred to members of the Catholic religion”, and “crossed a line into not merely gratuitous offence but sheer nastiness, hatred, and contempt for the Roman Catholic faith and for those who sincerely profess it”.

Another said that the fact Mr Chambers apologised to Mr Harding for the remark upon learning that he was a former priest “shows that Mr Chambers knew what he had said regarding the Eucharist was offensive”.

One complainant, Fr Gerard Ahern, added 400 letters of complaint from his parishioners to his submission.

The BAI said it was “legitimate for a panellist to articulate their own personal views”.

“In this instance, his views dealt with a religious tenet which rests on a belief in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, a belief which may be difficult to reconcile for those who hold other religious beliefs or no religious belief and one which the panellist did not appear to hold,” it ruled.

The BAI also rejected complaints against Ms Preissner who likened the act of taking Communion as “cannibalism” given the representation of the Eucharist as the body of Christ.

The BAI said it did not agree that Ms Preissner was equating the Eucharist with cannibalism “as it was clear that she was describing her thoughts as a child”.

However, the BAI was critical of Ryan Tubridy’s handling of Mr Chambers’ comment. “It was the committee’s view that the presenter misjudged the offence likely to have been caused by the use of the term ‘haunted bread’ and that his comments compounded the offence caused,” said the BAI.

“While the committee did not believe that the comments or the presenter’s contributions crossed a line such that undue offence was caused to the audience as a whole, the degree of offence may have been minimised if the presenter had demonstrated greater sensitivity to the potential for offence.”

The BAI advised RTÉ “to have regard to the committee’s view in this regard”.

In its response to the criticism, RTÉ told the BAI that while the comment was provocative, “it was designed, as the comedy of the Rubberbandits generally is, to provoke thought and not to be pointlessly offensive”.

“The broadcaster states that Blindboy Boatclub’s assertion of his difficulty in coming to grips with, what are to him personally, the contradictions within some Christian beliefs, gave rise to a substantial, sincere, and thoughtful discussion of truth and belief in contemporary society, in Ireland and internationally,” the BAI noted.

RTÉ also noted that the preamble to the BAI’s Code of Standards states: “There is no right not to be offended.”

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