Protests over plans for Jesus cartoon show

IT’S not on the air yet. It’s not shot yet. There’s no pilot yet. There might not even be a script yet.

But Comedy Central’s plan to develop an animated project about Jesus Christ has a coalition of religious and conservative leaders trying to stop the proposed TV cartoon that puts Jesus Christ in a modern-day context.

The newly formed Citizens Against Religious Bigotry (CARB) said it believes the JC series would be offensive. They accuse the Comedy Central channel of a double standard in mocking Christian figures and beliefs while recently refusing to let South Park depict the Prophet Mohammed for fear of offending Muslims.

“You don’t have to be a Christian to be offended by this,” said Brent Bozell, head of the Media Research Centre watchdog.

Comedy Central said JC is one of two dozen series it has in development. The concept is to depict Christ as a “regular guy” who moves to New York to “escape his father’s enormous shadow”.

Spokesman Tony Fox said JC is nothing more than an idea, without even a completed script. In television, only a handful of projects in development ever make it to air.

Fox said the groups should save their energy for when a decision is made about whether the series will go ahead.

Aside from Bozell’s group, the coalition also includes the Catholic League, the Parents Television Council and talk show host Michael Medved.

They said the coalition has written to 250 Comedy Central advertisers to alert them to the show and already has 93,000 petition signals against it.

Comedy Central was the target of an internet threat this spring from a Muslim group over a South Park episode that supposedly showed Mohammed in a bear costume. Like other media organisations, it resists showing a depiction of Mohammed because many Muslims consider a physical description of the prophet to be blasphemous.

Such depictions of Mohammed in other media have resulted in death threats by fundamentalist Muslims against the purveyors.

“Does that indicate that Christians then are punished because they aren’t crazy?” Medved asked. “That they get punished because their religion does not encourage threats of violence?”

Fox would not discuss Comedy Central’s response to threats of violence. The network’s programmes have not avoided the issue of some of the extreme forms of Islamic behaviour, with two South Park episodes addressing it this spring after the show’s creators were annoyed by the network’s efforts to alter their work.

The protesters said they had not encouraged any advertisers to boycott the network yet, saying they hope making the issue public would encourage Comedy Central to leave the idea on the shelf.

“I don’t think they’re going to have the guts to go ahead and do this,” said Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League.

CARB will hold its first press conference on Thursday to urge advertisers not to support the project, should it ever air.

“After we reveal the vile and offensive nature of Comedy Central’s previous characterisations of Jesus Christ, we expect these advertisers to agree wholeheartedly to end their advertising on Comedy Central,” said Bozell.

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