The president of Brazil’s Supreme court has overturned a ruling that TV streaming service Netflix must remove a satirical film depicting Jesus Christ as a closeted gay man and Mary and God as illicit lovers.
The Supreme Court judgement, which has been lauded by many as a reaffirmation of Brazilians’ right to free speech, overran an earlier temporary decision by Rio de Janeiro judge Benedicto Abicair who on Wednesday ruled that the “blasphemous” satire film must be removed, following a successful petition by a Brazilian Catholic organisation and backlash from Christians across the country.
In their petition, infuriated fervent Christians argued that the “honour of millions of Catholics” who makes most of the Southern America nation, was hurt by the airing of the film The First Temptation of Christ.
Brazilian YouTube comedy group Porta dos Fundos created the 46-minute Portuguese-language Christmas film.
In a highly satirical style, the comedy tells the story of Jesus Christ returning home from the desert for his 30th birthday and bringing along his flamboyant boyfriend Orlando, the walking stereotype of an effeminate gay man who implies at nearly every turn that he and the Son of God are romantically involved.
It also portrays Mary and God as illicit lovers and Joseph as a bumbling carpenter who can’t build a table.
Elsewhere in the special, sporadic events that defy the longstanding Christian traditions happens. Mary smokes a joint, Melchior hires a sex worker, and Jesus gets high off “special tea,” hallucinating himself into a meeting with Buddha, Krishna, the Rastafari god Jah and an alien deity for Scientologists.
Since its premiere on Netflix last month, the special caught fierce backlashes from religious leaders and right-wing political figures for implying that the Christ is homosexual and that his mother Mary smoked weed. It spawned multiple online campaigns that call on authorities to ban the special and criminally charge its creators with “vilification of faith.”
But Supreme Court President, Dias Toffoli, said on Thursday that Netflix should be allowed to continue streaming the show, after the streaming service filed an official complaint with the country’s top legal authority, decrying attempted censorship by Judge Benedicto Abicair who ordered the film’s withdrawal from its platform. Netflix’s lawyers argued that the judge’s decision amounts to censorship and has an impact “equivalent to that of the bomb used in the terrorist attack against the headquarters” of the comedy group on Christmas Eve.
In his verdict, Toffoli ruled Netflix was allowed to show gay Jesus film, stating that freedom of speech was fundamental in a democracy.
“One cannot suppose that a humorous satire has the ability to weaken the values of the Christian faith, whose existence is traced back more than two thousand years, and which is the belief of the majority of Brazilian citizens,” said Toffoli.
The First Temptation of Christ is still showing on Netflix, regardless of its pools of prominent critics.
Among them are Eduardo Bolsonaro, the youngest son of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right figure who has declared himself a “proud homophobe” and said he would prefer a “dead son to a gay son”, conservative evangelical pastor Marco Feliciano and The Gospel Coalition, an international collective of evangelical pastors.
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