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Author Topic: Legal troubles of Behemoth's vocalist  (Read 593 times)

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Offline BeorningTopic starter

Legal troubles of Behemoth's vocalist
« on: June 05, 2013, 01:39:02 PM »
Out of curiosity...

A few days ago, Adam Darski (AKA Nergal), the leader / vocalist of death metal band Behemoth, was acquitted of the charge of offence to religious feelings. He was been prosecuted, as he tore a copy of the Bible apart during one of Behemoth's concerts.

A question for all of you to discuss: do you feel it's a proper verdict? Should Nergal be punished for what he has done? Would he be punished in your countries?

Offline Oniya

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Re: Legal troubles of Behemoth's vocalist
« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2013, 01:43:39 PM »
I rather doubt he would be prosecuted in the US.  He might be picketed, but there's no law against destroying books, holy or otherwise.

Offline Trieste

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Re: Legal troubles of Behemoth's vocalist
« Reply #2 on: June 05, 2013, 01:47:28 PM »
Offense to religious feelings?

That's like some 1984 thoughtcrime crap right there... yuck!

Offline Kythia

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Re: Legal troubles of Behemoth's vocalist
« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2013, 01:48:16 PM »
We (the UK) have Hate Crime legislation (as I suspect most countries do).  A few years ago (holy crap that was 2001?  Goddamnit I'm old) there was talk of extending that but comedians, correctly in my opinion, rallied against it pointing out that it would effectively criminalise jokes about religion.  It never proceeded.

I'm not a lawyer, but I don't think he would have been found guilty here.  Going out of your way to offend a group - the religious, LGBT, racial, lepers, anyone except gingers really - makes you a dick.  But I personally don't think "being a dick" should be a criminal offence and that seems to be vaguely the attitude of the UK courts, with a few notable exceptions. 

(As an aside, in this particular case I don't think Nergal was trying to offend per se, its simply a part of the genre of music he works in.  Talking generally here.)

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: Legal troubles of Behemoth's vocalist
« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2013, 01:57:32 PM »
Blasphemy, in a religious sense, is no business of the law. The last time anyone was called into court for blasphemous acts in any of the Nordic countries was, I think, in the thirties when Norwegian writer Arnulf Överland was sued for a conference talk he had been touring with, called, ironically, Christianity - the Tenth Plague of the Land. The court took exactly one day to decide that he was not guilty of blasphemy, and it effectively killed that paragraph of the code of law.  :-)

Hate Crimes against some ethnic, religious or sexual group is a different matter. Those are not about the intention to break or ridicule actual beliefs, but more about statements that really aim to encourage seeing some such group - gays, muslims, Africans, Greeks, whatever - as subhuman or so dangerous or criminally stupid that they should be killed or eliminated. It's the desired effect, or the rethorical firepower,  rather than the actual statement vs religious dogma ("the Bible is crass") that matters. If you held a speech, or published an article in a paper as its editor-in-chief, saying Christians/Muslims as a group - not just their beliefs, but they as people - are scum, they can never be bettered or taught anythng, that all you can do to save yourself is kill them - that would be hate speech according to the law and it could make you pay some serious damages. Or go to jail, if it was really serious.
« Last Edit: June 05, 2013, 02:07:49 PM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Oniya

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Re: Legal troubles of Behemoth's vocalist
« Reply #5 on: June 05, 2013, 02:04:47 PM »
I don't know that making statements against religion 'has' to be a part of death-metal any more than misogyny 'has' to be a part of rap or hip-hop.  That's kind of like saying he did it 'because all the cool kids are doing it.'

N.B., I'm not a particular fan of any of the three types of music I've mentioned, but I also don't think that behavior deserves a write-off just because it's associated with a particular genre.  Did he offend people?  Probably, and they have every right to complain and tell their friends not to buy his stuff and punish him economically.  Did he mean to?  Other than the 'all the cool kids' argument, I don't see any way of him claiming otherwise, and really no way of him saying that he didn't realize it would offend someone.  Does it rise to the level of criminality within the U.S?  Nope.

Offline BeorningTopic starter

Re: Legal troubles of Behemoth's vocalist
« Reply #6 on: June 05, 2013, 02:07:30 PM »
Quote from: Trieste
Offense to religious feelings?

That's like some 1984 thoughtcrime crap right there... yuck!

It sounds awkwardly, but it may be because I don't know English legal terms. There may be a more correct way of translating it...

On the other hand, it may well be that this particular law is simply poorly thought-up and defined. During the years, quite a few people were prosecuted here because of this law - for many different things. In theory, this particular law was introduced to prosecute people for things like mean-spirited destroying of religious objects etc. In practice, it's been used to prosecute people for various acts that were deemed offensive for the religious people.

The biggest case was, I think, the case of the artist Dorota Nieznalska. Nieznalska was prosecuted for a very controversial installation she created. A more recent case was that of a musical starlet Doda, who was prosecuted for a one-off (if stupid) comment she made during an interview (something about the authors of the Bible being on weed when writing). She was actually found guilty. Coincindentally, Doda has been Nergal's fiancee at one time...

Quote from: Kythia
(As an aside, in this particular case I don't think Nergal was trying to offend per se, its simply a part of the genre of music he works in.  Talking generally here.)

That was actually the court's reasoning that led to Nergal's acquittal: that him destroying the Bible was a form of performance art. During his earlier trial (the most recent one was an appeal trial), he was acquitted, too - this time, I think, because the judge decided that everybody who were at the concert were unlikely to be offended by such gestures.

Offline Kythia

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Re: Legal troubles of Behemoth's vocalist
« Reply #7 on: June 05, 2013, 02:11:00 PM »
I think we treat hate crimes a little differently here.  Once again, Im not a lawyer but my impression is that any act targeting a specific group that was intended to target that group is treated as a hate crime.  So ripping up the bible is intended to cause offence to a particular group and would fall under that just as much as painting a swastika on the side of a synagogue would.

Oniya - while I agree, I think the problem there is that you're asking every band to be a trailblazer.  Statements against religion don't have to be a part, but they are.  So fitting within that genre involves making those statements.  Sure, its possible not to but that's moving outside a genre, or expanding the edges of it somewhat, and not every band can do that.

Particularly in the case of Behemoth - where they were on of the first Polish Black and later Death metal bands, I don't entirely blame them for sticking rigidly to the centreground of the black metal comfort zone.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Legal troubles of Behemoth's vocalist
« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2013, 02:13:51 PM »
It sounds awkwardly, but it may be because I don't know English legal terms. There may be a more correct way of translating it...

It sounds like a 'proper' legal term (awkwardness and all! ;D ), but Trie was referencing George Orwell's novel in which you could be convicted of basically having 'incorrect thoughts'.

Offline Trieste

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Re: Legal troubles of Behemoth's vocalist
« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2013, 02:16:51 PM »
I think we treat hate crimes a little differently here.  Once again, Im not a lawyer but my impression is that any act targeting a specific group that was intended to target that group is treated as a hate crime.  So ripping up the bible is intended to cause offence to a particular group and would fall under that just as much as painting a swastika on the side of a synagogue would.

There's a fine line between the two here, and it has to do with legal ownership. INAL (maybe we need to ask some of the lawyers around in here...) but ripping up a Bible in front of a crowd at your concert/demonstration whatever - a Bible that you bought, that is your property, would probably not be considered a hate crime. Painting a hateful symbol on the side of someone else's property would probably get you prosecuted - but for vandalism. Hate crime in the US - as far as I know - is essentially prosecuted as a rider on another crime that is already being prosecuted. So you're generally not prosecuted for a hate crime, you're prosecuted for vandalism, or vandalism as a hate crime. You're prosecuted for murder, or also murder as a hate crime. So if it's not already a crime - and ripping up a Bible that belongs to you is not - then it's not likely to get you convicted of hate crimes.

At least... that's my rudimentary understanding of it. I think.

Edit:

It sounds awkwardly, but it may be because I don't know English legal terms. There may be a more correct way of translating it... *snip*
It sounds like a 'proper' legal term (awkwardness and all! ;D ), but Trie was referencing George Orwell's novel in which you could be convicted of basically having 'incorrect thoughts'.

Sorry, yes! I was making a literary reference that I forgot wouldn't necessarily be caught by everyone.  :-[ Mea culpa.
« Last Edit: June 05, 2013, 02:19:10 PM by Trieste »

Offline BeorningTopic starter

Re: Legal troubles of Behemoth's vocalist
« Reply #10 on: June 05, 2013, 02:21:24 PM »
Sorry, yes! I was making a literary reference that I forgot wouldn't necessarily be caught by everyone.  :-[ Mea culpa.

Actually, I caught it  ;)

Personally, I do think that law is controversial. Let's take the Doda situation I mentioned: did she say something dickish and stupid? Yes. But did she really deserved to be fined for it? Just like Kythia said, being a dick shouldn't really be a criminal offence...
« Last Edit: June 05, 2013, 02:24:15 PM by Beorning »

Offline Kythia

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Re: Legal troubles of Behemoth's vocalist
« Reply #11 on: June 05, 2013, 02:23:22 PM »
Ah, that makes a little more sense than our system.  We can be targeted for a few things that, if done in the abstract, isn't a crime (I seem to think the term is "Inciting Religious Hatred")  There's been an ongoing drama with a Muslim cleric -  who, granted, has been into some way more serious shit as well - but part of our attempts to boot him from the country have focused around that aspect.

So I could say "Trieste is awful and smelly and you should attack her" and that's one thing, I could also say "Trieste is Christian and you should attack her" and that's another entirely.  Ripping up your own bible if done to provoke the angry mob to attack a church would be a crime.  Though, again, I doubt that's what was happening here and the Polish courts seem to agree.

Also, fair play to the guy for being able to rip through a bible.  At least that's how I see it.  I may have to examine his muscular heretical arms more closer.  Just to see exactly how appaled I am by his toned heathen muscles, you understand.

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: Legal troubles of Behemoth's vocalist
« Reply #12 on: June 05, 2013, 02:25:44 PM »
Strong men ripping/cleaving Bibles to pieces in a matter of fifteen seconds used to be a market sideshow attraction, wasn't it?  :D (well, sometimes it may have been codes of law: they are more girthy than a bible)
« Last Edit: June 05, 2013, 02:27:42 PM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Oniya

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Re: Legal troubles of Behemoth's vocalist
« Reply #13 on: June 05, 2013, 02:27:32 PM »
Ripping up any book is easy as long as you rip along the grain (and can get past the psychological barrier of destroying a book :'(

The sideshows tended to use phone-books.

Offline BeorningTopic starter

Re: Legal troubles of Behemoth's vocalist
« Reply #14 on: June 05, 2013, 02:28:52 PM »
Also, fair play to the guy for being able to rip through a bible.  At least that's how I see it.  I may have to examine his muscular heretical arms more closer.  Just to see exactly how appaled I am by his toned heathen muscles, you understand.

Well, based on the women's opinions I know, Nergal is considered to be extremely hot...  ;)

Although the act of destroying the Bible didn't endear him to me. I'm not a fan of death metal in general... plus, I really disagree with Nergal's idea that the Bible is evil and all. I don't agree with everything that is in the Bible, but it *is* one of our civilization's cornerstones...
« Last Edit: June 05, 2013, 02:30:58 PM by Beorning »

Offline Kythia

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Re: Legal troubles of Behemoth's vocalist
« Reply #15 on: June 05, 2013, 02:30:20 PM »
Well, based on the women's opinions I know, Nergal is considered to be extremely hot...  ;)

Although the act of destroying the Bible didn't endear him to me. I'm not a fan of death metal in general...

Indeed.  I'm launching into an in depth internet search right now to try to find more images of his godless torso.

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: Legal troubles of Behemoth's vocalist
« Reply #16 on: June 05, 2013, 02:43:44 PM »
*Louise looks around for thick books, or rather books with large page numbers, just for comparison*

Local phone directory, for businesses, public sector and non-personal addresses - ca 1100 pages
The World of Music (lexicon of music) - ca 1050 pages
The Bible (latest official translation, with some appendices and comments) - ca 2000 pages
The Code of Law of Sweden (semi-official edition of important and recent law texts, used as quick reference by students and lawyers; at the library) - ca 3500 pages, tends to get thicker year by year


All of them hardcover except the phone book, whích would make it the preferred pick...

 ;)
« Last Edit: June 05, 2013, 02:49:12 PM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Oniya

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Re: Legal troubles of Behemoth's vocalist
« Reply #17 on: June 05, 2013, 02:49:16 PM »
Indeed.  I'm launching into an in depth internet search right now to try to find more images of his godless torso.

We expect results of your research, of course.  ;)


All of them hardcover except the phone book, whích would make it the preferred pick...

 ;)

*nods*  Although I did have a soft-cover Bible at one point.  The 'cheat' way is to open the book to the middle and tear the spine between the pages.  Congratulations, you've just torn a phone book in half with your bare hands!

Offline consortium11

Re: Legal troubles of Behemoth's vocalist
« Reply #18 on: June 07, 2013, 07:06:47 AM »
Without knowing the laws in question it's hard to say whether an innocent verdict was correct or not. If he technically broke the law then he is after-all guilty.

That is a different question to whether such laws should be on the books.

We (the UK) have Hate Crime legislation (as I suspect most countries do).  A few years ago (holy crap that was 2001?  Goddamnit I'm old) there was talk of extending that but comedians, correctly in my opinion, rallied against it pointing out that it would effectively criminalise jokes about religion.  It never proceeded.

I'm not a lawyer, but I don't think he would have been found guilty here.  Going out of your way to offend a group - the religious, LGBT, racial, lepers, anyone except gingers really - makes you a dick.  But I personally don't think "being a dick" should be a criminal offence and that seems to be vaguely the attitude of the UK courts, with a few notable exceptions. 

(As an aside, in this particular case I don't think Nergal was trying to offend per se, its simply a part of the genre of music he works in.  Talking generally here.)

Welcome to the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 (which was the act you mentioned originally planned for 2001), which modified the Public Order Act 1986.

In essence the act made it a crime to use threatening words and behaviour and/or display materials if they intended to stir up religious hatred, with religious hatred being "hatred against a group of persons defined by reference to religious belief or lack of religious belief".

So it's narrower than offending a religion but still can be pretty wide. Applying it to this case I can see why a Christian may view tearing up the bible as a threatening act so the actus reus (the criminal act) element is likely satisfied. The key part then becomes the mens rea (the mental element), which would be why did he tear up the bible? Was it a criticism of Christianity (which is specifically allowed by the act) or was it an attempt to make his audience hate Christianity and Christians? Without knowing more facts it's hard to say.

It might be worth noting that the Black Metal culture may actually be a negative for him rather than a positive in the UK. Rather than simply write off acts such as this as being a part of the black/death metal scene, a court is likely to consider that considering the high profile (if massively overplayed) attacks on Christians/church burnings from those in the scene that tearing up a bible at a black/death metal scene actually makes it more likely to be an attempt to stir up religious hatred.

It's also worth noting that originally the act included provisions that were far wider; in addition to "threatening" words, behaviour and materials "insulting and abusive" words, behaviour and materials would have been included and that rather than the person doing the act having to "intended" for it to stir up religious hatred it was sufficient for the words to have the possibility to doing so, regardless of the person's intentions (essentially reducing it from intention to recklessness).

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Re: Legal troubles of Behemoth's vocalist
« Reply #19 on: June 08, 2013, 01:18:14 AM »
Nergal's no Varg Vikernes.