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Inc. v. Wilson Joseph Burstyn Commissioner of Education of New York etal.

Sacrilege And The Arts

Religion has often found its way into contemporary artistic works. Occasionally, these depictions are an artist's interpretation of an event, and hold a great deal of religious meaning. Recently, there have been increasing instances when artistic license intermingles with religious art and leads to what some view as the ridiculing of religious belief, or even presenting the holy as perverse or provocative.

Sacrilege means irreverence of a religious place, person, concept, or viewpoint. The broad term encompasses expression ranging from profanity, mockery, and scorn, to desecration of anything holy using repulsive, shocking, hostile religious imagery. No faith is immune to harsh attacks but Christianity is a prime target.

Courts struggle with legislation outlawing sacrilege. The term is vague and indefinite. What to one individual is amusement may be blasphemous mockery to another. Laws against sacrilege are frequently considered constitutionally vague since the term is so imprecise. Exactly what is prohibited can often not be distinguished.

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