popegaybillboardApparently not in New Zealand, where the Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that a four-and-a-half story billboard depicting Pope Benedict XVI blessing the marriage of a male couple “is unlikely to cause widespread offence.”

The billboard was put up in December in central Auckland and Wellington by an electric company, Powershop, to show support for a same-sex marriage bill before the legislature.

Contrast that outcome with the decision last spring by the outre’ outfitter Benetton to end its controversial UNHATE campaign ad showing a photoshopped image of the pope smooching a prominent Egyptian sheikh. The Vatican had sued Benetton, which is known for provocative ads, and the clothier “publicly recognized it had hurt the faithful’s sensitivity,” and that “the pope’s image must be respected and can only be used with the prior authorization of the Holy See.”

I’m still not clear whether it was blasphemy or copyright fears that prompted Benetton’s reversal. Or maybe a boycott risk.

What is the best course of action in these cases? I hate censorship. But there are plenty of over-the-top depictions of scantily-clad young people that make me wince, given that I have a young daughter. Are religious sensibilities any different? And what if the community is in fact not offended, as was the case in New Zealand? How far do we go to protect the feelings of a minority community? And would you apply the same standard for communities not your own — like Muslims?

Maybe the chief lesson of this story is that New Zealanders are not Italians. Didn’t we know that?

H/T: Catholic World News

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