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English: A night sight of the Notre Dame de Pa...
English: A night sight of the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral on the Île de la Cité island in Paris, France. Français : Vue nocturne de la Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris sur l’Île de la Cité à Paris (France). Tiếng Việt: Nhà thờ Đức Bà Paris trên đảo Île de la Cité. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, Friday 13 September 2013 nine women go on trial in a Paris court on charges of damaging the Notre Dame Cathedral (Our Lady’s to the English only speakers among us) earlier this year.

The 9 from the topless women’s activist movement called Femen had alerted news and media agencies of their impending protest on 12 February 2013. They hid themselves in the lines of tourists entering the Cathedral, revealed themselves and perched on the bases of 3 newly temporarily installed bells. They threw off their tops (probably a clue in the description as topless women) and banged the bells with wooden sticks.

Their chests and backs were daubed with the messages No Homophobes and Bye Bye Benedict. Of course the protest was about the resignation of the Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI and coincided with the debate of same-sex  marriages in the French Legislature at the time. Admittedly the same-sex marriage law was passed later that same day.

As the Femen were forcibly ejected they chanted “in gays we trust” and during the ejection by the Police one of the Femen suffered a broken tooth.

Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe, himself openly homosexual said he was sad about “an act which caricatures the beautiful struggle for gender equality“. French Minister of the Interior Manual Valls expressed dismay of the “unnecessary provocation”.

The women are charged with causing damage to a place of worship.

The Ukranian activist group has described the accusations as “nothing more than a trial of the church to punish us for blasphemy” and likened it to a Catholic “witch hunt”. A lawyer for Femen, Patrick Klugman, has denounced what he calls an “artificial procedure” and said his clients have no idea if the charges carry just a fine or a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

I’m no Roman Catholic sympathizer (although I’m more concerned about their twisting of the original teachings where Jesus said he had come to re-state the law NOT make new law, and that he was the son of man NOT G-d, no trinity arrangements were mentioned, than their stance on homosexuality and women’s rights which are frankly objectionable but unlikely to change any time soon) but there are some battles where the battle ground is best considered before action taken. I have every sympathy for Femen and their objectives, just not the setting.

Banging a bell and running about bare chested is hardly damage to a place of worship (or any other place for that matter) so I think the French have got their priorities a little mixed-up but the women have picked the wrong place to make a point. It might well be a tourist attraction but its still a church and the clergy are still well and truly stuck in the middle ages as far as equality is concerned.


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