27 August 2006
When Blessing Yourself IS a Crime
I rarely comment on sporting matters but this sorry little tale in today’s Observer could not pass me by.
Glasgow Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc was given a formal caution by police after being accused of inciting violence. His crime: blessing himself during an “Old Firm” game against Glasgow Rangers, a fixture once described as Time Magazine as “90 minutes of sheer hatred”
The decision has provoked a strong reaction, with politicians and church leaders. Catholic Church spokesman Peter Kearney said “It is extremely regrettable that Scotland seems to have made itself one of the few countries in the world where this simple religious gesture is considered an offence.” Scottish Nationalist leader Alex Salmond said 'The procurator fiscal and the Crown Office are acting in a way that will inflame rather than reduce religious antagonism,' he said.
The Crown Office said a caution was issued as an alternative to prosecution. A spokesman said that as Boruc made the gesture before a crowd in the charged atmosphere of an Old Firm game it constituted a breach of the peace and had 'provoked alarm'.
Neither club has commented on the cautioning, but Eddie Toner, a former general secretary of the Celtic Supporters Association, claimed that the club 'hung Boruc out to dry'. Stephen Smith, spokesman for the Rangers Supporters group, added: 'Professional footballers are meant to set an example. What he did was deliberately provocative and completely done to wind up the fans.'
At times it feels that sectarianism is still alive and spitting in the West of Scotland. Support for Rangers and Celtic is historically on religious lines – Rangers for Protestants, Celtic for Catholics. As a result some gestures others might take for granted assume major significance. While playing for Rangers Paul Gascoigne faced disciplinary action in the late 90s for appearing to play a flute – The flute was a reference to Orange Order fife and drum bands. Edinburgh teams Hearts and Hibernians and Liverpool’s Liverpool FC and Everton were also supported on sectarian lines.
As a Catholic turned agnostic (I am just too lazy to be an atheist!) the idea that making the sign of the cross or appearing to play a flute can be offensive in this day and age is just plain stupid, the hell with the back story.
An anonymous persn left this comment whixh indicates that there was more to this story after all:
Corrections and clarifications
Wednesday September 6, 2006
In two articles in the Sport section we incorrectly asserted that the Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc had been cautioned by the Crown Office for "crossing himself" (page 7, August 31), or "blessing himself" (page 5, September 2) during a game against Rangers on February 12. We failed to note that the Crown Office had been at pains to point out that Boruc was cautioned not about "blessing himself" but about other alleged gestures towards the crowd. He was cautioned after the procurator fiscal, having reviewed all the circumstances, decided that criminal proceedings were not necessary. The letter to Boruc from the procurator fiscal made no mention whatsoever of the act of blessing himself.