Terror bill worries comic

Atkinson fears religious satire in jeopardy

LONDON — “Bean” star Rowan Atkinson has taken the British government to task over new legislation the comedian said could make it illegal to satirize religion.

The government unveiled a number of anti-terrorist proposals Monday — including protection for minority groups — by outlawing “incitement to religious hatred.”

But in a letter to The Times newspaper, Atkinson warned that “laws governing highly subjective or moral issues tend to drag a very fine net, and some of the most basic freedoms of speech and expression can get caught up in it.”

Atkinson said he had often parodied religious figures in his career and that the proposed new law might not tolerate the likes of Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” (1979) or “that excellent joke in ‘Not The Nine O’Clock News’ all those years ago, showing worshippers in a mosque simultaneously bowing to the ground with the voiceover: ‘And the search goes on for the Ayatollah Khomeini’s contact lens.’ ”

A number of other prominent Brits, such as satirist Mark Thomas, have seconded Atkinson’s concerns.

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