About a year ago, the Christian service organization Love in the Name of Christ put a statue of a kneeling Jesus on their property in Bedford County, Pennsylvania.
For whatever reason, this past July, a 14-year-old boy in the area thought it would be great idea to take pictures of Kneeling Jesus giving him a mock-blowjob. Then he put those pictures up on Facebook. Because he’s 14 and he thought everyone would find this hilarious.
Let me get this out of the way right now: This kid is an idiot. I don’t condone what he did. I don’t support it. It’s not just childish, it’s a violation of someone else’s private property. Defile your own Jesus statue however you want, but why do it to someone else’s?
Okay. That being said, let’s talk about what he was actually charged with:
The teenager’s juvenile court charge, formally titled “desecration, theft or sale of a venerated object,” is a second-degree misdemeanor in the Pennsylvania Code. The law defines desecration as “defacing, damaging, polluting or otherwise physically mistreating in a way that the actor knows will outrage the sensibilities” of people who learn of the action.
This is where things get weird. He was charged with desecrating a venerated object. But he didn’t damage it. He didn’t alter the statue in any way. He didn’t *try* to offend anyone’s sensibilities — it sounds like he just thought his Facebook friends would find it funny. So even if the law prohibits desecration, I don’t think he actually did anything illegal. Distasteful? Sure. But bad taste isn’t a crime.
The Altoona Mirror, which annoyingly put the story behind a paywall, says that this law was used against a college student in 2010. That student peed on a Nativity scene. That, to me, is actually physically mistreating a venerated object.
The overreaction seems to stem from the fact that this was a statue of Jesus rather than some random public figure.
The blogger at Foster Disbelief writes:
… this is a kid. Who took a photo. That’s it. The only damage he caused is in the minds of people who viewed the photo and lost their shit… If he would have vandalized, or damaged in anyway, the statue, then I would back up the charges… But he didn’t. He took a picture.
That is not a crime.
I have to agree. At worst, he was trespassing on private property. But that’s not what he’s getting punished for. He’s being punished for a joke. A joke that’s not particularly funny, original, or interesting to me, but a joke nonetheless.
Let his parents punish him. Let him deal with classmates calling him immature. I just don’t understand why local cops are getting involved, and I would love to see a group like the ACLU come to his defense.