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Last Updated: Monday, 10 January, 2005, 12:55 GMT
Group to act over Springer opera
David Soul as Jerry Springer
The BBC has received 900 complaints since the broadcast
A Christian group is to bring a private blasphemy prosecution against the BBC after the corporation screened Jerry Springer - The Opera on Saturday.

Prayer group Christian Voice said the hit musical was "totally offensive".

The BBC has received 900 complaints since the broadcast, with 500 people calling or e-mailing in support.

Those come after 47,000 complaints were received before transmission. But the corporation has denied BBC Two controller Roly Keating was in hiding.

The musical, which has been in London theatres for three years, features Jesus, Mary and God as guests on Springer's TV show and up to 300 swear words.

The damage that must have done to impressionable young people is incalculable
Stephen Green
Christian Voice
Christian Voice national director Stephen Green said: "If Jerry Springer - The Opera isn't blasphemous then nothing in Britain is sacred."

He said the show was "much worse" than he expected when he saw it and said it portrayed Jesus as a "coprophiliac sexual deviant". A coprophiliac is someone sexually aroused by faeces.

"[Jesus] proclaims he is a bit gay, he has this shouting match with the devil - it's just foul-mouthed tirades against the devil and against his blessed mother," Mr Green said.

"The damage that must have done to impressionable young people is incalculable."

He said his group would meet lawyers this week to begin legal action, adding he did not ask the police to undertake a blasphemy investigation because "we don't have a great deal of confidence in the ability of the police to take any action".

The BBC has defended the award-winning opera, saying: "We are pleased that a wider audience has been able to see an important piece of contemporary culture."

Protesters gathered outside BBC buildings on Friday and Saturday
In a statement, the broadcaster added that Mr Keating and "a number of BBC staff and their families" received "a large number of abusive and unpleasant calls".

"This has been reported to the police in the normal way. The calls followed the publication of their private numbers on a campaigning group's website," the BBC added.

The Metropolitan Police said they had no record of complaints about threats.

Christian Voice, who posted the phone numbers on their website, said they had nothing to do with the alleged abuse.

"We totally abhor stuff like that, it does no credit to the cause of Christ," Mr Green said. "But I was a bit naive in thinking perhaps our website would only be visited by Christians."

Hundreds of Christian protesters rallied outside BBC buildings on Saturday before and during the broadcast.

Mr Green said his group may now turn its attention to lobbying the Cambridge Theatre, London, where the stage show is currently in production.

A spokesperson for the stage show said there were "sizeable" protests outside the theatre at the weekend and they had enlisted security staff to protect the cast and audiences.

More than 1.7 million viewers watched the opera on BBC Two on Saturday.

It has been a big hit on the London stage

Springer opera draws 1.7m viewers
09 Jan 05 |  Entertainment
Springer success story continues
27 Apr 04 |  Entertainment
Springer opera set for Broadway
27 Apr 04 |  Entertainment
No action on 'gay Jesus' - police
10 Dec 04 |  Scotland
Q & A: Blasphemy law
18 Oct 04 |  UK


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