And that is probably the best example of how this country tries to do away with religion in its institutions, while kow-towing to religion time and time again. Something which many people in Spain wish did not happen.
The best example of this is the recent controversy an atheist group has presented Madrid’s (Socialist) Government Representative in the city. A group known as AMAL - Asociación Madrileña de Ateos y Librepensadores (Madrid association of atheists and freethinkers)-, requested permission from the Town Hall to stage a public demonstration in favor of atheism on Maudy Thursday.
The problem is that on that very day, Madrid, and most of Spain, is deep in the midst of Easter Week, with daily processions of religious figures, Saints, Virgins and crucified images of Christ, which the faithful congregate on the streets to see.
Of course, Spain 2011 is not the same as Spain 1911. These days, many people, even many religious people, are not entirely sure that the Church should be given such a free hand when it comes to public spaces, and Easter, or Holy Week as it is known, can certainly be a nuisance for many people since it entails increased levels of noise, public crowds, traffic cuts and delays, etc.
But that is not exactly the point of the demonstration. It had more to do with an incipient, yet eternal, movement towards atheism.
The Government’s regional representative argued up to 11 reasons for which it denied the demonstration (stated below) which it quickly called “an atheist procession”, alluding to an anti-religious sentiment and the intention of AMAL to promote its “atheist ideology”.
It is worth noting that AMAL is a group from the neighborhood of Lavapies, which is a small melting pot of different nationalities in Madrid.
In fact, it would be fair to say that about half the population of Lavapies is not of Christian origin, coming as many of them do from places like North Africa or the Indian subcontinent, although no religious group asked for this demonstration, quite the opposite.
However, it seems like they had no time to do this since they are being sued by 10 citizens -7 of them lawyers- on the grounds of "religious derision".
The fact that "religious derision" can be counted as a punishable crime in Spain has many people in the country up in arms.
Furthermore, they are also being sued by a Christian Lawyers Association for “extolling terrorism” and an NGO (HazteOir.org ) for “genocide” –it seems AMAL allegedly used pre civil war arguments for their demonstration and maybe “justified” their actions by so doing, and thus allegedly broke a law on Spain’s Penal Code, (unfortunately, a lot of priests and nuns were killed before the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39 and it is against the law to justify or deny their deaths) which forbids “The diffusion by any means of ideas or doctrines which deny or justify the crimes of genocide… or pretend the rehabilitation of regimes or institutions which shelter any practises which generate said crimes”.
Madrid’s Government Representative has denied the petition on these grounds:
- The procession’s (sic) route “curiously” presents names related to catholic symbology
- The chosen date: Maudy Thursday
- The chosen time coincides with that of various Catholic processions
- It takes place in a zone with various parish churches
- The content of the group’s posters and public declarations
- It coincides with the route taken by Catholic processions “well-known for years”
- The presence of radical and antagonistic groups
- Massive public affluence and the need to protect Madrid’s touristic image
- The enclave is of a very high artistic and historical value
-The Police, Town Hall, the Public Defender’s Office, and the Government’s representative coincide in that it should not take place
However, it remains to be seen if nothing beyond the religious processions will take place.
Many in Spain see this as another example of their non-denominational Government bowing to religious pressure and as a victory for the Catholic Church, an institution which in Spain, surprisingly, has of late been playing the victim continuously, especially since the Socialists came into power in 2004.