Muslim cartoon controversy prompts SBS reversal on South Park

SBS TV has "deferred" an episode of the cartoon series South Park that caused outrage in church circles in the US and New Zealand.

Dubbed "Bloody Mary", the episode features a statue of the Virgin Mary that bleeds "out her ass".

It was screened in the US before Christmas, and its scheduling in New Zealand has caused heated controversy in New Zealand.

The Australian reports that the statue sprays blood over everyone who walks behind it, including Stan's father Randy, who declares it a miracle as it stops him drinking. Pope Benedict XVI turns up to investigate and is also sprayed.

In the US, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights was outraged and called for the episode to be scrapped. It was not run in the season end wrap-up.

Melbourne's Archbishop Denis Hart recently wrote to SBS and asked that they not screen the episode, scheduled for 6 March. According to The Diary in the Media section of today's Australian, he received an unpleasant reply from the network's programming director Matt Campbell, "telling him to mind his own business".

But, The Australian's columnist D.D. McNicoll says, "someone clearly overruled Campbell".

"When Diary called yesterday to check what was happening, Campbell replied: 'Given the current worldwide controversy over cartoons of religious figures, we've decided to defer this program and give some more thought to its scheduling. It's an entertainment program so timing of broadcast is not a critical issue as it might be if it were news and current affairs.'"

Meanwhile the Sunday News in New Zealand reported that the country's religious leaders "have banded together in a bid to stop a shocking episode of South Park screening on the music channel C4".

Ten church leaders, from the president of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops' Conference to the president of the Council of Christians and Muslims, have pleaded with C4 owners CanWest for the episode to be dropped.

But defiant C4 bosses said the show would run as planned on 10 May.

SBS parks cartoon episode (The Australian 16/2/06)
South Park controversy continues (stuff.co.nz 13/2/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
South Park (SBS)
South Park: Bloody Mary (tv.com)

Bishops' president blasts South Park episode (CathNews 21/12/05)
Complaints body OKs South Park's "Red Hot Catholic Love" (CathNews 12/12/03)
'South Park' episode upsets Catholic civil rights group (CathNews 15/7/02)

Religious leaders want South Park episode banned (stuff.co.nz 30/1/06)
Bishops' president blasts 'South Park' episode lampooning Mary (The Universe 20/12/05)

16 Feb 2006