Catholics and Christians in Mexico have expressed outrage over Playboy’s latest cover. The shot feature a model wearing a white head covering and nothing more in front of a stained-glass window, an obvious attempt to evoke the Madonna (the original, not the singer) at the time Mexican Catholics celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Fox News was all over this story, to no one’s surprise:

I suppose I should be outraged as well, but honestly, Playboy and the rest of the porn industry stopped surprising me years ago. Their hostility towards religion has been obvious for a long time, and the new Madonna imagery is just the latest attempted insult towards people of faith. It wouldn’t even be worth of comment, except for two points that I have yet to note being made in what little debate this cover has inspired.

First, conservatives will have a tough time criticizing Playboy for using religious iconography for its own social/political commentary after the defense made of the Mohammad cartoons. While the point in the latter had more intellectual heft than a naked model showcasing her wares, the cartoonists and their supporters (myself included) had little problem with exploiting religious imagery to score political points. Freedom of speech applies in both cases, at least in the cover, which is very suggestive but shows nothing more than anyone would see on a California beach, although the tagline, “Te adoramos, Maria” is at least somewhat sacriligeous in this context as well.

That leads to the second point. Our Western traditions of free speech and open debate have allowed offended Christians to protest the publication without massive violence and threats of death. The offense in this case goes far beyond what most of the Mohammad cartoons depicted, and yet millions of Christians have not gathered in anger to threaten death and the violent imposition of a Christian theocracy. The Vatican has not issued a fatwa on Hugh Hefner’s head, and I’d be surprised if they bother to react at all.

Update: Bottom line is that it doesn’t take much courage for Playboy to insult Christians.  We’ll know they have testicular fortitude when they take Melissa Clouthier’s advice.