Bible used to justify leniency towards a violent criminal

Bible used to justify leniency towards a violent criminal October 25, 2017

Back in 2015, an unnamed man in Portugal was given a 15-month suspended sentence and a fine of 1,750 euros (around £1,5002)  for using a bat spiked with nails to assault his ex-wife, leaving her covered in cuts and bruises.
The prosecutor, according to this report, had argued the sentence was too lenient and asked an appeals court for prison time of three-and-half years.
But earlier this month the judges rejected the appeal. In their written ruling, they judges expressed “some understanding” for the attacker, saying a woman’s adultery is:

A very serious offence against a man’s honour and dignity.

They noted the Bible says an adulterous woman should be punished by death and also cited a 1886 Portuguese law that gave only symbolic sentences to men who killed their wives for suspected adultery.
The judges at the appeals court in Porto, Portugal’s second-largest city, wrote that they were making reference to the Bible and an old law:

To stress that a woman’s adultery amounts to conduct which society has always condemned and condemned very strongly.

The ruling became public this week and sparked outrage on Portuguese social media, with numerous rights groups speaking out.
One of them, the Women’s Alternative and Response Union, described the ruling as “inadmissible” because it legitimised violence against women and blamed the victim. It said the separation of powers in Portugal means there is no place for the Bible in courtrooms.

The group planned street protests for Friday.
Portugal’s Superior Magistrates Council, an oversight body, said it had taken note of the “vivid criticism from broad sections of public opinion” but said courts are independent and it could not intervene, even when faced with “archaic, inappropriate or unfortunate” comments by judges.
The victim of the attack could appeal to Portugal’s higher courts.

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  • Broga

    “They noted the Bible says an adulterous woman should be punished by death …”
    If it didn’t happen it would be incredible that the bible, that repository of savagery, could be regarded seriously by anyone. The bible may be a guide for irredeemable violent psychopaths, but it has no place in supposedly civilised societies. The grisly outcome of believing the bible, and acting on its guidance, is suffering and death for so many who are helpless.
    We may now hear from “a person of faith”, as they occasionally stray into this parish, justifying “the word of God.”

  • barriejohn

    Broga: I think we are all aware of at least two “persons of faith” who think that physical violence is perfectly acceptable as a way of making one’s feelings known, especially within the family!

  • Graham Martin-Royle

    I have no doubts at all that those christians who would support this, rely on the bible to mete out punishment, are also those who most vociferously condemn the likes of isis for relying on their book to justify their punishments.

  • AgentCormac

    Imagine the outcry from persecuted xtians if spurious ancient laws were used to justify them being beaten with sticks and nails. The Daily Hate Mail would no doubt publish a vitriol-saturated ‘yours to keep’ pull-out supplement on the subject.

  • David Anderson

    Well, obviously the judges have no honour or dignity so I guess they must all be cuckolds.

  • L.Long

    “They noted the Bible says an adulterous woman should be punished by death …” BUT But but…jesus replaced the old testament!?!?! OH! Right! I forgot jesus replaced the parts they don’t want. Thus xtians again show that they are really no different than isLame!!

  • 1859

    So how would these Portuguese worthies punish a man for adultery? Would a woman receive a suspended sentence for beating her adulterous husband with a stick spiked with six inch nails?
    I’m surprised the judges didn’t refer to ‘Der Hexenhammer’ – a wonderful guidebook used by the Inquisition to decide if a woman was a witch. Among the many scientific ‘tests’ was, if a wife failed to arouse her husband’s member, this was proof she was a witch and could be legally burned. There were many more such ‘proofs’ – milk turning sour was another favourite.

  • gedediah

    Portugal is a member of the European Union. How can they get away with such barbarism? Guess well have to wait to see what the appeals court decides.

  • In John 8 we read of Jesus and the adulteress. A woman caught committing adultery is brought to Jesus to see if he will endorse the death penalty laid down by God which is death by stoning. Even if Jesus did save her, it would not imply opposition to the death penalty if her accusers were trying to trap him by making out he opposed the law.
    He says that the person there who does not deserve what she deserves may lift the first stone. Jesus supposedly protected her by getting the accusers not to stone her. Jesus did not protect the woman. The protection just happened. It was pure luck that the men did not lift up stones and say they were not sinners so they were entitled to. He merely makes the accusers realise that they deserve stoning as much as she does so they walk away. The most natural idea is that the accusers were also guilty of adultery. If so, then the story is not against stoning a woman to death but against selectively stoning people to death. The law of Moses recognised that everybody sins. Those men did not just commit ordinary sins and must have deserved stoning themselves and they had the honesty to walk away. The sin Jesus refers to is definitely capital sin – sin that asks for and deserves a cruel execution.
    He does not tell her he forgave her but that he will not stone her. He could not stone her himself anyway. Nor could he lift the first stone when the others deserved stoning as well for they would be joining in.
    He tells her not to sin that way any more. Jesus did not ask the woman to repent of her sin but to avoid it. The context shows he meant she was lucky this time and would hopefully be stoned if she committed adultery again.
    The story is distorted by many as a protest against the death penalty. Jesus said, “If you want her stoned then fine but find somebody worthy to do so.”

  • StephenJP

    Patrick, it’s not a bad story, but it’s almost certainly made up. Many experts (I’m not one myself, I hasten to add) think it is a later interpolation. Even if it isn’t, John’s Gospel was written at least 60 years after the events it purports to describe. It is hugely unlikely that the story preserves something that actually happened.
    The interesting question is why it was thought worthwhile inventing. Could it be that it was felt necessary to emphasise that Jesus wanted to undermine the Mosaic dogmas (rather than “fulfil the laws and the prophets” as earlier Gospel passages have it?) Dunno; but as I say, I’m not an expert.
    Whatever: there is no justification whatever for using primitive religious texts to justify the ill-treatment of other people under any circumstances.