Dan Gainor reports to me that the Norwegian paper Aftenposten noted that a "comedian" named Otto Jespersen took to his TV show to burn pages of the Old Testament, and riots did not ensue:
The burly, middle-aged Norwegian seems to have a thing for fires: He's perhaps best known for an American flag-burning stunt on national TV three years ago, to protest the US-led invasion of Iraq.
This week, with the help of the local fire brigade, Jespersen lit a bonfire in front of Ålesund's city hall. With cameras rolling for his TV show "Rikets Røst," Jespersen first started burning some Norwegian books. Then, with the willing cooperation of Ålesund Mayor Arve Tonning, he threw paper money on the flames.
Tonning went along with the stunt to tease local residents known for their business sense and knack for making money. But then Jespersen ripped out several pages from the Bible's Old Testament and threw them on the fire. Tonning didn't like that and said he tried to stop Jespersen, but was ignored.
"I protested strongly and said I wouldn't go along with it," Tonning told newspaper VG. "But that guy (Jespersen) isn't easy to stop."
Odd Bondevik, the conservative local bishop, was also disgusted by Jespersen's stunt. "We've just been through a process in Norway about trying to understand how important it is to hold some things holy," said Bondevik, referring to the recent uproar over the publication of cartoons offensive to Muslims. "Otto Jespersen has lost respect for the holy with such an offense."
Bondevik said he won't pursue the matter, but hopes Jespersen's channel, TV2, will show "editorial responsibility" in the matter.