The Italian Almanac


Public Prophanity

A small northern Italian town has banned profanity after a local priest complained he was hearing too many oaths against God. "We live in a Catholic country and we want a certain decorum to be kept in places of worship and leisure," said the mayor, Valerio Moro.

The ban in Brignano Gera d'Adda near Bergamo does not just cover blasphemous swearing in church or in bars. The town council, in fact, has passed an ordnance prohibiting profanity "in all commercial and business activities, public and private". It condemns anyone "of any religion, ethnicity and provenance" whose swearing imprecates against God or other religious figures like the Madonna.

Visitors to overwhelmingly Catholic Italy are sometimes surprised at the level of casual public profanity. It was a misdemeanour felony until 1999, although the law was hardly ever enforced. There have been efforts to stamp out religious imprecations in Italian soccer too with players getting cards for using swearwords with the words 'God' or 'Madonna'.