The artist faces up to 12 years in prison after his punk rock rendition of the Lord’s Prayer went viral.
A drag queen in the Philippines was arrested after her recitation of the Lord’s Prayer while dressed in an outfit resembling Jesus Christ sparked outrage in the predominantly Catholic country.
Amadeus Fernando Pagente, who plays the role of Pura Luka Vega, was arrested Wednesday in connection with their June performance at Manila Pride of Ama Namin, a punk rock version of the Lord’s Prayer.
The video later went viral and was condemned by a number of religious figures as well as lawmakers. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines called the spectacle “blasphemous” and disrespectful to the Church.
The Philippine Jesus Movement and other Christian groups have meanwhile filed a criminal complaint and the artist has been declared “persona non grata” in 17 regions across the country, including Manila and the southern city of Cebu.
Vega, 33, was accused of violating a law that prohibits “indecent or immoral plays, scenes, acts or performances” that “offend any race or religion.” The charges carry a prison sentence of up to 12 years, as well as possible fines.
“Vega’s performance may offend some, but it constitutes expression protected by international human rights law,” said Ryan Thoreson, specialist in Human Rights Watch’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights program. , in a press release. “Freedom of expression includes artistic expressions that offend, satirize, or challenge religious beliefs. »
Amid outcry over the video in July, Vega defended himself on X, formerly known as Twitter, saying the performance was their way of praising God.
“I understand that people call my performance blasphemous, offensive, or regrettable,” Vega wrote. “However, they shouldn’t tell me how I practice my faith or how I do drag. This performance wasn’t for you at first. This is my experience and expression of being disenfranchised.
Speaking to the AFP news agency after their arrest, Vega said they had “done nothing wrong” and that their arrest highlighted “the level of homophobia” in the Philippines.
Thoreson said the charges should be dropped and Vega released.
After Vega’s arrest, the hashtag #FreePuraLukaVega became the top trending topic on X in the Philippines.
Nearly 80 percent of the Philippines’ population is Catholic and the country remains deeply conservative, with divorce, abortion and same-sex marriage all banned.