There’s more fallout for funnyman Bill Maher.
Students at the University of California at Berkeley have launched an online petition asking the school to rescind its offer to the host of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” to deliver the fall commencement address, citing comments critical to religion.
Maher, who was raised Catholic, is an outspoken atheist and has recently come under fire for comments criticizing Islam.
Calling Maher “a blatant bigot and racist” on a change.org petition, Khwaja Ahmed, a student at UC Berkeley and member of the Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian Coalition, writes “Bill Maher’s public statements on various religions and cultures are offensive and his dangerous rhetoric has found its way into our campus communities.”
The petition has collected more than 2,400 signatures, and calls on students, faculty, and staff “to boycott the decision to invite Bill Maher as a commencement speaker at the UC Berkeley Fall 2014 Commencement Ceremony.”
Marium Navid, a member of UC Berkeley’s student government, told the San Jose Mercury News that the university should not amplify Maher’s views.
“People say he has the right to freedom of speech, and I agree with that,” she said. “The problem is that when you bring him to the university, you’re pretty much putting him into a privileged position. You’re raising his voice.”
Earlier this month, Maher verbally sparred with actor Ben Affleck on Real Time with Bill Maher, about radical Islam, calling it “the only religion that acts like the mafia, that will f–king kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture or write the wrong book.” Affleck called the host’s comments “gross and racist.”
The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights tracks on its website comments made by Maher that it considers hostile to Catholicism, including several jokes about clergy sexual abuse.
“This is World Youth Day for the Catholic Church. I mean this is a big jamboree. Look at that! This is where all the kids in the world get together with priests. What could go wrong?” Maher asked last July.
The UC Berkeley petition did not address comments about Catholicism directly, but highlighted some of the host’s thoughts about religion.
“Religions are maintained by people. People who can’t get laid, because sex is the first great earthly pleasure. But if you can’t get that, power is a pretty good second one. And that’s what religion gives to people. Power. Power is sex for people who can’t get or don’t want or aren’t any good at sex itself,” it quotes Maher as saying.
It also points to comments disparaging women and the mentally handicapped, whom he compared to dogs.
Maher produced and starred in the 2008 documentary Religulous, questioning sacred tenets of various world religions. The film brought in more than $13 million at the box office.
According to the Daily Californian, the fall commencement takes place Dec. 20.