NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There is a controversy brewing in Morningside Heights over renaming a street in honor of the late comedian George Carlin. The local Catholic priest says it dishonors his church.
The late Carlin was a thinking man’s comedian and so some here where he grew up think it’s fitting to rename a stretch of 121st Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam, in his honor.
However, the pastor at the Catholic church and school Carlin attended says otherwise, reports CBS 2’s John Metaxas.
“Certainly he made his early work a mockery of this particular place — certainly a lot of people by name,” said Pastor Raymond Rafferty of Corpus Christi Church.
Rafferty said he does not want his school children, who would read Carlin’s name on a street sign directly across the street, to be exposed to his often profane brand of humor.
“He also was an extremely vulgar person,” Rafferty said.
Carlin’s 1972 monologue “Seven dirty words you can never say on television” set new standards.
Not only did Carlin’s seven dirty words make comedy history, they made legal history.
Broadcast in 1973 by New York radio station WBAI, the routine made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which in 1978 effectively established the regulation of indecency in American broadcasting.
Indecent or not, many here say Carlin deserves the honor.
“George Carlin in another way spoke with an angry but very precise voice,” graduate student Rosalind Gnatt said.
“God always said you have free will. So George had some free will — voiced his opinion,” educator Tom Gilmore added.
“If overall he did more good than not good, then I see no harm in having a street named after him,” education administrator Fred Schnur said.
Rafferty is not having it.
“My response to that? It would be fine, but not on this street,” he said.
Rafferty said putting it here would be a slap in the face of the church.
The community board promises not to make a decision on renaming the street until it officially hears the church’s position in a public meeting.
Do you think the pastor has a point? Or is he over-reacting? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.