Friday, 26 August 2011
AN INTERESTING LETTER
24th August 2007
Dr Williams. Most Rev. and Right Honourable the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury
Copies: As per attached list
Dear Dr Williams,
Re: The Court of Arches Judgement of 31st July 2007 and the Policy of Church of England relating to the installation of mobile phone masts in church premises
I wrote to you on the 8th February 2007 relating to the Church of England’s policy, set out by the Archbishops’ Council in 2002, providing a model licence for churches to adopt, for the installation of mobile phone masts on their premises. The reply that I received stated that no comment could be made, because at that time the matter was sub judice. This is no longer the case, following the recent decision of the Court of Arches.
As the respondent in the Court of Arches appeal, I can only say that having read the judgement, it is my respectful opinion that it is fundamentally flawed both in law and in principle. I do not mean to appear discourteous, however this is an important issue and one where errors need to be rectified at the earliest possible opportunity. The judgement has clearly set a precedent, which opens a legal gateway for the Church of England to become involved in the distribution of pornography and also the distribution of child abuse images for indirect financial gain.
I have a single request that is made at the end of this letter. However, firstly I shall explain why the judgement of the Court of Arches is flawed. I present these flaws under 6 sub-headings as follows:
1. The Judgement is contrary to the Law of this Country and Ecclesiastical Law
Within the submissions that were made to the court and during the hearing itself, clear arguments were made by the respondent which demonstrated that it is wrong in law for a Church of England church to gain financially from being involved in the pornography industry and also that it is wrong in law for it to be involved in the child abuse image industry.
The Bible states clearly in St Pauls letter to the Ephesians Chapter 5 verses 3 – 4 that,
“among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.”
There are additional passages, which were referred to by the respondent in the case, that reiterate the Bible’s position on such issues. These included:
1 Cor. 6:12; 1 Cor. 6:18; 1 Cor. 10:8; 2 Cor. 12:20; Gal 5:17; Col 3:5; 1 The 4:3.
Their worships have not referred to any of these passages in their judgment and have not even attempted to reconcile their decision with them.
Section. 1 of the Care of Churches Ecclesiastical Measures Act. (1991) states clearly as a “General Principle” that,
“[a]ny person or body carrying out functions of care and conservation under this Measure or under any other enactment or rule of law relating to churches shall have due regard to the role of a church as a local centre of worship and mission.”
It is clear, that the commercial sale of child abuse images or pornography is not consistent with the “worship and mission” of the church in accordance with the law of this country.
If this is not enough, Canon F15, para.1 makes it expressly clear that, “[t]he churchwardens and their assistants shall not suffer the church or chapel to be profaned by any meeting therein for temporal objects inconsistent with the sanctity of the place..”
In the case of Re St Peter’s, Stockton, Holy Trinity Churchyard (1986), it was stated that, “[c]onsecrated land is to the Consistory Court what an infant is to the Secular Court, something where there are overriding interests which can be encroached upon only in exceptional circumstances.”
It is clear therefore that the judgement made by their worships is not only wrong in law but wrong through Christian principles and teachings.
The strangest part of this case is that Mr Charles George QC who represented the appellants, appears to have fought a case which is contrary to his own position. He quite reasonably stated in an article in the Ecclesiastical Law Journal that certain secular uses of a church should be permissible. However even he drew the line by stating that in his view, uses which should be impermissible should be those which:
1. prevent the primary use of the church being for the purpose of worship. I am told by the Vicar of All Saints Hereford, that he celebrates mass at mid-day three times a week in the lady chapel, whilst meals are served 40 feet away in the adjacent restaurant.
2. involve activities which are unsuitable in a church, either because of some conflict either with the teaching of the church, or because they would be unlikely to be regarded as acceptable by right-thinking members of the Church of England. This would preclude a Mosque, or as a bookshop run by the Secular Society, also also various activities which involve noise or violence or disorderly conduct.
2. Errors Within the Judgement
In my view, their worships have made a number of errors, which unfortunately appear to indicate a desire to make the judgement fit a desired end, rather than applying the law impartially.
On page 10 (para 34) of the judgement it refers to the approach adopted by the court of “balancing interests”. There is a reference to ecclesiastical law and the power of consistory courts to grant a faculty with or without conditions. It states that, “[t]he exercise of that power involves consideration of all the circumstances of a particular case and the balancing of factors for and against the grant of a faculty. This may necessitate balancing public interests against church-related interests.” The paragraph then goes on to provide two precedents. The first is re St Edburga’s Abberton (1962) in which the court decided “on a balance of factors” in favour of the removal of a spire of a church owing to the potential risk to aircraft from a local airfield. The second was re St Mary the Virgin, Woodkirk (1969) in which the Deputy Auditor allowed part of a churchyard to be used for the road improvements in spite of the fact that nearly 200 graves would be disturbed and many human remains would be exhumed. In that case he had to be satisfied that, “the public interest outweighs the interests of the objectors and the public interest that consecrated land should continue to be used for the sacred use to which it was dedicated.”
However, neither of the precedents that are cited, involve the departure by the church from a fundamental Biblical principle. In other words, there is nothing in the Bible to suggest that aviation or travel is per se wrong. Equally there is nothing in the Bible to suggest that the building of roads is per se wrong. Therefore it was clearly right and proper in those cases that the “balancing of interests” took place.
In this case however, the Bible is clear that sexual immorality is not consistent with the worship and mission of the church. It therefore follows that the church should not have an involvement in it and clearly should not be benefiting financially from it. It was emphasised by the respondent in this case that, were the court to attempt to “balance interests” with such a fundamental Biblical principle, it could ultimately lead to a position of hypocrisy. Obviously this is what has occurred.
(In para. 35 the judgement also refers to the recent re Emmanuel Church Bentley case with respect to the need for a “balancing exercise”. However, it must be noted that Dean Shiela Cameron was also the Dean in charge of the Court of Arches for that case and therefore it does not provide a particularly strong precedent in terms of judicial independence.)
On page 11 (para. 36) there is reference to the House of Lord sitting in the case of Belfast City Council v Miss Behavin’ Ltd where it was stated that “the balancing of arguments” was the correct approach. However, it is clear that the House of Lord is a secular court and does not have a legal obligation to make decisions which are consistent with Biblical teaching.
Other cases that were referred to in this respect were previous consistory court decisions where faculties for 3G mobile phone masts were granted. These were, re St Margeret Hawes (2003) and re St Barnabus Heaton (2004). In my opinion these judgements are erroneous for the reasons set out above. Clearly Chancellor Pulman QC was not obliged to follow erroneous consistory court decisions as another consistory court is not bound by the precedents that they set.
3. Lack of Understanding of the Inadequacy of Existing Measures to Protect Children from being abused
On page 14 (para 48) of the judgement there is reference to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Detailed information was presented to the court which illustrated the inadequacy of existing laws and measures to protect children from abuse as a result of the new industry of using the Internet as a means of selling child sexual abuse images. It is perfectly clear that the Internet, despite all of its benefits, is a medium which is out of control and can be extremely harmful, especially to children. The court failed to properly recognise this and claims in (para 48) that, “[i]t would not be inconsistent with the Convention for a mobile phone installation to be placed in the tower of SS Peter and Paul’s church subject to these existing safeguards with the addition of filtering techniques mentioned by Professor Ramsdale.”
However, the judgement refers on page 8 (para. 28) to the book Child Sex Abuse and the Internet: Tackling the New Frontier, by Martin Calder (Ed.). This book also details the extent of child abuse which is taking place through the medium of the internet. Martin Calder is an expert in the field of the psychology of offending of child abuse on the Internet uses a system to grade the severity of the child abuse pictures which are found. This is as follows:
1. Indicative Non erotic and non-sexualised pictures showing children in their underwear, swimming costumes , etc, from either commercial sources or family albums; pictures of children playing in normal settings , in which the context or organisation of pictures by the collector indicates inappropriateness.
2. Nudist Pictures of naked or semi-naked children in appropriate nudist settings, and from legitimate sources.
3. Erotica Surreptitiously taken photographs of children in play areas or other safe environments showing either underwear or varying degrees of nakedness.
4. Posing Deliberately posed pictures of children fully, partially clothed or naked (where the amount , context and organisation suggest sexual interest).
5. Erotic Posing Deliberately posed pictures of fully, partially clothed or naked children in sexualised or provocative poses.
6. Explicit Erotic Posing Emphasising genital areas where the child is either naked, partially or fully clothed.
7. Explicit Sexual Activity Involves touching , mutual self masturbation, oral sex and intercourse by child, involving an adult.
8. Assault Pictures of children being subjected to sexual assault, involving digital touching, involving an adult.
9. Gross Assault Grossly obscene pictures of sexual assault, involving penetrative sex, masturbation or oral sex involving an adult.
10. Sadistic / Bestiality a) Pictures showing a child being tied, bound , beaten, whipped or otherwise subject to something that implies pain.
b) Pictures where an animal is involved in some form of sexual behaviour with a child.
The author of the book reminds us that each photograph of a child being abused is a photograph of a crime scene. Even since my letter to you in February there have been numerous cases in the media, either of individuals downloading child sexual abuse images from the Internet or of children who have been abducted by paedophiles. From my own work as a legal adviser at police stations, I can testify to the huge problems that exist within this field. The literature on this subject, especially that of recent research, for example from the COPINE Project, (see the above book) illustrates how the viewing of child abuse images can lead to the commission of offences which involve direct contact with children.
Information presented to the Court of Arches illustrated that the problem of child sexual abuse and the internet is a huge and growing problem. For example:
Roger Darlington the former head of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) (referred to in the judgement), states that, “[a]lthough so far in Britain the main problem relating to child abuse has been the downloading of child pornography, experience from the United States suggests that we will have a growing problem of child contact via the Internet.”
He states that,
Although the problem of sex on the Net revolves mainly around children, there is an element of adult pornography that rightly causes deep concern and that is material which depicts non-consensual sex, such as violence against women – including rape and murder – and necrophilia. This issue became particularly prominent in the UK in February 2004 with the conviction of Graham Coutts for the horrific murder of teacher Jane Longhurst. The court heard how Coutts had repeatedly accessed Web sites depicting violent sex and how elements of his actions mirrored what he had seen on-line. Some of the sites mentioned in the trial were “necrobabes”, “hangingbitches” and “deathbyasphyxia”.
Darlington attempts to answer what difference the Internet makes to the issue of pornography. He states that,
[o]f course, as long as we have had pornography, we have had child pornography. What is the difference when a child pornography is on the Internet? There are at least three differences.
1. The Net makes finding child pornography much easier. Someone who wishes to access such material does not have to find someone in their own social circle who can provide such images or somewhere in their locality where such images are available. Instead he – it is usually a he – can go on-line and be in contact with thousands of individuals in dozens of countries with enormous volumes of the material.
2. The Net makes accessing child material more anonymous. There is no need to visit a friend or a shop or to mail a supplier with the attendant risks of discovery or detection. Instead the user of this material can access it from the privacy of his own home 24 hours a day 365 days a year.
3. The Net provides legitimisation. In the physical world, most people that one meets find child pornography utterly repugnant. However, in the on-line communities of certain newsgroups or community groups, users of child pornography and paedophiles can join a virtual world where the use of child pornography and the abuse of children are considered acceptable and even normal.
All these factors would tend to suggest that the volume of child pornography on the Internet is going to increase. Indeed the growing number of reports to hot-lines, like the Internet Watch Foundation in the UK and elsewhere, and the evidence of police operations, like Operation Cathedral and others , would appear to confirm this.
Darlington states that this is important because inter alia every picture image of child pornography is the result of actual abuse of a child. He states that,
During the fiscal year 1997, the USPIS (United States Postal Inspection Service) began compiling statistical information on the number of child pornography suspects that were also child molesters. Of the 1,207 individuals arrested by Postal Inspectors since 1997 for using the mail and the Internet sexually to exploit children, actual child molesters were identified in 36% of cases. Since the USPIS frequently target those with prior convictions for sex offences, it may bet that this figure somewhat overstates the proportion of users of child pornography as a whole who are likely to engate in actual abuse, but it is still a worrying statistic.
More recently, in 2005 the report, “Child-Pornography Possessors Arrested in Internet-Related Crimes: Findings from the National Juvenile Online Victimization Study,” was authored by researchers Janis Wolak, David Finkelhor, and Kimberly Mitchell from the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes against Children Research Center, with funding from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and U.S Department of Justice.
The report found that 40% of arrested child pornography possessors were “dual offenders”, who sexually victimized children and possessed child pornography, with both crimes discovered in the same investigation. An additional 15% were dual offenders who attempted to sexually victimize children by soliciting undercover investigators who posed online as minors.
Here in the UK, David Findlater – director of the Wolvercote Clinic which provided sex offender treatment before it had to close – told the “Observer” on 20 October 2002: “I am sure the Internet could lead to a substantial rise in offences. It delivers materials into the home, putting ideas into their heads. At Wolvercote, we learned how quickly, using the Internet, men moved from fantasising about abusing adolescents through to baby abuse and bondage. The fact that what they were watching is an abuse actually taking place can make them think about doing it themselves.
In the 2003 book “Policing Paedophiles on the Internet”, there is a chapter by Joe Sullivan and Anthony Beech entitled “Are Collectors of Child Abuse Images A Risk to Children? Sullivan is principal therapist for the Lucy Faithfull Foundation and works extensively with sex offenders and Beech is Reader in Criminological Psychology at the University of Birmingham and a lead researcher with the Sex Offender Treatment Evaluation Project. Having examined three contemporary models of sexual abuse, they conclude the chapter with the following assessment: “We do not believe that everyone who masterbates to indecent images of children has or will inevitably engage in contact sexual abuse of children, but in our opinion, this process will have the effect of reducing the collectors’ inhibitors to contact sexual offending, and therefore make it increasingly more likely they will seek to act out their fantasies.
Research carried out by the NSPCC states that, child pornography is not a separate genre oustside of other forms of child sexual abuse and exploitation, but one practised within a cycle of exploitation. It states the problems of this industry include inter alia the feelings of intense powerlessness that children feel and also the fact that they are aware that the sexual abuse that they endured to produce the pornography can be distributed commercially or non-commercially for the arousal of others. They are also aware that it can be used to groom and abuse other children. Children suffer as they know that there is a permanent record of their sexual abuse, which can subsequently prevent, delay or exacerbate the fear of disclosure.
The Save the Children Fund stated in an October 2006 report that,
[i]n a society where child sexual abuse is shrouded in secrecy and denial, the vast majority of abused children and adult survivors remain silent about the abuse they have suffered. Coercive techniques (grooming) of child sexual abuse offenders and the failure of child protection systems to protect victims and support disclosure exacerbate this situation. The abuse continues when photographic evidence of child sexual abuse is circulated through new technologies and child protection systems fail to coordinate their actions to identify and protect their victims.
It also stated in an earlier report that governments should implement regulation where self regulation has failed. And that Internet Service providers should consider the possibility of blocking access to websites in parts of the world where legislation is seen as being ineffective in stopping the proliferation of child pornographic websites.
The Save the Children fund provide an insight into the way that child pornography can be found on the Internet. They state that
[f]ew commercial child pornography web sites exhibit abuse images on their start page. The start page usually shows legal “child erotica” with manipulative advertising suggesting that “stronger” material, will be available if you subscribe. The character reports to Save the Children hotlines indicates that the number of such pay-sites has grown explosively during 2001-2002. It appears that many of these new sites in Eastern European countries (typically hosted in Russia) is of great concern to Save the Children. It is imperative that Europol extends co-operation with Eastern European countries. It is important to remember though , that just because a website is physically hosted on a site in, for example Russia, this does not necessarily mean that the owners are Russians.
In Lindsay Tanner’s article in the Christian Post, she refers to research carried out into the effects of exposure to pornography on children.
University of Chicago psychiatrist Sharon Hirsch said exposure to online pornography could lead kids to become sexually active too soon, or could put them at risk for being victimized by sexual predators if they visit sites that prey on children.
“They’re seeing things that they’re really not emotionally prepared to see yet, which can cause trauma to them,” Hirsch said.
Exposure also could skew their perceptions about what constitutes a healthy sexual relationship, said Janis Wolak , the study’s lead author and a researcher at the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center.
Ethel Quayle M.Sc, Psych. D and Max Taylor Ph.D (C, Forensic Psychol) of the COPINE Project have carried out extensive research into the relationship between those who have a sexual interest in children and the seduction of children on the Internet and the use of Internet child pornography. They have written extensively on this subject over a number of years. In the journal Cyber Psychology and Behaviour, they provide details of their research. In relation to the commission of contact offences they state that,
[f]or some respondents, the commission of a contact offense without production of child pornography was argued to be an extension of online behaviour, where the fantasies engaged with online were acted out in real life. The cognitions that supported contact offenses made reference to the pictures reflecting others having engaged in similar behaviour, along with passive acceptance by the child.
“..I was finding more and more explicit stuff on the computer and I was looking at the computer and thinking oh… they’re doing it.. it can’t be that bad… it’s there you know…I’m not doing any harm and she doesn’t seem to mind… and it just gradually built up over a period of time” (KQ p7)
“cause by the time I had those images yes so I’d look at those erm… and all I wanted to do was abuse her really … make sure she was asleep in bed, stalk her on the stairs and keep watching… to make sure she was asleep and then I abused.”(DX p24)
In relation to the grooming of children on line, they give other examples of the effect that the availabilty of children online had on their behaviour. They state that,
[c]hatting to others as if he were a child allowed this respondent to justify his behaviour, as then the activity was taking place between children rather than between an adult and a child.
“And that this 13 year old … 12 year old… found that attractive… I was living in that sort of fantasy as well…And even … and even the fantasy of two boys falling in love and having sex… I found that an attraction …erm probably in the repsec that I just… that that justifies my abuse erm…”
John Carr the Chairman of the children’s charity NCH, London, England wrote a research paper for UNICEF’s 2nd World Congress on Commercial Exploitation of Children, which took place in 2001. In it he quotes leading researchers in the field. He states that,
Rachel O’Connell formerly of the COPINE project at the University of Cork, now with the Cyberspace Research Unit at he University of Central Lancashire, has examined extensively the behaviour of child sex abusers in the online environment and she confirms in her most recent study that the organized exchange of child pornography can “legitimate and normalize” adult sexual interest in children.
He states that even in 2001,
police forces across the world have also noted that child pornography has moved on to the Internet in a major way. Previously child pornography was often quite hard to find, requiring the person to take a number of risks in order to obtain it, e.g. by going to certain sex shops or video stores in particular parts of town, where one might be seen by people who know you , or you risked being seen by the police. Alternatively, and equally risky in terms of the possibility of discovery or exposure, there would be mail order companies that might keep your name and address or bank details in their files. But the arrival of the Internet can make much of this unnecessary for those who can access it, and with the removal of these old barriers or inhibitors, early signs are that more people are being tempted to become involved.
Recognition of the problem of paedophiles “grooming” children on the Internet has naturally brought about responses from the Home Office. Responses occurred after a number of serious cases where children had been “groomed” via the Internet. This is where a paedophile makes contact with a potential victim and uses a range of techniques to gain their trust and develop a relationship with the intention of sexually abusing them. Relationships may be established over a period of months or even years. The Home Office established good practice models for industry, however these have not been sufficient to stop the problem.
One particular problem of the fuelling of the child pornography industry as a result of the Internet is that research shows that people who have been abused as children themselves, sometimes go on to become abusers or fall into prostitution. The inter-denominational Christian charity CHASTE (Churches Alert to Sex Trafficking Across Europe) states that, “around 80% of women in prostitution have been sexually abused in their childhood.”
Additionally Barnardo’s have been working to raise awareness of other aspects of child abuse which are occurring through the internet. They state that,
For the past nine years Barnardo’s has been highlighting the needs of children abused through prostitution and campaigning for more pro-active policing of those who “pimp” young people or pay to sexually abuse them. Over the past 18 months we have become aware that children are being advertised or sold for sex via chat rooms and bulletin boards on the Internet. Not only are children being “pimped” in this way but these Internet sites also inform the enquirer of “how good a purchase” the child is by rating them from 1-10.
The use of the Internet has both national and international implications. Barnardo’s has become increasingly aware of the interconnections between abuse through prostitution, trafficking and the Internet. The Internet gives traffickers an easy tool both to find vulnerable young people and also to sell them for sex to others.
In fact Barnardo’s note a variety of problems including that of children downloading sexually abusive images of other children from chat rooms.
Clearly the issue here is that the existing methods of protecting children from abuse through the medium of the Internet are completely inadequate. The Court of Arches failed to address this issue properly. It could have adjourned and requested that experts from the Internet Watch Foundation or the Metropolitan Police be called but it did not do so. Mr Bishop, the amicus lawyer pointed out the weaknesses in the current system. Therefore as long as the existing regulations are failing to protect children, they are failing to satisfy the requirements of the Convention on the Rights of a Child. This convention does not state that only certain children have the right to be free from sexual abuse but that all children should be.
What the judgement then does is accuse the respondent of taking an unreasonable approach. The judgement states on page 15 (para 49) that, “Mr Turner refuses to recognise that a balancing exercise has any relevance here. He takes a purist line that no mobile phone installation should be placed in the church unless and until all pornography is excluded. Whilst he is entitled to his view, it totally ignores the advantage to adults and children of having a good reception when communicating by mobile phone. Between parents and children it is, for example, a valuable means of keeping in touch when travelling, and for adults it is time-saving and of economic value for that reason alone.”
What the judgment fails to recognise is that the church has a moral responsibility to protect the interests of children who are being abused. (The Church of England’s own Child Protection Policy states that, “The Church of England, in all aspects of its life, is committed to and will champion the protection of children and young people both in society as a whoel and in its own community….” The judgement erroneously claims that without a mast in the spire of SS Peter and Pauls’ Parish Church Chingford, that adults and children will not have adequate mobile phone reception in that area. The truth is that there has been adequate mobile phone reception in that area for many years. The difference that the 3G mast would make, would be that it would provide the facility for people not only to make calls on their mobile telephones, which they can do at the moment, but also to gain access to the internet on their mobile phones. This advantage to the community is not one that the church is bound to provide and it should not do so at the expense of providing a medium, which can cause enormous harm to children and families.
The respondent submitted to the court that a mast which did not transmit child abuse and pornography et.c (i.e. a 2G mast) would, in respect of “content” at least, be legal.
4. Errors in the Conclusions
The conclusions in the judgement are unfortunately similarly erroneous. Clearly Chancellor Pulman had made an accurate and insightful judgement relating to the issue of the use of a church for the transmission of pornography. However, the Court of Arches states erroneously on page 18 (para 52) that he should have carried out a balancing exercise. As has been explained above, it is wrong to carry out a balancing exercise when dealing with fundamental Christian principles, as the outcome can be a result which compromises those principles and puts the church in a position of hypocrisy. Unfortunately the Court of Arches did not appear to take this on board and has fallen into this very problem.
Page 18 (para. 53) of the judgement gives a false impression. In fact the decisive issue that was made clear in Chancellor Pulman’s judgement was the fact T Mobile sell their phones with a built in filter. This filter is supposed to stop any “adult” content material from being received on that particular mobile phone. That filter can be lifted by the owner of the mobile phone if that person is over the age of 18. Therefore adults are able to have access to the wide range of pornographic materials that are available on the Internet. The Court of Arches either failed to understand this or were unwilling to acknowledge it within their judgement. It is a crucial fact and it is a massive failing of the judgement that it has been ignored. Chancellor Pulman quite rightly recognised that if it is possible to have a filter on a mobile phone handset to stop under 18 year olds from accessing pornography, it is also possible to maintain such a filter to stop over 18 year olds from accessing pornography. The faculty that had been applied for did not incorporate such a condition of the phone company. Therefore, it was clear that the faculty that had been applied for, would be promoting pornography for the over 18 year age group. Chancellor Pulman’s judgement could not have been more clear in expressing this and yet the Court of Arches have published a judgement which suggests, unfairly, that he had failed to properly address the issue.
On page 18 (para. 54) Chancellor Pulman receives further unfair criticism. The judgement states that, “[p]art of the role and duty of a judge is to act with complete impartiality however strongly he or she feels about a particular issue. This applies no less in consistory courts than elsewhere.” However in the very next paragraph, the judgement of the Court of Arches does precisely the thing that it is accusing Chancellor Pulman of doing. It states that the Court of Arches believes that it is necessary to make a distinction between adults and children in terms of access to pornography. Clearly Christian teaching and the Bible does not make such distinctions. Christian standards are very high on this issue. The Bible teaches that all forms of sexual immorality are wrong not just those relating to children. Therefore the Court of Arches has committed the very mistake that it is accusing Chancellor Pulman of making. The Court in applying their own views and not those based on sound Christian principles did not, “act with complete impartiality.” The Court of Arches has applied only secular standards and not Christian standards. In fact, it was Chancellor Pulman who did conduct his role properly by applying Christian standards as the ecclesiastical courts are obliged to do.
In fact the problems associated with adult pornography are massive and have been overlooked by the Court of Arches. This is an incredible oversight.
The link between pornography itself and the influence that it may have upon adults who have viewed it, has been commented upon by senior clergy too. For example the Right Rev. Bishop Richard Harries stated on BBC’s Thought for the Day in 2004 that, “something like 40% of the population now watch pornography on the Internet.”
Of course the recent Church of England General Synod itself recently warned that the spread of hard-core sex and violence in films is “fatally eroding” standards. Revd Moy stated that, “standards of human behaviour are being fatally eroded by constant subjection to images via the media promoting the exploitation of other human beings.” The Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch acknowledged, “the current tendency to exploit the humiliation of human beings for public entertainment.” The Synod voted in favour of more research and fuller debate on media standards by 217 votes to nil.
According to Anthony Barnes and Sophie Goodchild of the Independent newspaper, relationship agencies have reported that as many as 40 per cent of couples with problems believe pornography has contributed to their difficulties. They state that, “Christine Lacey, a senior counsellor for Relate, said: “For many women, the reaction is exactly the same as if they discovered their partner is having an affair. They may not be having sex with someone else but the effect is the same if it is detrimental to their marriage.”
Quite apart from the effect that it can have on individuals and relationships, it is important to consider that often the pornography industry is exploitative of vulnerable women. These are further reasons why the Church of England should not be involved in the distribution of adult pornography or any type of pornography if it is to remain true to its purpose.
The judgement refers to adult pornography on page 19 (para 58) but fails to show a proper understanding of the deep harm that it can do in society. It is obviously correct that the Christian message is one of forgiveness. However, it fails to acknowledge that by becoming a key component in the supply of pornography, the church will become a part of the modern pornography industry itself. Every industry requires suppliers; organisations who will supply their goods. The Church of England in providing for the supply of pornography, effectively would make itself a delivery boy for the modern pornography industry. However, the Court of Arches claims that there would be benefits to the public generally if the church were to install such masts. The truth is, that the public can already have access to the Internet and they already have a service on their mobile phones. The only additional advantage to the public would be greater access to the Internet on mobile phones or mobile receivers. It is my view that there is really very little additional benefit to the public. The disadvantage to the Church of England to allow such masts to be installed will be that it completely compromises its principles in doing so. I believe that the comments relating to “balancing interests” are made to confuse the unwary, in an attempt to disguise the fact that the court merely wishes to support a policy put forward by the Archbishops’ Council in 2002, to reap the financial rewards of granting licences for mobile phone masts to be installed in churches without paying proper heed to the hypocrisy that such a policy brings.
5. Partiality of the Court
Naturally questions have to be raised about the partiality of the Court of Arches. Clearly this issue is tied in very closely to the 2002 policy of the Archbishops’ Council relating to mobile phone masts. Clearly the Court of Arches have remained loyal to that policy. However the Dean of the Court also has an administrative function as a legal adviser within the Church of England and as such could lack the independence to make impartial judgements on such issues.
6. Failure to Take into Account the effect on the Ministry of the Church
Finally, the Court of Arches has failed to take into account or even acknowledge the harm that could occur to the ministry of the Church of England if it persists with this policy.
As a result of taking such a position it is inevitable that many will see the Church of England as hypocritical. This would mean that the everyday mission of the Church will be hampered..
Bishop Harries spoke out in 2004 for example, about the effects that pornography can have on peoples’ minds. How will it be possible for him to go to the BBC and minister effectively on this issue when he knows his position is undermined because his very own church is part of the distribution side of the modern pornography industry.
Imagine a curate or a youth minister who is trying to talk to young people. Imagine the situation where he meets with a young person who has pornography on his or her mobile phone. How can that minister, effectively communicate with that person about the message that the Bible teaches relating to such issues. That young person is likely to turn round and say, “you’re having a laugh aren’t you, this stuff is helping to pay your wages.”
Imagine how difficult it will be for ministers up and down the country to give pre- marriage counselling to young couples in relation to sexual purity when the Church of England is openly benefiting financially from providing images of sexual impurity.
Effectively for the church to agree to such masts, would leave the clergy hamstrung as it would be impossible for them to minister effectively on certain issues.
Imagine the situation where parents of a child who had been kidnapped and abused by paedophiles need counselling. How difficult it would be for the clergy to carry out that role, when they know that their own church had provided facilities for paedophiles.
How can the General Synod of the Church of England take a lead on issues relating to the effects of the content of the media, and the effects on the behaviour of individuals, if the Church of England becomes part of the very problems that they seek to address?
Imagine also the effect that such a move has on the relationship between the Church of England and leaders from for example the Moslem, Hindu, Jewish, Sikh and other communities, many of whom have strict standards relating to sexual purity. How will the Church of England be regarded by them. It is possible that their credibility will be seriously undermined as those communities will see that the Church of England had deviated from sound Christian principles purely for financial benefit.
The Church of England has an Ethical Investment policy, which states that it will not invest in companies involved in pornography. Obviously to allow any of its property assets to be used for the transmission of commercial pornography would amount to an investment of those assets for the use of such an industry. Therefore it is clear that such a move would be contrary to its own ethical investment policy.
Rather than winning respect, it will foster greater division between Christians and those of other faiths. Is it not the case that those of all faiths should be working hard and working together to fight child abuse. For the Church of England to give in on this issue means that it loses a great opportunity to show leadership amongst the wider community on something extremely important.
The policy is already causing deep divisions within churches up and down the country as communities come into conflict as to whether or not masts should be installed in their churches. This is unhealthy for church communities and their relationship with the wider community.
It is also an insult to the many Christians around the world who really do suffer for their faith. The people who live in countries where Christians are persecuted, get beaten up, murdered and put in prison for remaining true to their faith. It is an insult to them that the moment the Church of England, is offered a financial benefit, it considers deviating from sound Christian principles so that it can walk away with the money. It is also an insult to those Christians around the world who live in developing countries in abject poverty but hold firm to their faith all the same.
Above all, this issue provides a great opportunity for the Church of England to demonstrate what it really cares about. It provides an opportunity for the Church to become engaged with the government on the issue of the child abuse and pornography issues and show real leadership in bringing about change in the way that the Internet is currently used and regulated. The Church of England however can only seize this opportunity and bring about real change if it is strong enough to refuse the temptation of the money that is being offered to it.
Right now, in places around the world there are children who are suffering because they are being abused, sometimes by their own families. They often have nowhere to turn. I would respectfully submit that the Church of England should be part of the answer to their prayers and not a part of the distribution and encouragement of the problem.
It is clear that if the Church of England continues with its existing policy, it will become an integral part of the modern child abuse image and pornography industry.
It is also clear that there have been well-publicised cases in the last 12 months of mobile phone masts that have been dismantled and moved as a result of the incidences of cancers amongst people living nearby.
It does not make sense for the Church of England to build its house on sand. In other words why become dependent on an income that has the potential of disappearing owing to the problems that mobile phone masts face.
It is possible for the Church of England to consider many other ways of making money. For example, given the pastoral strength of the church, it could be possible for it to enter into the care home business. This is one which would be wholly consistent with Bibilical teaching and one which could be incorporated within the work of individual churches. (In fact it would be refreshing to have such an organisation, given the failings of some care homes to provide properly for the elderly that they are supposed to look after.)
Unfortunately, the 2002 policy and the recent Court of Arches judgement place the Church of England, perhaps unwittingly, in a position of deep hypocrisy.
Therefore my request is, that in the light of the recent judgement and in the light of the health risks posed by mobile phone masts, that you consider reconvening the Archbishops’ Council in an open and transparent manner to reconsider the policy that was set out in 2002 relating to mobile phone masts and to consider a less divisive and more wholesome way of making money for the Church of England.
I look forward to your considered response. I would also welcome a response from any of the other recipients of this letter.
Dr Stephen Turner