ASA – His Grace responds
In particular, apologies are due to those who objected to his use of the word ‘persecution’ in this context: certainly, he, being long-deceased and non-corporeal, is no longer risking life or limb in the proclamation of the gospel. But, with respect, none of those who judge are on the receiving end of the intimidation. In their correspondence, the ASA do not inform one of the limits of their powers: one is simply confronted with specific demands from an organisation styled ‘Authority’. And through all the hours spent consulting, considering and pondering, there is absolutely no clue as to the identity of these 10 complainants, other than that they include the ‘Jewish Gay & Lesbian Group' (though it is not clear if the complaint was made by individual members of that organisation or corporately on behalf of all members [if the latter, His Grace would dearly like to hear from any affiliated gay or lesbian Jews who place the freedoms of speech and expression above state-imposed moral uniformity]).
His Grace expresses his sincere gratitude to all those who have blogged supporting him in this matter (in particular those who disagree with him on so many issues, but most of all to Stuart James at the eChurch blog for monitoring widespread reaction). And His Grace also thanks those who suggested that he should respond to the ASA after the fashion of Arkell v. Pressdram. However tempting that may be for a fallen and sinful pile of ash, such profanities are unacceptable: the state possesses authority to which Christians are subject, and quangos and professional regulatory bodies are recognised by the state, even if independent or quasi-independent thereof. To those who think this investigation has something to do with His Grace being obliged to corroborate the statistics of a ComRes opinion poll commissioned by Catholic Voices, His Grace exhorts you to re-read his original post. To those who think the ASA is a tool of the state, His Grace exhorts you to research their origins and examine their purpose. This case is not aided by misreporting or misrepresentation. His Grace was asked solely to respond to the allegation that four screenshots (reproduced in the original post) were ‘offensive and homophobic’. His Grace has today responded to the ASA thus:
Dear Investigations Executive,
RE: Case No: A12-192907/JT
His Grace thanks you for your email of 10th May, and for the attached bundle of pdfs and sundry other documents. Over the years he has endured some appalling persecution and had the most unpleasant encounters with smouldering faggots, so he begs your indulgence, compassion and understanding as you conduct your inquiry into the allegation that he is publishing/distributing images which some may find ‘offensive’ and/or ‘homophobic’.You asked him to keep the correspondence confidential, and he has done so. However, since he is constrained by no law from communicating with his advisers and legal counsellors, and there being no statutory upper limit on the number of those advisers and legal counsellors, he thought it appropriate to consult with his communicants (that is, his ecclesial blog community) because the Lord has been gracious to surround him with manifest and beneficial wisdom in abundance (along with a few nut-jobs). Some elements of your correspondence may therefore have been spread abroad (if not around the globe), which is regrettable but unavoidable.
If His Grace is to meet your deadline of responding fully to your questions by 21st May ‘at the latest’, he asks that you might be kind enough to clarify a few things before he does so, if possible within 48hrs. Specifically:
1) Your bundle included four screenshots of ‘evidence’ taken from His Grace’s blog apparently on 12th April 2012. They feature (left) a promotional photograph of the Parthenon of the Athenian Acropolis above a banner proclaiming ‘Peoples of Europe Rise Up’, and an advertisement (right) for the Coalition for Marriage. You say these frames elicited 10 anonymous complaints (but ‘including the Jewish Gay & Lesbian Group’); specifically that they found them ‘offensive and homophobic’. You informed His Grace that such complaint ‘falls under the harm and offence section of the British Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing’, and asked him to explain (by 21st May ‘at the latest’) why he thought the advertising was suitable for his readers and whether readers have complained to him directly. Could you please clarify whether their objection was to the promotional images of the Parthenon or to the C4M advertisement?
2) If your response to (1) above is that the complaint concerns the image of the Parthenon and His Grace’s promotion of classical Greek culture, he will provide a succinct report to justify his economic solidarity with the euro-oppressed Greeks and reasoning in support of a necessary and beneficial increase in Hellenic tourism. If, more specifically, a banner proclaiming ‘Peoples of Europe Rise Up’ might be considered an offensive slogan to those who recognise no such thing as a European demos, His Grace concurs, and will certainly incorporate that in his report. If, however, your response to (1) above is that the complaint concerns the Coalition for Marriage advertisement, it must be observed that the same advertisement appeared on numerous blogs (‘Internet [display]’), including Guido Fawkes (which you acknowledge) and ConservativeHome. You appear not to have troubled ConservativeHome at all in the pursuit of your enquiries, and your letter states that you have copied in Guido Fawkes ‘for information’ only. Ergo you appear to have singled out His Grace alone in the blogosphere (‘Internet [display]’) and made demands only of him to respond to Point 2 of the complaint, i.e., that the advertisement was ‘homophobic and offensive’. Why are you harassing His Grace alone in the blogosphere? Why are all blogs which displayed this advertisement not being treated equally? One presumes it has nothing to do with the fact that ConservativeHome is generously underpinned by Lord Ashcroft’s £millions, or that Guido Fawkes isn’t without the means to call in the lawyers or lacking the rottweiler tendency to tell you where to go. Why have you chosen to victimise and harass the weakest, lowliest, and most utterly insignificant of the blogs which carried this advertisement?
3) You state that 10 of the 25 complaints received deem the advertisement to be ‘offensive’ and ‘homophobic’. His Grace understands the plainest meaning and definition of the term ‘offensive’. But, since homosexuals and homosexuality are nowhere mentioned in the advertisement, could you please clarify how the term ‘homophobic’ is being used in this context?
4) His Grace understands that the 10 complainants must remain anonymous, but that you are obliged to be transparent about the involvement of the ‘Jewish Gay & Lesbian Group’ because of a possible or perceived antithetical (religio-)political agenda. Could you please clarify whether it was an individual member or multiple members of this group who complained, or whether the organisation did so corporately? If the latter, why have you assumed that their opposition to the Archbishop Cranmer blog is motivated by his decision to carry the C4M advertisement and not by his long-time support for the state of Israel?
5) Further to (4) above, why have you assumed that the complainants are gay or lesbian, and that sexuality is the true motive of complaint? Might it not be that some of the 10 individuals concerned are also motivated by an opposing (religio-)political agenda or contrary moral worldview to those held by His Grace, and that they seek to change the definition of marriage because of, say, a preference of bigamy, polygamy, paedophilia or incest? This being a possibility, should not their identities also be disclosed in order that such possible agendas may also be made transparent?
6) You state that you ‘intend to deal with the complaint as a formal investigation, which means it will be considered by the ASA Council’. You further state: ‘We will then draft a recommendation for the Council based on your response to us. Once the Council has made a decision, the adjudication will be published on our website.’ Could you please explain what alternative procedures you might have adopted to deal with this complaint? Since it appears that only a few hundred complaints out of some 26,000 per annum are selected by the ASA for such treatment, could you also please explain why this complaint was considered to be of such gravity that you saw fit to escalate directly to the status of ‘formal investigation’?
7) The above is significant in the context of your erroneous judgment in the matter of an advertisement entitled ‘The word of God Against Sodomy’ placed by the Sandown Free Presbyterian Church in Belfast in 2008. A High Court judge later quashed your adjudication that an advertisement which proclaimed sodomy to be an abomination was ‘homophobic’. Mr Justice Treacy held that your adjudication disproportionately interfered with Sandown Free Presbyterian Church's rights to freedom of expression. Article 10 of the ECHR protects not only the content and substance of information but also the means of dissemination since any restriction on the means necessarily interferes with the right to receive and impart information, and this includes words or images which might offend, shock or disturb. Since the Coalition for Marriage advertisement is manifestly pro heterosexual marriage (ie the law as it stands) and not anti anything, and since it neither shocks nor incites people to violence, could you please explain how its message is not similarly covered by those ECHR provisions protecting freedom of speech and freedom of expression?
8) You write: ‘We require you to explain your rationale for the ad and comment specifically on the points raised in the attached complaint notification...’ But none of the ‘complaint notification’ (excepting your email) was addressed directly to His Grace: indeed, His Grace appears to have to infer from your correspondence addressed to a third party precisely what it is you require from him. In light of this, it is not clear if your demand for ‘robust documentary evidence to back the claims and a clear explanation from you of its relevance and why you think it substantiates the claims’ is addressed to him or the other party. If the demand is addressed to him, could you please clarify what manner of ‘robust documentary evidence’ may be sufficiently (ie objectively) robust to respond to complaints of subjective opinion that the advertisement was ‘offensive and homophobic’?
His Grace looks forward to your most urgent response to these questions, for he is unable to commit to your imposed timescale should that response be delayed. If he is to avoid answering your questions in such a way as might incriminate himself, he considers it necessary to await your fullest response.