March 19, 2007
The Church of England’s steamy steeples
The Church of England is facing an embarrassing test case over whether mobile phone masts on steeples are illegal because they can relay pornography.
The church’s highest court is to hear an appeal after a diocesan judge ruled that churches were “wrong in law” to “facilitate the transmission of pornography, even in a slight or modest way”.
Many parishes have cashed in on the mobile phone boom by charging telecom companies thousands of pounds a year to put antennae on their towers or steeples. Even Guildford cathedral has a mast under its golden angel weather vane.
They were encouraged by official Church guidance, which acknowledged that immoral material can be transmitted by the new technology but argued that any “ill” was outweighed by the benefits.
However, critics said mobile phones can now transmit dangerously obscene internet images and the church should dissociate itself from such technology, especially after the General Synod condemned media exploitation last month.
The contentious issue has now reached the Archbishop of Canterbury’s 800-year-old Court of Arches, which is due to hear an appeal against the ruling by the diocese of Chelmsford’s consistory court within weeks.
The row began in October when Chancellor George Pulman, Chelmsford’s ecclesiastical judge, rejected an application from St Peter and St Paul church in Chingford, north east London, to erect a T-mobile base station in its spire.
In his judgment, Mr Pulman, a QC who also sits as a deputy High Court judge in the Family Division, became the first Chancellor to refuse a faculty on the grounds that “revolting and damaging” pornography could be transmitted by the network. He said that it was “no part of the work or the mission of the Church” to facilitate or gain financial advantage from the transmission of pornography.
He said: “No Church bookstall would consider it appropriate to offer for sale ‘top shelf’ magazines with their images of sexual titillation or impropriety.”
Mr Pulman also attacked local authorities for granting planning permission for such antennae, saying that their social services department were well aware of the dangers to children.
Above I’ve shown exactly the type of image—the worst possible kind of child porno-
graphy—that the church should be worried about. And God only knows what kind of depravity is concealed in those perverted pixels.
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