Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Richard sent me a link today that he encouraged me to blog about - the story of the Church of Wales recalling its Welsh-language magazine for its reprinting of the France-Soir cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed (the one with the wonderful caption "don't worry, we're all being caricatured here"). He saw this as evidence of spinelessness on the part of the Church. I have to respectfully disagree.

Of course, I have no time for the rioters in the Middle East who stormed EU buildings and attacked Danish embassies. That was, quite simply, wrong, and I wrote as such on several occasions. Nevertheless, there are good reasons why the Church of Wales should have recalled its paper.

Press freedom is vital. Yet the magazine of the Church of Wales is not a magazine that is dedicated to preserving free speech - its mission is to help spread the Word of the Lord in Wales, to draw attention to its work, and ultimately to support the Church in the work that it does. One of those aims is to bring about greater harmony between different religious communities. Even if you do not share their beliefs, that is no reason to gratuitously insult them.

I would contend that the message that a wing of the Anglican Communion should be spreading is different to that we should be fighting for in Western society, as regards the direct issue of the Danish cartoons. The most important message of Jesus and any Christian Church must be to love your neighbour as yourself ("there is no other commandment greater than these"). And Christians would have a good reason to feel offended if Muslims were going out of their way to insult Christianity.

The task for a democratic society is different - free speech is vital to the upholding of democracy; limits shouldn't be placed on it. While it behoves us to behave with respect, free speech means being able to say anything (short of a direct incitement to crime). The function of a Christian church is far different. Apologising for printing the cartoons was the right thing for them to do.