Church porn protest by phone mast objectors - Mobile Mast Row At Church's Highest Court
10 May 2007

PROTESTERS: Councillor Kate Salinger (right) and her Barnet Council colleague Councillor Mukesh Depala

A VICAR is being urged to ditch plans for a mobile phone mast on his church roof because it is claimed the technology would be capable of transmitting pornography.

The moral objection has been put to Father Bruce Bridgewood as objections to the mast at St Peter Le Poer Church, Colney Hatch Lane, Muswell Hill, mount among residents and campaigners.

The question of whether churches are suitable sites for mobile phone masts took a new turn when The Chancellor of the Diocese of Chelmsford refused permission to put a mast in a church in Chingford on the grounds that it could be used to deliver "revolting and damaging pornographic" material.

The decision is now being appealed aghianst by communications firm QS4 - the firm used by Church of England to install mobile phone equipment.

But campaigners hope that the ruling could influence the Chancellor of the Diocese of London when he comes to make a decision on the proposed mast at the Muswell Hill church.

The "porn argument" has won the backing of Councillor Kate Salinger (Conservative), who represents Coppetts ward on Barnet Council, and who has been campaigning against the Muswell Hill mast.

Councillor Salinger, herself a churchgoer, said: "There is no way that the church should be involved with anything to do with pornography.

"I think that the Chancellor is doing what I consider the church should be doing on this issue.If a church is installing this equipment, which it will make money from, which could then be used to transmit disgusting material, well then it is just not right."

A demonstration by around 50 protesters was staged outside the church as the congregation arrived for Sunday service. A petition containing 850 signatures has already been handed to Father Bridgewood, who has in principle agreed for the mast to be erected following discussions with his own church council.

He has been criticised for ignoring public feeling over the proposals, given that such a high number of people have expressed concerns.

Councillor Salinger added: "So far the members of the church have ignored a petition signed by 850 local residents, representations by local councillors and their MP.

"I belong to a church community and we believe in listening to the voices of the people who live around our church building."

Father Bruce Bridgewood described the porn argument as "ingenious". He said: "It is rather like saying we should not have PCs because some people use them to download child pornography. It seems like it is that sort of argument. The argument is true as far as it goes, but I don't think my personal opinion really matters on this."

Father Bridgewood questioned the strength of the petition. He claimed that, after analysis, many names were duplicated or did not live in the area.

He said that the church's parish council had been guided by the Church of England's own policies on mobile phone masts and Government guidelines.

He added: "This is an opportunity to raise money for the church, which is the only reason were are doing it. We can't run a church on fresh air.

Copyright © 2007 Archant Regional Limited


Church Urged to Reject Mobile Phone Masts Over Porn Concerns


Mobile Mast Row At Church's Highest Court

Thursday, 10th May 2007, 12:56

Churches throughout Britain could lose out on millions of pounds in a landmark legal dispute over mobile phone masts on steeples transmitting pornography.

Campaigner Stephen Turner, who successfully blocked a plan for a new antenna on his local church, told an appeal hearing in the Church of England's highest court today that the church should not "act as a delivery boy for the pornography industry."

Allowing transmitters on its buildings would "profane the church", he said because they would relay "harmful" images of sex and child abuse and allow internet paedophiles to groom young victims.

At least 37 English churches, including Guildford Cathedral, have cashed in on the boom in mobile technology by charging thousand of pounds a year in rent to telecoms companies for allowing masts on their towers and spires.

But if an earlier decision by a diocesan judge is upheld, they could be forced to take the masts down, costing them millions.

Hundreds of other parishes are thought to have applied for permission to put up masts and the result of today's hearing will determine whether they will get the go ahead.

The row started when George Pulman, QC, Chancellor of the Chelmsford Consistory Court, became the first judge in England to refuse an application for an antenna on the grounds it was "wrong in law."

The parish of St Peter and St Paul in Chingford, Essex, stood to earn £10,500 in rent for a T-Mobile base station in its spire, which would have paid for upkeep of the Grade II listed 19th century building and community projects.

Mr Pulman, who was also a deputy High Court judge, agreed with local worshiper Mr Turner and refused permission saying it was no part of the "work or mission" to facilitate or make money from the transmission of "revolting and damaging pornography."

The rector of St Peter and St Paul and mast installation company QF4 have appealed against the decision to the Archbishop of Canterbury's 800-year-old Court of Arches.

Mr Turner, calling for the decision to be upheld, told the court that a transmitter on church premises would "allow child abuse images to be transmitted and also provide the facility for paedophiles to find children to abuse, as well as transmitting legal adult porn."

He added: "I would submit that this is not part of the Church's work or mission.

"It would profane the Church and is both contrary to biblical teachings and inconsistent with ecclesiastical law.

"If, as is stated in the Church of England's child protection policy, the Church is committed to and will champion young people both in society as a whole and in its own community it would not tolerate a facility that would allow the abuse of children."

Geoffrey Tattersall, QC, one of the three judges hearing the appeal, asked Mr Turner if he thought churches should not have computers for the same reason and also if there were not benefits to be had from better mobile phone coverage such as in emergencies.

Mr Turner replied: "It's a clear distinction to be drawn. A church with an antenna in its spire has no control over the fact there would be potentially child abuse images transmitted from that facility.

"It is not the responsibility of the church to provide mobile phone services. The church has the special responsibility which is different from normal secular society and it should follow its principles.

"I do not believe the Church has a duty to act as a delivery boy for the pornography industry."

The hearing at the historic St Mary le Bow Church in Cheapside in the heart of the City of London continues

Copyright © 2006 National News +44(0)207 684 3000


Porn fears over church mast


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