Comment is free – but it’s moderated

Since our January post on the new legislation on defamation for website operators and users we have been reviewing our comments policy in the light of that and considering the more general issue of what is acceptable on this site.

At the top of our current front page we say this:

“Law & Religion UK provides a forum for academically-rigorous exploration of the interactions between law and religion, together with the associated human rights issues. We welcome pertinent guest posts and comments on current developments that reflect the views and opinions of their respective authors and meet the General Conditions applying to the site. Those that do not meet these criteria or which are otherwise unidentifiable are unlikely to be published”.

We mean it.

In advocating press freedom CP Scott, editor of the Manchester Guardian, famously stated that “comment is free, but facts are sacred”. But his concerns included the manner of its presentation[1] and contributions to the “Comment is Free” section of the modern Guardian are subject to review by its team of moderators.

Many of the issues discussed on this site may provoke strong feelings; but these should not be a component in the presentation of any specific arguments.  All our publications are subject to moderation and comments of a racist, homophobic or otherwise offensive nature will not be tolerated.  This is meant to be a serious blog for the discussion of serious topics in a calm and considered manner.

With regard to our own posts and comments, we make no claim to infallibility and we are very happy to post comments telling us when we are wrong. In fact we positively welcome comments pointing out our errors because we don’t want to perpetuate them – what rational person would? And if you simply want to express disagreement with our judgments, that’s fine: it’s what academic discussion and debate are about. But we must re-emphasise that racist, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments are not welcome. Neither are those submitted under pseudonyms: if you aren’t prepared to put your name to it, why should we post it?

Every comment that is submitted, including our own, is managed by Akismet software which filters out most of the spam and also flags up genuine comment for moderation. Likewise, the Leave a Reply option after each post or comment provides a conduit for those who object to their content or its presentation. “Politeness costs nothing” may be a cliché – but it’s a cliché because it’s true. Other sites in this field adopt a similar policy,

The World Wide Web is a big place (well, it’s worldwide) and no doubt there are thousands of barmy websites out there on which you can be as racist, sexist, homophobic or just generally as obnoxious as you like. But this is not one of them. So if that’s your game, kindly go and play it elsewhere.

Frank Cranmer and David Pocklington

[1] “A newspaper is of necessity something of a monopoly, and its first duty is to shun the temptations of monopoly. Its primary office is the gathering of news. At the peril of its soul it must see that the supply is not tainted. Neither in what it gives, nor in what it does not give, nor in the mode of presentation must the unclouded face of truth suffer wrong. Comment is free, but facts are sacred”. Manchester Guardian 5 May 1921.