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.

2 thoughts on “Comment is free – but it’s moderated

  1. Refraining from publishing comments that are “homophobic”, even if they are “academically rigorous” (whatever that means), would appear to be preclude hosting any *balanced* discussion of what is possibly the hottest topic of the present day that such a blog as this might wish to address, namely the rights, wrongs, legality or illegality, and tactics best employed by the two sides, in the present trajectory of fraught interaction between the Christian faith that is, by and large, inherently and implacably homophobic, and the recent same sex marriage legislation, cannon law and Christian doctrine about marriage, and equality and human rights as touching the right of adherents to that faith to express and to practise their homophobic beliefs unmolested by secular pro-homosexuality elements within society, and such as have infiltrated Christian organised religion.

    Such a policy will inevitably lead, every time the topic arises, to a one-sided discussion, in which homosexualists will sometimes get their comments published, whilst the comments of their natural opponents, unashamed, impenitent, conscientious homophobes (like myself), will always find their comments about the impact of homosexualism upon the church, censored. It amounts to deciding what the consensus of the majority ought to be, i.e. deciding which party the blog owners think is right and which is wrong morally, and deliberately filtering comments, in order to create the possibly misleading impression that the consensus the blog owners wish for, is what the consensus of the majority actually is. Banning homophobic comments thus amounts to an attempt to close down any real discussion of one of the hottest law and religion topics of the day.

    If the criterion is to avoid publishing “offensive” comments, making the assumption betrayed by the use of the phrase “homophobic or otherwise offensive” that all homophobic comments are objectively offensive, then I would like to point out that pro-homosexuality comments are also objectively offensive. By using the term “objectively offensive”, I mean to draw attention to the fact that the conclusion cannot be avoided that a substantial proportion of the population find the promotion of homosexuality subjectively offensive to them, whilst a different proportion of the population find opposition to homosexuality, or homophobia as this has become known whether we like that choice of word or not, subjectively offensive to them. Hence publishing any relevant comment at all, about the effect of the pro-homosexuality movement’s various legislative victories and tactics for imposing their views upon Christians, upon the inherently homophobic Christian faith community, is almost bound to offend somebody.

    • We take “academically rigorous” to mean “evidence-based and not couched in offensive terms”, particularly when a single post such as your recent submission (which we did not approve) is littered with them: “Her Majesty, Elizabeth the Rubber Stamp” and “‘the firm’ (her own robber baron, popish family); “abracadabra-like liturgy”; “pro-sodomy religious people like xxxx”; “fine words of made-up mumbo-jumbo”.

      We do not consider that it is the purpose of this blog to host a permanent debate on the rights or wrongs either of the current secular legislation on same-sex marriage or of the attitudes of the various Christian Churches (and other faiths) towards it.

      “Banning homophobic comments” may be viewed by some as ”an attempt to close down any real discussion of one of the hottest law and religion topics of the day” – but we believe that our decision is correct in terms both of the Equality Act 2010 and of the Defamation Act 2013.

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