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Tuesday, 15 May 2012

'Common Sense' - 'the man on a Clapham omnibus'

Photo coutesy of Robert Munster, London Bus Routes

This post is concerned with a scenario which  50 years ago, would have been dealt with on the basis of 'common sense', a characteristic defined broadly in English law as ' the attitude manifested by a man on a Clapham omnibus'.

The 'Archbishop Cranmer' blog-site recently published a copy of an article on the C4M (Coalition for Marriage) website, which defended the legal definition of  marriage, i.e. the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

The post exhibited a montage of wedding day photographs, showing bride and groom on their special day. Wonderful photographs of smiling and happy couples.


The tradition of wedding-day photographs has been around since the advent of photography, in fact I was looking at some very old wedding photographs of my own family, my parents and  relations, taken over 75 years ago,  processed and printed in sepia. I'm sure that there have been thousands of wedding photographs published on the internet over the years, including those of Royal weddings. There is nothing new about this.

Apparently the ASA (Advertising Standards Agency),  has received complaints that 'Cranmer's' post  is offensive and homophobic. To me, it is absolutely clear that this is not the case, and that any such accusation is illogical, unreasonable, and worthless. Let me say straight away that I deplore homophobia.

However the ASA, which has no statutory powers as such, and which I would like to believe exists for the protection and good of society, perhaps a somewhat naive belief, has now turned all its guns on Cranmer, with bully-boy threats reminiscent of the novel '1984' ,written by that prescient author George Orwell.

So why has the ASA decided that 'Cranmer', by publishing this simple photographic montage of traditional weddings, is in breach of the regulations?  The photographs are no different from those already mentioned.

Could it be that the fault lies elsewhere, perhaps the words "I do" offend in some inconceivable way? But why, for after all if same sex marriages were legalised, presumably those participating would expect to use the same words? The phrase "I do" is subjective, conveying in this instance the vow of faithfulness taken by the bride and groom to each other. Nothing remotely offensive or homophobic about that.

The post then informs viewers that 70% of people want the definition of marriage to remain as it is, and then invites others to sign the ongoing on-line Petition in support of this. Certain people might not like the ongoing on-line Petition, and they might  disagree with the percentage figure quoted, which in any event is not 'Cranmer's responsibility, but that does not make the article  offensive or homophobic, which it clearly is not.  (see N.B. below)

In fact these accusations could be levelled more accurately at the government, which is endeavouring to bulldoze a change in the legal definition of marriage, effectively cocking-a-snoop  at those millions of people who desire and respect traditional marriage. The UK is not yet a dictatorship, in spite of powerful forces seemingly working for this, and free expression- with limitations, is still allowed.

The government has no mandate to force same-sex marriage onto the statute books, and if they do, is this not tantamount to homophobic behaviour, for it is an insult to, and crassly dismissive of, the sensibilities of millions of Christians and 2000 years of Christian heritage on which, with  exceptions like the Abortion Act, our whole legal system is based?
Those who oppose same-sex marriage are not out on a limb, they are
not the extremists or the anarchists, they are the vast majority of ordinary people prepared to stand up for traditional  standards and freedom of speech, and to speak out against the tyranny of 'abuse of power' by the state and its minions.

Interestingly the ASA is a non-statutory body with no power to fine or take advertisers to court, but is subject in the final analysis, to the authority of the Minister for Media and Culture, the Rt. Hon. Jeremy Hunt MP.  He is also the Minister ultimately  responsible for deciding whether to allow abortion providers to advertise their services on television, and in spite of  widespread opposition, including an on-line petition with several thousand signatories, I believe that he has not yet over-ruled the original ASA approval.

Some months ago I wrote a letter to him concerning this matter,  and received neither reply nor acknowledgement. I was not impressed, and I seriously question  the judgement of the ASA, primarly on certain ethical matters, highlighted for me by this particular decision.
The Chairman of the ASA, is Lord Smith of Finsbury, who is also the vice-president of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality.

A few details from the ASA website:-
'The ASA is here to make sure all advertisements are legal, decent, honest and truthful.' 
'The ASA is wholly funded by advertisers through a levy on advertising spend, and is not government funded.'
'These levies are collected by two separate bodies, the Advertising Standards Board of Finance (Asbof) and the Broadcast Advertising Standards Board of Finance (Basbof).' 
 'Each year the ASA pitches to Asbof and Basbof for its funding for the following year. The separate funding mechanism ensures that the ASA does not know which advertisers choose to fund the system or the amount they
 This means that the ASA can take on the most powerful multinational companies without worrying about next year’s subscriptions.'
'The ASA is never aware of how much any company contributes to the system.' 

To conclude with a rather obvious question,  why have the ASA picked on
the 'Archbishop Cranmer' website for their offensive, and not say, the 'Coalition for Marriage' organisation? I wonder if the answer is that poor old 'Cranmer' is a one-man band, whereas C4M has over 513,000 known supporters and probably at least as many again on the sidelines. It's nearly always the little man that government bullies go for, have you noticed?

I take the liberty of quoting from Neil Addison's  posting on this very matter, as follows:-   

'I am posting simply in the name of Freedom, the freedom to express a point of view with which other may disagree because as Lord Justice Sedley put it so memorably in Redmond Bate v DPP ' :-
               "Free speech includes not only the inoffensive but the irritating, the contentious, the eccentric, the heretical, the unwelcome and the provocative provided it does not tend to provoke violence. Freedom only to speak inoffensively is not worth having."                          
                                                       ..... to which we can only say 'AMEN'. 


N.B.   A word about the 70% findings for traditional marriage. The survey was conducted by the highly respected Com Res company:-

'ComRes works with many leading blue-chip corporations, campaign groups, political parties, public sector bodies and trade bodies. We also poll for media clients ranging from The Independent to the BBC and ITV News. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and Association for Qualitative Research and employs members of the Market Research Society'

'A ComRes online poll for Catholic Voices released on 8 March asked two separate questions: first, whether respondents supported civil partnerships (59% said yes they did); and second, whether they believed marriage should remain as an exclusive commitment between a man and a woman (70% said it should).
16 This poll had a relatively large sample

 A link to the original post from the 'Archbishop Cranmer' blogsite:

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