UK Christian blogger under investigation by gov’t ad authority for running pro-marriage ad
LONDON, May 18, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A prominent British Christian conservative ‘blogger is under attack from a government agency, at the behest of a homosexualist activist group, for supporting the defence of traditional marriage. Going by the pseudonym “Archbishop Cranmer” the ‘blogger has become an influential, tongue-in-cheek voice for social and moral conservatism critiquing liberal Britain, and is particularly popular with social conservatives within the Conservative Party.
Cranmer came under investigation by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) when he posted an ad for the petition being run by the Coalition for Marriage that recently tipped over half a million signatures, including those of several members of the House of Lords. He has been given until May 21 to answer the accusations against him from an alleged 24 anonymous complainants. He wrote that he was “instructed by the ‘Investigations Executive’ of this inquisition to keep all this confidential”.
Cranmer revealed that among the complainants was the campaign group the Jewish Gay & Lesbian Group, who described the advert as “offensive” and “homophobic”.
Reproducing the advert several more times on his blog, Cranmer has asked the ASA to clarify some points including why he alone among all the conservative ‘blogs and websites carrying the ad his was the object of a formal investigation:
“One presumes it has nothing to do with the fact that ConservativeHome is generously underpinned by Lord Ashcroft’s £millions, or that Guido Fawkes isn’t without the means to call in the lawyers or lacking the rottweiler tendency to tell you where to go. Why have you chosen to victimise and harass the weakest, lowliest, and most utterly insignificant of the blogs which carried this advertisement?”
“Since it appears that only a few hundred complaints out of some 26,000 per annum are selected by the ASA for such treatment, could you also please explain why this complaint was considered to be of such gravity that you saw fit to escalate directly to the status of ‘formal investigation’?”
The ASA said in its correspondence, “We require you to explain your rationale for the ad and comment specifically on the points raised in the attached complaint notification.”
The specific points include accusations that the ad was deemed by 10 of the complainants to be “offensive” and “homophobic” and to violate the advertising standards code rules on “misleading advertising,” “substantiation,” and harm and offence”.
The ASA demanded, “robust documentary evidence to back the claims and a clear explanation from you of its relevance.”
The legal defence organisation, Christian Concern for Our Nation, a member of the Coalition for Marriage, is working with Cranmer to craft a legal response. Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of Christian Concern, said, “There is increasing hostility against those who hold that marriage is between a man and a woman. Holding to the current legal definition of marriage now appears to be classified as offensive and homophobic.
“How much worse will it get if same-sex marriage is actually introduced? Freedom of speech and freedom of belief are hanging by a thread.”
The Coalition for Marriage has also responded, saying that the attack by the ASA is “bullying” and “over the top”. “a troubling sign of what may happen if marriage is redefined. Will the authorities pounce on every utterance in support of traditional marriage?
“Will activists demand punitive action every time someone thoughtlessly uses the deeply offensive, heterosexist phrase ‘husband and wife’? Yes, the ASA has lost all sense [of] perspective. But a loss of perspective is what happens when ordinary people are ignored.”
Cranmer himself has responded by going on the attack, blogger-style, revealing that the Chairman of the ASA and former Labour MP Chris Smith, now appointed to the House of Lords as Baron Smith of Finsbury, moonlights as Vice President of The Campaign for Homosexual Equality. Smith has been described by the homosexual news service Pink News as among the 30 most powerful homosexual people in British politics.
Cranmer wrote, “Naturally, His Grace apologises in advance to all those who find this educative illustration offensive and homophobic, for it is never his intention to be either offensive or homophobic. But those of you who do find it offensive and homophobic are free not to visit His Grace’s blog whenever you wish.”
Neil Addison, a barrister and expert in religious discrimination law, wrote that the only response to such attacks are outright defiance. Addison also posted the ad to his ‘blog and encouraged others to do the same.
“I get so fed up with the small minded little Hitlers who seem to infest organisations such as the ASA and the Equality and Human Rights Commission that I have added it to my Blog simply as an expression of solidarity with my fellow Blogger.”
“We in this country fought a war to defend our right to speak freely and express our opinions but clearly the ASA are not aware of that fact.”
Even the anti-Christian pressure group, the National Secular Society, has called the ASA’s action “authoritarian” and announced its support for Cranmer’s ‘blog. In a media release, the NSS said the “eccentric Christian blogger” is being martyred “all over again,” referring to the ‘blogger’s 16th century namesake, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, the protestant author of the Book of Common Prayer who was executed by Queen Mary I.
Cranmer’s “wit and style is more than a match” for the ASA, the NSS said. Although they disagree with his goals, and called the Coalition a group of “the most extreme and unpleasant religious bigots in Britain” the NSS said the ASA is “overstepping the mark and posing a rather sinister threat to freedom of expression”.
“In a democracy we believe that they have the right to express their opinion so long as it doesn’t incite violence. The fact that some people find those opinions “offensive” is not reason enough to silence them.”