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Friday, 21 November 2008

Keeping up with the Jones saga

Here's another update on the Welsh poet Patrick Jones and his book of poetry, which Waterstone’s book chain would not let him sign and read at its Cardiff store, in spite of an agreement.

You’ll remember from our posts (this link will harvest them all, including this one) that the Welsh Lib Dems invited Jones to read some of the poems – including, we assume, the “offending” one that has got some Christians, led by well-known pillock Stephen Green of Christian Voice, twitching and threatening hellfire – in a room at the Senedd (Parliament building).

A couple of AMs (Assembly Members) have now objected, though, it seems. An independent, Trish Law, thinks the poems “blasphemous” (although there is no longer a law of blasphemy) and is seeking to ban the reading.

Jones has told the New Humanist blog the that the AMs are now trying to get the reading cancelled due to “blasphemy and profanity”.

The BBC’s correspondent Betsan Powys tells us on her BBC blog that Trish Law, the independent AM for Blaenau Gwent, has written to the Assembly’s presiding officer, Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, whingeing about the reading. Oddly enough, Law upholds the freedom of speech, she says. And yet,

While I uphold freedom of speech I cannot condone the reading of blasphemous, obscene and perverted poems in the National Assembly. We are still a Christian country, yet one that acknowledges and readily accepts other religious beliefs and values. So while we would not tolerate other religions and religious leaders being insulted through verse or deed neither should we expect Christ and Christianity to be subjected to a tirade of anti-Christian rhetoric and profanity.

I implore you to put a stop to this reading on December 11 in the name of decency and humanity.

We’re a Christian country? Speak for yourself, Trish. There are a fair few Christians in it, and lot of sceptics, too. But those who give more than a bit of lip service to it are in a minority in the UK, and I suspect Wales, too. And who says we “would not tolerate other religions and religious leaders being insulted through verse or deed”? All belief systems are fair game. Therefore so is any religious leader.

Meanwhile, a Conservative AM, Jonathan Morgan, is also seeking to censor, but for slightly different reasons:

Patrick Jones seems to think that the freedom of speech is a convenient shield to be used when under attack for being offensive. In exercising that freedom, and in respecting it, we should do so responsibly. I do not believe that AMs should be wading into the debate by hosting a reading. It is a mistake and opens up the institution to the accusation that it is siding with one opinion without giving the other the same chance of expression.

Hat tip Freethinker

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