An Open Letter to Manchester Cathedral and the CoE about "secular digital guidelines"

Following this article. I've decided to send this open letter to the Very Reverend Rogers Govender of Manchester Cathedral about his "sacred digital guidelines."

Dear Very Reverend Rogers Govender,

This open letter is in response to the article located here in the Times, which details four "sacred digital guidelines" you've created for games developers to sign up to. For completeness these rules are:

1. Respect our sacred spaces as places of prayer, worship, peace, learning and heritage.

2. Do not assume that sacred space interiors are copyright free.

3. Get permission from the faith leaders who are responsible for the building interiors you want to clone.

4. Support the work of those engaged in resisting the culture of gun crime and those involved in promoting the work of conflict resolution.

Whilst I agree entirely with number 4, I, and many others, have concerns with the first 3 guidelines. As is often the case with freedom of speech and censorship you have to defend works of little value to protect the rights of those which are of worth. As in defending the puerile and offensive Danish Mohammad cartoons in order that intellectually stimulating works like "Jerry Springer the Opera" and "The Satanic Verses" are also defended. I feel this is the case with the mediocre "Resistance: Fall of Man." Whilst R:FoM did not itseld critique the Church of England, your response would curtail that ability.

As such, I feel it is necessary to reply with this open letter (which will be located on with the following "secular digital guidelines" that I wish the CoE to sign up to when interacting with "new digital media" which includes, but is not limited too, games, blogs, social networks, MMOGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games), online video and podcasts.

These "Secular digital guidelines" are:

1. Respect our right to criticise and ridicule elements of a faith we find offensive or untrue.

To do so is an attempt to close down dialogue that can improve both the secular and religious world views. No one likes being offended by something, but thankfully "not being offended" is not a human right.

2. Do not assume that you own the copyright of your sacred spaces and other historical religious imagery.

Manchester Cathedral (which began being built in 1215) is like most religious buildings in the UK, in that it was constructed during a Feudal system of government and church that exploited and tithed the populace to build such buildings. As such the general public has as much right to the image of the church as any member of the faith. Let alone the idea of copyright lasting 800 years. And this is before any consideration of fair use.

3. Do not assume that people must get permission to recreate and image these religious spaces and works.

Whilst clearly, any considerate artist, composer, writer, blogger, podcaster or designer, should inform you of their intentions, do not presume they require your permission. For example politically critical television shows would fall apart if they had to get permissions for all their satirical works. To require permission from such people effectively acts as a form of censorship.

4. Support the attempts to reduce the conflict, violence, wars and terrorism caused by differing religious beliefs.

Whilst adults playing violent video games may indeed concern you, many secular and religous people, who can distinguish between reality and fantasy, would rather you focus your efforts on the real world violence caused by religion.

This is not meant to be critical of your faith, and in no way ignores the countless good works of the CoE but is just encourage proper interaction in this new electronic landscape of communication, debate and dialogue - where everyone owns a printing press.

I you support this proposal I include a form for you to print, sign and return, as well as a hard copy that will be posted today. If you do not support it, then I politely request an explanation why, that can be included on the site.

Best Regards,


I'll detail any response I receive. If you wish to encourage a response to this letter please digg.



Anonymous said...

Firstly most people that call themselves Christians stand by the absolute right of people to criticise the Christian faith.

"As such the general public has as much right to the image of the church as any member of the faith."

That's not true. Cathedrals and other religious buildings are privately owned (and hence not upkept by taxation). You have no legal right to enter them. Access is granted for all those wishing to observe or to worship God. However that doesn't extend to using the internal imagery to promote violence.

Yes I play FPS. Yes they promote violence, but I'm an adult ... and that's another story.

The Bishop may not have been off-mark with his copyright notions. According to wikipedia the Cathedral was damaged by an IRA bomb and also in WWII. Thus work of an artistic nature could still be protected - particularly by the new Moral Rights of the 1988 copyright act.


Anonymous said...

Run it through a spellchecker - they might take more notice then.

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