Sunday, October 12, 2008

Ease restrictions on religious ad ban: TDs

Banning ads for religious vocations is “a backward and retrograde step”, according to Fianna Fáil TD Chris Andrews.

Speaking in the Dáil on the proposed Broadcasting Bill, he called on Eamon Ryan, the Minister for Broadcasting, to ease restrictions placed on religious advertisements.

Three other TDs, one from Fine Gael and two from Fianna Fáil also called on the Government to relax the regulation of religious ads. Deputies Mattie McGrath and Noel O'Flynn of Fianna Fáil and Deputy Simon Coveney of Fine Gael said the Bill needed to make provision for religious ads.

Deputy Andrews said that religious orders “have made a positive difference” in a number of parts of the world, including Africa. He said that given their contribution, it was amazing that religious orders couldn't advertise for vocations.

He added that there was a group of people who lived “in a bubble” detached from the views of the vast majority of people on various issues. He added that it was important that commentators, such as Senator Rónán Mullen and David Quinn, should be included on Government boards to give their views.

He continued: “They would challenge views and create good debate, and that is what we need. We need people who will challenge us, the establishment and cosy cartel in society.

“There is a segment in society who look down on our traditional values and on people who hold values that are not considered cool, trendy and modern. We need to not look down on them but to engage and debate with them”.

Fine Gael's Simon Coveney said that is was “completely hypocritical” to ban all religious advertising when the Angelus and “A Prayer at Bedtime” were allowed.

He asked whether Ireland was becoming “so politically correct that it is not possible to allow someone to advertise the sale of a crib at Christmas” Ireland was a secular state, he said but it was also “Christian, Celtic, multicultural and multi-religious”.

As an “open, liberal country” it should permit advertising by any Church as long as such advertising is tolerant and reasonable. He urged the Government to take a sensible, rather than a politically correct attitude and to “introduce some flexibility that will allow sensible, tolerant advertising”.

Deputy Noel O'Flynn referred to the Veritas ad which was banned last month, saying that it highlighted “once again the need to amend current broadcasting legislation so as to ease the onerous restrictions on religious advertising”.

Describing the ad in question as innocuous, he said that another Veritas ad was banned because it referred to the word “crib”. Clearly, this is absurd, Deputy O'Flynn said. He added that the interpretation of the law as it stood was “overly strict and literal”.

Deputy Mattie McGrath said that free speech was one of the key values of democracy, but added that, although we were now much more permissive about what we allowed to be broadcast, we were too restrictive when it came to religion.

He said it beggared belief that ads for cribs and First Holy Communion gifts were deemed to be in breach of the law. While he wasn't calling for an absolute right to free speech, he said the new legislation needed to find a happy medium.

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Sotto Voce

(Source: CNI)

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