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Freedom of Conscience - Allegedly

Today's ASBO Jesus offering (which is a great cartoon) has left me troubled, which of course is precisely what it's meant to do, along with informing, amusing and provoking thought.

A well respected (well the Cof E seem to like him enough to invite him to Lambeth...) Christian cartoonist has had to remove certain posts from his blog, which has sparked a lot of concern in blog world over freedom of speech.  So far as I can tell, from looking at few Google cached versions of the removed web-pages, there is nothing offensive in what they have to say.  If you pick up ASBO's link from above, you can trace through the whole saga and form your own view.

BBC satire programmes seem to be able to get away with saying pretty outrageous things so long as they use the word 'allegedly' as a covering get-out-clause.  Satire is a long established means of playing with ideas, pushing boundaries a little and sometimes even raising awareness, as seems to have been the intention in the case of the blogger in question.

Baptists are quite good at asserting our historical thing about freedom of conscience and even like to make a lot of our dissenting history.  But most of us, like me, are actually respectable rule-followers who don't want to take any risks (why else is this post quite carefully worded?!) and avoid conflict at all costs.

As I have pondered the ASBO post, and the whole thing, I have found myself reminded once more of the verse attributed to Martin Niemoller:

"First They Came for the Jews"

First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

Pastor Martin Niemöller


It is easy to say we believe in religious liberty, in freedom of conscience - and allegedly we do, just so long as it doesn't start costing us either in terms of justice or prophetic witness.  Mea culpa.


  • I believe Dave Walker has been treated very badly - along with many others caught up in the sorry saga of the SPCK/SSG takeover.
    If you are in Leicester, go and support "Christian Resource" in the Bishop Street!
    As a Baptist, shouldn't I believe that "I may not agree with what you say, but I defend your right to say it"
    [Except in this case I think I DO agree with DW!!]

  • Hi Angela, thanks for your thoughts

    I do pop into 'Christian Resources' pretty regularly.

    I agree with you that 'I may not agree with what you say, but I defend your right to say it' is a good principle - but think it carries a responsibility to somehow be a prophetic voice challenging what seems to be unjust and un-Godly. The danger is to find myself cast in the role of the Levite or Priest rather than the Samaritan, fearing taint if I get involved or challenge abuse of that freedom.

  • For some good investigative blogging on this issue, read the first three posts at: http://www.ministryoftruth.me.uk/

    Disturbing stuff.

  • A quick note to say thanks for posting.

The comments are closed.