Out-Law / Your Daily Need-To-Know

A church has been given permission to install a 3G mobile phone mast on its tower despite there being a risk that the mast will transmit pornography. An ecclesiastical appeals court has overturned an earlier order and allowed the mast's installation.

Many churches are used as sites for mobile phone masts. They are usually located in population centres with high towers or spires, making them ideal for mobile phone companies. The revenue from the mobile phone operators is useful to churches.

One Church of England parish, St Peter and St Paul in Chingford, applied for permission to have a T-Mobile mast installed on its tower. Church of England churches must obtain the permission of the chancellor of the diocese before a mast can be installed.

Church court the Chelmsford Consistory Court denied the parish the right to install the mast. It said that some of the material transmitted would be pornography, and that this was not an appropriate use of a church's facilities.

The parish appealed the decision to the Arches Court of Canterbury, one of the Church of England's two appeals courts. The other is the Arches Court of York and their jurisdiction is geographical. The ruling cannot be appealed further.

The Dean of the Arches Court of Canterbury said that the church should be allowed to host the mast because he believed that the benefit of improved 3G mobile access for residents of the area outweighed the potential downside of the transmission of pornography.

The Dean pointed out that the mobile phone companies monitored their systems to keep those they knew were under 18 away from pornographic material and to block access to illegal material. Pornography that might be accessed might be deplorable to Christians, he said, but it would not be illegal.

He said that to hinder access generally because of the possibility that it would be used for purposes which members of the church might object to would be unbalanced. He gave permission for the mast to be installed.

The Church of England has a national policy of supporting the installation of masts and has even appointed a firm on a national basis to install any masts that are approved.

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