In a Taonga article Archbishop Philip Richardson recommends we have a national debate about freedom of expression and its limits, triggered by a controversial t-shirt on display in Canterbury Museum.
The article gives you the links - if you choose - to explore just how utterly distasteful the t-shirt is, and offensive to Jesus. It fails both the "Would your mother like you in this t-shirt?" test as well as the "Would you like your mother or father to be the figures depicted in this T-shirt?" test.
But here's the thing, we do not need a debate about freedom of expression. We are free to express ourselves, we are a democracy and it would be just about impossible to conclude such a debate with an effective law defining where freedom of expression ended and respect for people and their faiths begin.
I propose a different test on freedom of expression.
Is the Canterbury Museum prepared to display the Charlie Hebdo cartoons that have been offensive to Muslims?
If it is, fair enough, it is a fair and equal opportunity offender of religions.
If it is not, then it has failed the justice test on freedom of expression. If an institution or individual is unwilling to offend one religion then none should be offended. If an institution or individual is willing to offend one religion then let all be offended without exception. That is basic justice within a secular democracy.
End of debate.
Over to you Canterbury Museum ...
PS For clerical commenters from other dioceses: do your licences permit you to publicly disagree with your bishop? If they do not (and I hear that at least one diocese has a clause prohibiting such disagreement) then what does that mean for freedom of speech IN OUR OWN CHURCH?