Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin has written to the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland asking for advice and comment on an advertisement in the Belfast Telegraph.
The church had intended the newspaper to publish a statement by the Catholic Northern Bishops ahead of the May 2 Northern Ireland Assembly elections, as a paid advertisement.
The statement included a reference to abortion, and the newspaper asked the Catholic Church to make changes to the paid ad ahead of the election before agreeing to publish it.
However, the Belfast Telegraph said there had been absolutely no attempt to change the church’s core anti-abortion message. The newspaper is owned by Mediahuis Ireland along with the Irish Independent and other titles.
The Archbishop this evening described the newspaper’s stance as a “refusal” to publish.
“The bishops are now seeking advice on the implications of the newspaper’s decision on the right to religious freedom and equal treatment for people of faith when accessing the services of a commercial organization,” it said in a statement tonight.
In the statement, Archbishop Martin said: “Our advertisement contained the established and widely publicized position of the Catholic Church on a range of issues.
“But the newspaper later refused to run the ad unless the bishops changed what they said about abortion services to the publisher’s satisfaction.”
The statement said another newspaper, The Irish News, ran the ad with no changes.
Archbishop Martin said: “From our perspective, the situation is a fairly simple case of a religious organization being refused a commercial service after payment was made, unless the religious organization was willing to change the way how their religious message is expressed.
“We believe it would be helpful to all parties, as well as other faith groups who wish to engage in a similar commercial service in the future, if we asked the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland and others for clarification and advice on the situation we will be facing next Review steps once we receive this advice.”
However, when the matter first surfaced, the Belfast Telegraph stood by its decision, saying it had not changed the church’s anti-abortion message.
A previous statement from the newspaper said: “Any advertisement containing uncontested opinions and views, particularly ahead of an election, will be screened before publication. We are regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority.
“The proposed changes have not changed the church’s core anti-abortion message.”
https://www.independent.ie/news/archbishop-writes-to-equality-commission-over-belfast-telegraph-advert-decision-41875216.html Archbishop writes to Equality Commission over Belfast Telegraph advertising decision