It beggars belief that anyone could have taken the story seriously. What dean and chapter of any cathedral would even entertain flying the UKIP flag? Oh, they’ll host a Labour-supporting conference, no problem. Blasphemy? Yeah, sure. Pornography? No sweat. Paganism? A breeze. Antisemitism? Duck soup. But – let’s be honest – Church of England clergy would rather sup with Satan than be infected with Faragist bigotry (which is what most of them believe UKIP to represent). Brexit is basically bad fruit: hell would freeze over before a cathedral flew even a non-party-political flag to commemorate the UK’s departure from the EU. Wasn’t the story so obviously a parody, a spoof, a satire on the Church of England’s flag-flying hypocrisy, identity inconsistency and missional dissonance?
Ely Cathedral was inundated with complaints following publication:
There were many, many more (and no doubt dozens of emails and letters of complaint, each of which demanded an explanation). This (unforeseen) hassle heaped upon some poor cathedral administrator caused a twinge of guilt (honestly, how could anyone take this story seriously..?):
But then Andrew Pierce of the Daily Mail took the story very seriously indeed, and included it in his column:
Why didn’t he take the story to its source? Why didn’t he click on any of the hyperlinks to confirm actualities or corroborate quotations, all of which pointed the reader to parody, spoof and satire? He could have DM’d, phoned, or checked the Cathedral’s own Twitter feed. He might even have credited the Archbishop Cranmer blog as his source (for that omission is a manifest discourtesy). Having carried out none of this basic journalistic due diligence, he embarrassed himself (ever so slightly):
The Ely Standard explained:
He lifted reference to the UKIP flag from a blog read by a few hundred to catapult it before millions of on line readers of the Daily Mail.
“Is UKIP now holy acceptable?” Pierce wrote. “Is Brexit now an official religion? “Fluttering above historic Ely Cathedral was the distinctive purple and gold flag of UKIP. The flag was put up to mark a UKIP conference held nearby.”
His fake news report was attacked by Cambridgeshire Labour MEP Alex Mayer who said: “Is the Daily Mail so desperate for positive UKIP stories, they are now having to publish fake news?”
She said the story was published by the Mail alongside a true news report about how internet domains ending in dot EU will be terminated in Britain when we leave the European Union.
She said: ““In fact Ely Cathedral was flying the Pride flag, just as you would expect from a tolerant and inclusive city.”
The spoof story first appeared on the Archbishop Cranmer website.
Ely Cathedral has since tweeted “The Archbishop Cranmer blog is a parody and the UKIP flag has not flown over Ely Cathedral.”
Pierce even quoted Peter Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden, who allegedly “spluttered with outrage at the decision, talking darkly of ‘blasphemy’ in the cloisters. “But if church leaders had the passion of Brexiteers like Nigel Farage, there wouldn’t be such a crisis of attendance in the pews.”
The Archbishop Cranmer blog is “read by a few hundred”, is it? There’s a bit of Ely Standard fake news:
And so it spreads, with Cambridgeshire Live now reporting that Andrew Pierce has issued a grovelling apology, his column has been amended (ie that section deleted), and the Dean of Ely Cathedral has reported the Daily Mail to IPSO:
A spokesperson for Ely Cathedral said: “Ely Cathedral would like to clarify that the information cited in the Andrew Pierce article which appeared in the Daily Mail over the weekend is a parody by a blogger who calls himself Archbishop Cranmer.
“We would like to clarify that we did not fly the UKIP flag over the Cathedral and that we would never fly any political party’s flag over the Cathedral. The Chapter of Ely Cathedral has not endorsed Brexit or any of UKIP’s objectives.
“The IPSO have been informed.”
Presumably the Very Rev’d Mark Bonney’s complaint concerns a breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice, in particular relating to the lack of accuracy: “The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.”
To whom does one complain when a cathedral dean conveys to the world that flying the rainbow flag is “inclusive and tolerant”, when a stated objective of Gay Pride is the implementation of the objectives of the Gay Liberation movement, which isn’t simply concerned with notions of affirmation, dignity and equality, but, as they set out in a manifesto: “We must aim at the abolition of the family, so that the sexist, male supremacist system can no longer be nurtured there.”
The stated objective is the abolition of male and female and the eradication of the nuclear family. Beneath the rainbow flag flourishes a revolutionary political agenda in which “the concept of marriage as a normative place for procreation is lost; the idea of marriage as covenant is diminished; the family in its normal sense, predating the state and as our base community of society, is weakened”. Whether you agree with this or not; whether you believe the flag to be compassionate, inclusive and tolerant or not, it represents a moral worldview which is manifestly contrary to the Church of England’s declared teaching on sexuality and marriage. When it flies above a cathedral, it conveys a statement to the world on behalf of a diocese, its bishop and, indeed, the whole Church of England. That may not be the intention, but it is naive to believe the world does not perceive things differently from the Church.
If the Very Rev’d Mark Bonney is so petty as to prosecute his complaint against the Daily Mail to IPSO, he might consider that he, too, must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including the flying of flags which are not consonant with Anglican moral orthodoxy.