Victor Lachance and I have agreed to discuss this topic in the paper after corresponding with each other over a number of months. We hope that it proves to be of interest to readers generally. If you have a comment, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Victor asks: “Should newspaper owners or editors be free to write articles about God or their religious beliefs in their newspaper?” He thinks not. I obviously disagree. It seems unfair that anyone is free to write about whatever they find important – except the owner and editor of the paper. Victor calls for independence for the paper: but denies me the right to speak on an issue. He states that the Times is: “a place where readers can freely exchange their knowledge, views and opinions. And that is a good thing”. For everyone, it seems, except me. I cannot freely express my “knowledge, views and opinions”.
Why should that be? Would he have the same attitude if the editor wrote about hockey, for example? If I were “the sportsguy”, who reports on the 73’s in the Times (I am not, by the way), would that be objectionable because I am supporting one team over another, or giving my opinion on the game? Victor seems to only object because the subject in question is religion, specifically, Christianity. He compares my role to that of an airline pilot or firefighter. These are really irrelevant comparisons: those professions are not in the business of publishing ideas and stories and information about matters of interest to the community. I am. And, according to Victor, we at the Times are adhering to standards of “independence, impartiality, objectivity, fairness, accuracy, and balance”, except for that one subject. But, he says that I am using the paper to “promote personal spiritual beliefs”, which, he says “compromise the principles of objectivity, impartiality and even fairness in light of other beliefs”. If I am being fair, accurate and balanced overall, it seems that it is the subject that meets with his objections. Why should that be? Why is religion to be treated differently than politics, sport, climate change, or any other topic? There is a basic (I almost wrote “fundamental”) distinction being made here by Victor which I think is important to note.
Victor says that he is an agnostic and an atheist, which is perfectly acceptable. But that means he either believes there is no God, or that he is unconvinced about it. He believes there is no evidence for God’s existence. I strongly disagree, of course, which is partly why I write the articles. In this world right now, especially, religion is being used to promote negative attitudes and violence. People are using religious symbols and words with religious connotations to justify attitudes and actions that are totally opposed to Christian values and teaching.
I believe it is really important, for society as a whole, to be able to recognise when this is happening and not to be taken in by false teaching and leading. Therefore, clarifying what Christianity is and on what it is based, becomes a worthwhile and valid undertaking. In exactly the same way, I write articles on history. Victor does not object to them, even though I am the editor of the Times, possibly because he recognises that I am an experienced and qualified historian who knows the importance of footnotes and sources, and of keeping to what can be known of the facts.
That, I hold, is the same background I use in the Christian articles: 47 years of research, experience, questioning and study. Are these valid qualifications for writing Canadian history, but not for writing about Christianity? If I make statements that do not hold up, then deal with the evidence and the facts stated, not with prejudice against Christianity and assumptions made in advance.
Victor ends by saying: “I believe that once someone takes on the role of a newspaper owner or editor, they have many other places to communicate their religious beliefs, but the newspaper is not one of them”. Then where? Victor says I can write the articles if they are presented as “an opinion and it is stated as such”. That implies that I can only suggest that what I write may be true, or not. That’s not the criterion for historical articles. Anyway, I do not think these things are true that I wrote about: after 47 years of evaluation and honest thought, I know they are.