You’ve got porn!

SophiaBelltowerChurches have leased space in their bell towers to cell-phone companies for several years now, but the Chicago Tribune reports on a new twist in that discussion: whether such towers would transmit pornographic signals:

Eugene Hales worries that a cell-phone antenna proposed for the roof of a Catholic community hall in Schaumburg will become a conduit for pornography sent and received by wireless customers.

So Hales and a few other like-minded parishioners at St. Matthew Catholic Church decided to do more than pray for guidance.

They raised moral objections, asking the Schaumburg Village Board to deny a permit.

With the high traffic in pornography on the Internet and the increasing use of cell phones to surf the Web, Hales and others are afraid that the antenna will become a vehicle for immoral material.

“Here is a facility put on your property, which is sacred ground, which is putting out, and being paid for, by everything that is blasphemous,” said Hales, who testified at last month’s Village Board meeting. The board postponed a vote, but the matter is back on the agenda Tuesday.

The Tribune keeps the story to an efficient 800 words, but staff reporter Liam Ford and freelance reporter Graydon Megan do a commendable job of finding the essential elements.

Perhaps the most surprising detail is that the Archdiocese of Chicago says this is the first time anyone has raised concerns about the content that would pass through the technology. Parish leaders favor the proposal, which would bring $20,000 into the parish’s budget each year.

There’s a poignant sadness that the concerns raised by Hales feel so quixotic in today’s culture. Granted, just about any technology can be (and has been) used to distribute pornography, and porn is an undeniable fuel in the American economy. But Hales raises good questions about churches’ stewardship of their properties.

Update, July 22: The New York Times has published this correction.

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  • Jerry

    It’s interesting that you feel it so quixotic, because, to me, it goes right along with anyone or any group making a choice based on their beliefs. I don’t see any essential difference between this case and those who organize boycotts because of their beliefs. Voting with your money either by refusing to buy something or refusing to rent space can be very effective. It sends the valuable message that you’re willing to put your wallet/purse where your mouth is.

  • Kepler

    Unfortunately, that bell/cell tower could also have transmitted an urgent 911 call.

    “Here is a facility put on your property, which is sacred ground, which is putting out, and being paid for, by everything that is blasphemous,” said Hales,

    “Honey, I’m calling to say I’m running late and could you please pick Tommy up from soccer practice? I don’t want him to be alone in the dark.”

    BLASPHEMY!!!

    The short-sighted self-righteousness of people never ceases to amaze me.

  • don

    No, it is not quixotic in the sense of tilting at windmills, imaginary enemies. But it is quixotic in the sense that it seems like an ultimately futile effort, trying to stem the tide of immorality. That at least might explain Doug’s choice of words.

    Personally, I think the church ought to be in the business of just such things. The only reason for putting the cellular equipment on their property is that they need another $20K a year because God’s people aren’t supporting the church he gave them.

    Following Kepler’s line of argument, the church must also provide every other community service, a clinic, their own bus line, perhaps a car repair, just in case someone might be in need of them. If the church rents space to a gun shop, that would enable a threatened homeowner to defend herself, although it might also be used for less noble purposes.

  • Brian Walden

    Kepler,

    The short-sighted self-righteousness of people who call those who make decisions based on morals short-sighted and self-righteous never ceases to amaze me.

    Your post is illogical. The archdiocese isn’t preventing anyone from making cell phone calls and they have every right to use their property as they see fit. They don’t have a monopoly on places to put cell-phone antennas. I’m sure cell phone companies can find someone else in the area who owns a tall building and would be more than happy to accept $20K per year. Or, here’s a novel idea, they could build their own cell tower and use it as they see fit.

  • Kepler

    Well, actually, Don, you aren’t following my line of argument.

    I quoted Mr. Hales for a reason:

    Here is a facility put on your property, which is sacred ground, which is putting out, and being paid for, by everything that is blasphemous,” said Hales…

    Hales seems to imply that cell phone communications exist solely because of the people who use them to send/receive/download porn.

    I am not saying that Mr. Hales is under any obligation to provide his community a service. I saying that Mr. Hales’ self-righteousness has apparently blinded him to the fact that cell phone towers serve a lot of good purposes.

    Mr. Hales’ position is not unlike those who misquote St. Paul in saying, “Money is the root of all evil.”

    In fact, of course, St. Paul actually said, “The love of money is a root of all sorts of evil.”

    It is the fallacy of moving from the particular to the general: cell phone towers can be used to transmit porn, ergo cell phone towers are evil.

    It’s bad logic and a very silly argument.

  • Kepler

    Brian,

    In no way am I arguing that this church is obliged to agree to the use of their bell tower.

    I am only saying that Mr. Hales’ argument against it is dumb.

    I agree with your post 100%.

  • Dennis Colby

    In fact, of course, St. Paul actually said, “The love of money is a root of all sorts of evil.”

    Depending on which translation you favor, of course.

  • Brian Walden

    Kepler,

    Thanks for clarifying your position. I respect that you disagree with Mr. Hales’ reasoning, but I think calling it dumb may be a stretch.

    Many people believe that helping someone to sin is a sin itself. Mr. Hales is not condemning cell phone technology; he’s merely stating that the Archdiocese shouldn’t aid people in using that technology improperly.

    Of course, we cannot take that reasoning too far or else we wouldn’t be able to help anyone. But it’s also important to remember that this isn’t being considered as a charitable gift the Archdiocese is giving to the town. If they decide to do it they would be doing it to make money.

    I think Mr. Hales is entitled to his opinion that the Archdiocese could find better ways to make money. Of course, you’re also entitled to your opinion that he’s being overly scrupulous, but I don’t think anyone is being dumb.

  • Palladio

    Opposing support of pornography is essentially good, whether the good is symbolic or no. Background: no blocking device available to most users at home can block pornography of any sort. This puts at risk (say) children, who should never be left unattended using the www. Removing transmission towers thus seems for two good reasons an especially decent thing to do. It should not be hard to find many more reasons as compelling. What the church can do it seems to be doing. If people knew that their basic cable bill funds, at least indirectly, some of the most disgusting and dangerous images imaginable, they, too, might do what they could to stop this unprecedented flood of evil into the mainstream.


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