A decision of the Court of Arches to allow the installation of a phone mast on a church in the West Midlands against the wishes of the chancellor of the Diocese, the community, and the nearby school, has sent shockwaves through communities throughout the UK, many of whom have questioned the moral role and place of the church in the 21st century, and the power and might of commercial corporations to override the rights of ordinary people.

Supreme Church Court overrules local decision

In refusing Quintel permission to erect the phone mast on Emmanuel Church in Bentley (Wolverhampton deanery), Chancellor Shand of Lichfield Diocese abided by the concerns of the school and community on the grounds that the church had a duty to give primacy to its worship and mission, and it would not be permissible for the parish in the face of strong local opposition to permit the installation close to King Charles Primary School. He also said the case raised pastoral issues which outweighed the commercial considerations. The headmistress of the primary school had formally opposed the installation and was supported by the governors.

Quintel and their agent, with the support of two churchwardens, appealed the decision of Chancellor Shand (given in the Consistory Court in Lichfield) to refuse them permission, on the basis that the Chancellor had no duty in law to give primacy to its worship and mission. The Court of Arches overruled Chancellor Shand, thereby granting Quintel permission to erect the phone mast stating that Chancellor Shand misdirected himself and should have only taken into account relevant concerns of the community, and not “merely fanciful ones”.

Mast Sanity Press officer Sian Meredith said, “How dare this Court dismiss peoples’ well founded fears, depth of feeling for a consecrated place and personal beliefs as “Fanciful.” The church is there to care for its flock, to put people first, to love and honour people, to give pastoral care and to nurture. The supreme Court dismissed the community’s fears as fanciful in order to allow business interests and financial gain to woo the church into a partnership of shame. This is outrageous.”

Mr David Baron, Trustee of Mast Sanity said,

“This decision goes against all the moral principles and teachings of the church. In reaching this decision, the Court of Arches is supporting the forceful selling of mobile phones to the youth market with the considerable social, economic and health consequences that this entails – and using consecrated property to do it. We have all seen reports of so-called ‘happy slapping’ whereby groups of children and teenagers use mobile phones to record assaults and then circulate the resulting images by phone and Internet. The practice of children using mobile phones to access gambling and pornography is also well known. Finally, the decision goes against the precautionary principle which Sir William Stewart, Chairman of the Health Protection Agency has consistently recommended over the past five years, particularly to protect children.

“We are talking here about the use of churches for commercial enterprises. In this context, we may care to reflect that Christ sent the money lenders out of the temple of God along with the cheats and people charging too much and acting in their own commercial interests. Jesus went into the temple of God and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple and overthrew the tables of the money changers and the chairs of them that sold doves and he said to them ‘my house shall be called the house of prayer but you have made it a den of thieves.” (Matthew Ch. 21)

David Baron goes on to say,

“What is also alarming is that the fears of the community ARE based on worldwide evidence of adverse health implications as well as increasing amounts of research showing negative effects and no scientist or Government advisory body has ever said that emissions from masts are safe.

In dismissing years and years of respectable research that make it clear there are serious issues relating to all mobile phone technology, the Court shows clearly the churches new direction in putting financial gain before the health and well being of communities, particularly the weak and vulnerable. This itself is quite counter to the teachings of the New Testament. I doubt that QS4/Quintel would give a written guarantee to the effect that emissions are safe, and they must accept full responsibility for any health effects that emerge.”



David Baron - 01243 641583
Sian Meredith - 01225 483284

Useful links:

For general information contact: http://www.mastsanity.org

Notes for Editors

The Court of Arches is the appeal court of the province of Canterbury.

Sitting at the session of the Court of Arches were Rt Worshipful Sheila Cameron QC, the Dean of the Arches, Chancellor Bursell QC and Chancellor Briden.

The appeal by Quintel S4 Ltd (QS4), was supported (in the absence of an incumbent) by Margaret and Anthony Carr, two churchwardens of Emanuel Church, Bentley.

On 18 January, in the Lichfield Consistory Court, Chancellor Shand had refused permission for the installation of mobile-telephone aerials both on the inside and outside of the tower of Emmanuel Church, an unlisted building. Formal objections had been made by Mrs L Ince, chair of governors of the King Charles Primary School, and Susan Machin, the headteacher

The Court of Arches overruled Chancellor Shand’s decision. It said that, although it was true that the primary purpose of a church was the worship of God, there was no reason as a matter of ecclesiastical law why a faculty should not be granted for a wholly secular and commercial use of a part of a church building.

A tangled web

In 2002, the Church of England agreed a contract with QS4, a company in the Quinetiq defence group that was spawned by the privatisation of parts of the MoD, to be the approved installer of telecommunications equipment in church property such as steeples and towers.

Mast Sanity believes this suits the Church of England because it creates revenues, and it suits QS4 because it gives an open field without further planning consents for the erection of the huge number of masts needed to support the new commercial 3G mobile phone infrastructure

In essence, this ruling seems to mean that local Church leaders and communities:

have no rights to decide on the commercial use of their places of worship

have no control over the effects of these developments on the health and well-being of their surrounding communities

have no say on the basis of ethical considerations in the companies allowed to use their property

have no say on the ethical and moral values of transactions passing through their property.


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Dezember 2005

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