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Blasphemy, rhetoric and profanity

Betsan Powys | 12:05 UK time, Tuesday, 18 November 2008

The (rather beautiful) paintings of naked women hanging in the Senedd some time ago got a frosty reception from some.

The tin-plate portrait of Margaret Thatcher led to three Statements of Opinion and some strong language.

But the planned reading by Patrick Jones of his controversial poetry in Ty Hywel - the red brick building taxi drivers still can't quite believe ever housed the National Assembly - looks as though it might lead to even louder protest and stronger language.

Trish Law, the independent AM for Blaenau Gwent is described by the Blaenau Gwent People's Voice party on their website as "An Assembly Member, free from Party Political Dictatorship guided only by the Views, Opinions and Wishes of the People of Blaenau Gwent." This morning she's made her views - and we must assume their views - on the Patrick Jones reading crystal clear.

She pulls no punches in her letter to the Presiding Officer, Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas.

"While I uphold freedom of speech I cannot condone the reading of blasphemous, obscene and perverted poems in the National Assembly. We are still a Christian country, yet one that acknowledges and readily accepts other religious beliefs and values. So while we would not tolerate other religions and religious leaders being insulted through verse or deed neither should we expect Christ and Christianity to be subjected to a tirade of anti-Christian rhetoric and profanity.

I implore you to put a stop to this reading on December 11th in the name of decency and humanity."

The line of attack from Conservative Jonathan Morgan is not the same but the upshot of his argument is: the reading - hosted by two AMs, Lorraine Barrett and Peter Black - should not happen.

"Patrick Jones seems to think that the freedom of speech is a convenient shield to be used when under attack for being offensive. In exercising that freedom, and in respecting it, we should do so responsibly. I do not believe that AMs should be wading into the debate by hosting a reading. It is a mistake and opens up the institution to the accusation that it is siding with one opinion without giving the other the same chance of expression".

Preventing last week's planned reading at Waterstone's in Cardiff was hailed by the national director of Christian Voice, Stephen Green, as a triumph "for the Lord, not for us".

He'll already have realised, I'm sure, that this time round the decision lies in the hands of another Lord - note, a Lord Temporal, not Spiritual.

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