Sunday, March 4, 2018

Church of England court rules that closed circuit television cameras must be turned off during services to protect privacy of prayer

Another sign of the times, as reported by Olivia Rudgard of the London Daily Telegraph, February 23, 2018:

Churches must switch off CCTV cameras during services because prayer is private, a Church of England court has ruled.

The consistory court ruling is believed to be the first made on the ethics of CCTV in church and was made in response to a Canterbury vicar who applied to install two cameras so his church could be left open during the day.

The Reverend Philip Brown, and churchwardens Robin Slowe and Robert Allen, want to install the camera system to deter vandals from damaging the church and to catch the actions of any wrongdoers.

St Mary's Chartham is a Grade I listed medieval building, most of which was built between 1285 and 1305.

Morag Ellis QC, commissary general of the Diocese of Canterbury, said that the cameras should be switched off during services, including regular Sunday worship and events such as weddings.

"Funerals and baptisms, in particular, are examples of occasions on which people are likely to be very sensitive," she said.

Cameras should also be kept away from secluded areas designed for prayer, she added.

"Areas set aside for private devotions seem to me to fall within the especially sensitive category where one would not expect to be filmed while praying.

"Similarly, in any churches where sacramental Confession or other ministries of individual pastoral support, such as healing, are practised, there should be no filming in the part or parts of the church set aside for such purposes," she said.

Church of England churches are encouraged to keep their doors open, with experts advising that such a policy means vandalism is less likely than if the doors are locked.

Ms Ellis, an ecclesiastical law expert who is also married to a Church of England priest, added that the footage should be kept for a maximum of four weeks "because damage and theft in the church, where recordings could be of evidential value, will not always be spotted immediately".

Churches should follow Government guidance which says a CCTV camera's operators must "take into account its effect on individuals and their privacy".

She said the 700-year-old church would not be damaged by the introduction of the cameras as they would be fixed "discreetly" to roof timbers.

A national funding scheme for places of worship was announced in 2016 which allows churches, mosques, gurdwaras and other religious buildings which are vulnerable to hate crime with funding for measures such as CCTV cameras.

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