Monday, November 15, 2010

A strong woman for libel reform

Mulier Fortis is the latest big name Catholic blogger to speak up for free speech.

The Catholic blogosphere demands libel reform

The Catholic blogosphere's response to scientist Simon Singh's campaign for libel reform has been outstanding.

The latest bloggers to back the campaign are The Conventual Church of St John of Jerusalem who aptly noted that the sheer variety of people backing the campaign, many of whom would have little in common with each other in ordinary circumstances is "an indication of the serious concern with which many in our society now feel for the maintenance of free speech."

And one of the biggest beasts in the Catholosphere jungle, His Hermeneuticalness himself, who posted a characteristically erudite and measured blog entry which eloquently made the case for libel law reform. He said:

It is important to have a libel law. If someone writes seriously damaging things about you that are false, you should have some redress against them. To obtain a retraction, an apology, and some reasonable financial compensation is fair enough if your reputation has been seriously damaged. Unfortunately in England at the moment, the libel law can be used to stifle debate, even to prevent scientists from publishing their research freely, and to intimidate people instead of engaging in rational discussion. It is a matter of balance between free speech and the prevention of calumny. We have not got that balance right and therefore I support the reform of the libel law.

A link to my blogpost on libel reform by American Catholic uberblogging legend, Father Zuhlsdorf, has been the icing on the cake. The campaign for English libel reform is being read about and backed by Catholics from the Vatican to Vermont and from Lourdes to London. Take it from me, dear reader, that's important.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Catholic bloggers for Libel Reform

Fiorella calls for Free Speech

Protect the Pope says Catholics and all people of goodwill must get behind libel reform

World of Nic reminds us that Catholic bloggers are open to attacks by our current ludicrous system

Simon denounces libel threats being used to stifle debate on the Catholosphere.

James Preece explains why libel reform is so important for Catholics.

If you haven't already done so, sign the petition for libel reform here.

I never realised

... that I lived under the kind of sinister regime in which telling bad jokes is effectively banned and expressing your point of view about the sinfulness of this or that sexual activity will get you arrested. I mean, what, are we in Canada or something?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Catholic bloggers for Libel Reform - Fight for Free Speech

This week is the first anniversary of the report Free Speech is Not for Sale, which highlighted the oppressive nature of English libel law; a law which is extremely hostile to writers, while being unreasonably friendly towards powerful corporations and individuals who want to silence critics.

In light of recent events on the British Catholic blogosphere, Catholic bloggers should be particularly aware that English libel law is a pernicious tool in the hands of bullies everywhere.

The English libel law is particularly dangerous for bloggers who are generally not backed by publishers and who can end up being sued in London regardless of where the blog was posted. The internet allows bloggers to reach a global audience, but it also allows the High Court in London to have a global reach.

Priestly bloggers face the additional threat of being abandoned to their fates by the very bishops who should be supporting them as a matter of principle.

You can read more about the peculiar and grossly unfair nature of English libel law at the website of the Libel Reform Campaign. The campaign is not calling for the removal of libel law, but for a libel law that is fair and which would allow writers a reasonable opportunity to express their opinion and then defend it.

The British Government has made a commitment to draft a bill that will reform libel but it is imperative that bloggers and their readers send a strong signal to politicians so that they keep their promise. You can do this by joining me and over 50,000 others who have signed the libel reform petition at

You can sign the petition whatever your nationality and wherever you live. Indeed, signatories from overseas remind British politicians that the English libel law is out of step with the rest of the free world.

The current situation is untenable; English libel law is the most censorious libel law in the democratic world. It serves established interests at the expense of freedom of speech and expression. It must be reformed for the good of everybody and for the good of the Church.
We must speak out to defend free speech. Please sign the petition for libel reform at

Monday, November 08, 2010

Tribune Vardy statement in open court

Claim No: HQ10DO3740



-and -





Solicitor for the Claimant

My Lord I represent the Claimant in this action, Sir Peter Vardy, who was knighted in 2001 for his services to education. The First Defendant is the publisher of the Tribune magazine, a weekly newspaper circulated in hard copy and online via its website. The Second Defendant is the Editor of Tribune.

In 1987, Sir Peter Vardy set up the Vardy Foundation to assist in the education of young people in the most socio-economically deprived parts of the United Kingdom through sponsorship of the City Technology College initiative. The schools with which the Vardy Foundation is concerned, through its Emmanuel Schools Foundation Academies, are open to students of all religious faiths, and the Vardy Foundation works in direct liaison with the Department for Children, Schools and Families. The schools that are supported by the Vardy Foundation are subject to regular Ofsted inspections and they work in tandem with their local Education Authorities. Three of the schools with which the Vardy Foundation is concerned have been awarded excellent Ofsted and HMI Inspection Reports since their inception and the fourth was rated as “good”.

On 5 October 2009, Tribune Publications (the First Defendant) published an article entitled “Creationist Claptrap that Beggars Belief”, which was attributed to the playwright Ed Waugh and the “Tribune’s Web Editor”. The sub-heading of the article said “Playwright Ed Waugh warns that Christian fundamentalism is having an increasing influence on British state schools”.

The article claimed that “the Vardy Foundation, led by Christian Evangelical Peter Vardy, which… controls three State Schools with the fourth on the way” was imposing “pseudoscience” “again on children whose education is paid for by taxpayers’ money”.

The article also claimed that; “By virtue of donating £2million of the £22million it cost the taxpayer to build an academy, the Vardy Foundation can impose its fundamentalist beliefs on children through the science curriculum”.

The article asserted that by virtue of the funding provided by the Vardy Foundation; “children in State Schools, funded by taxpayers’ money, are being taught in biology lessons that evolution is as much a “theory” as creationism and that everything was designed by a God creator as stated literally in Genesis”.

None of these allegations is correct. The schools funded via the Emmanuel Schools Foundation are not even faith schools, let alone ones which advocate creationism. As had been reported accurately by the Guardian before publication of the article, the allegation made in it that schools funded via the Vardy Foundation teach creationism “couldn’t be more wrong”. The schools sponsored by the Vardy Foundation teach an entirely orthodox syllabus, including its science teaching. The Sir Peter Vardy has specifically requested that at each Ofsted inspection, inspectors look for creationism anywhere within the curriculum of the schools sponsored by the Vardy Foundation, and on each occasion inspectors found no evidence at all of creationist teaching.

Both the Tribune and its Editor now accept the allegations made in the article concerning Sir Peter Vardy and his Foundation are untrue, and they have apologised to him for any damage which they have caused to his efforts to improve the education of the underprivileged. They also accept that Sir Peter is not a creationist, and still less has sought to advance the teaching of creationism by means of the sponsorship of education in the UK.

They have also paid a sum by way of damages to a charity of our client’s choice. Since the entire purpose of these proceedings was to ensure that Sir Peter Vardy was to set the record straight to enable the Vardy Foundation to continue to support the education of the underprivileged, he is content upon that basis to let the matter rest.

Counsel for the Defendants

I accept on behalf of the Defendants all that has been said by the Claimant’s solicitor. The Defendants accept that the aims both of Sir Peter Vardy and the Vardy Foundation are to promote the education of the underprivileged, and that Sir Peter Vardy has not sponsored schools through his Foundation for any other reason. They have apologised for and withdrawn the allegations made in the article, and agreed not to republish them.

Solicitor for the Claimant

Accordingly my Lord, I seek leave to withdraw the record.

For the Claimant



For the Defendant


Sir Peter Vardy v Tribune Update

Right, I've just spoken to my man next to the watercooler in Tribune's office and to the charming media liaison at the Vardy Group (nothing but the best for Dolphinarium readers, eh) and can update you on Sir Peter's contretemps with Tribune.

Sir Peter isn't suing Tribune, matters were settled last week, not quite out of court; as part of the settlement, the magazine agreed to a statement being read out in the High Court repudiating the admittedly pisspoor article by sometime playwrite Ed Waugh which was the subject of Vardy's complaint. It has also undertaken to make a donation to a charity of Sir Peter's choice.

I understand that this isn't the first time Sir Peter has taken action against a publication in respect of the Creationist label which has dogged him for some time. A few years ago he took action against The Guardian which was settled out of court.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Sir Peter Vardy sues Tribune for questioning his motives in funding schools

The noted businessman and multi-millionaire Sir Peter Vardy has launched a lawsuit against the editors of Tribune magazine, over what he calls a defamatory article they printed about him in October 2009.
Vardy alleges that in the article – headlined ‘Creationist Claptrap that Beggars Belief’- he is painted to be a devout creationist who sponsors state schools for the main purpose of imposing Christian fundamentalist views on impressionable pupils.
He states an example from the article in the lawsuit, which reads as follows:
“By virtue of donating £2m to the £22m it costs the taxpayer to build an academy, the Vardy Foundation can impose its fundamentalist beliefs on children through the science curriculum.”
As part of the Vardy Foundation, Sir Peter sponsors four schools in the UK. These include Bede Academy in Northumberland, King’s Academy in Middlesbrough, Emmanuel College in Gateshead and Trinity Academy in South Yorkshire.
Vardy has battled accusations that he is a creationist for years, but the Tribune Magazine article seems to be the final straw for the philanthropist. He is pursuing the publication and its editor Chris McLaughlin, for £15,000 in a defamation lawsuit.
If McLaughlin and his legal team lose the case, they will most likely have to pay the injured Sir Vardy compensation using the magazine’s professional indemnity insurance (if a policy covering defamation is in place).

I shall refrain from commenting on this until I know more about it.