B R DRIVER AGAINST THE DOMINION POST

Case Number: 2025

Council Meeting: APRIL 2008

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: The Dominion Post

Ruling Categories: Discrimination
Offensive Language

The New Zealand Press Council has not upheld a complaint against The Dominion Post arising from an item published on November 9, 2007.

Background

A reworked version of The Lord’s Prayer, headlined Let us pray, published on the front page of The Dominion Post Sport and Raceform, invoked the Lord’s assistance in beating the Australian national netball team in a forthcoming competition.

The Complaint and Newspaper’s Response

B R Driver complained by letter on 12 November to The Dominion Post that the piece was discriminatory, placed “undue gratuitous” emphasis on Christianity and was offensive.

The Dominion Post editor Tim Pankhurst rejected this and argued that it was a light-hearted comment that drew both compliment and criticism.

Mr Driver, in a subsequent complaint to the Press Council, argued that the rewritten prayer was prejudiced, inconsiderate and offensive towards religion in general and Christianity in particular. He argued that it breached Principle 8 of the Press Council’s Statement of Principles relating to discrimination in that it placed a gratuitous emphasis on religion. He stated that Christians have a special regard for The Lord’s Prayer and that lampooning and ridiculing it was, by implication, lampooning and ridiculing Jesus Christ.

He felt the published version of the prayer was sneering and that the layout and use of colours was designed to cause further offence.

Mr Pankhurst, in reply, said that the newspaper had not set out to offend readers and it was always regrettable when that happened. He added “Ours is a broad church and I’m afraid it is inevitable that from time to time we will publish material that offends someone somewhere”.

Discussion

The Press Council considered Mr Driver’s well-argued complaint carefully. However it could not find that there had been a gratuitous emphasis on religion which had resulted in discrimination against Christians.

The Dominion Post had used the format of The Lord’s Prayer precisely because, with its recognisable rhyme and meter, it is so widely known.

The publication reflected the feelings of many of its readers who were in many cases “praying” that the netball team would be more successful than other New Zealand sporting teams had been in the preceding months.

Decision

The complaint is not upheld.


Press Council members considering this complaint were Barry Paterson (Chairman), Aroha Beck, Ruth Buddicom, Kate Coughlan, Penny Harding, John Gardner, Keith Lees, Clive Lind, Denis McLean, Alan Samson and Lynn Scott.