A few days ago a local election leaflet dropped through my letter box. It was for a Tory candidate and would have been 'filed' in the same way as other posted spam if it hadn't been for a photograph that caught my attention. The picture showed the candidate standing in front of our church. My first reaction was to rack my brains to try and think when I had seen this person in the church. Now she might have been at the Remembrance Day service, when we get quite a few visitors we don't see the rest of the year, or at one of the major festivals when we average over 350 and I don't get to meet everyone. I can't say with certainty that this candidate hasn't been to the church during my time as Rector but she is certainly not a regular member of the congregation and not known to me. I found myself asking what right has this person to use a photograph of the church as part of her political propaganda? Looking at the rest of the leaflet and some of the boasts in it about the achievements of her party in local and national government and the pledges for the future disturbed me and I wouldn't want the church to be identified with these claims. A couple of examples of my misgivings are the way in which the leaflet frames issues of welfare reform and immigration.
As I thought about this leaflet I began to consider what place the church building had in the community, why the candidate chose to use this picture and what they hoped to communicate by using this particular image? I also began to ask myself who the building belongs to and what rights there are, for example, in terms of image control?
I haven't worked through all these questions but one thing does strike me. The candidate obviously thought it was a good thing to be identified with the church, or at least the church building, otherwise why use the picture? My concern is whether it is a good thing for the church to be identified with the policies she and her party espouses not least in the leaflet which was shoved through my front door.
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