TORONTO, Ont., April 20, 2005 The Catholic Civil Rights League (www.ccrl.ca) today criticized the decision of global online auctioneer eBay to allow the sale of a religious souvenir kit that included a consecrated Communion host. The collection of goods was recently offered for sale on eBay by an American who said he had collected them at a papal Mass in Italy in 1998.
This incident shows some real problems with online commerce that arent confined to eBay, says Phi Horgan, president of CCRL. With almost all of the posting, bidding and selling being done through automated processes, it is unlikely anyone with management responsibilities even saw this kit until it went online. Even if they had, it appears the sale was in keeping with eBays policies.
We urge eBay to review its policies and the process for assessing future sales of religious goods. A consecrated host is not a commercial commodity.
EBay told CCRL that its management has made the decision not to prohibit the sale of any item only on the basis of the item being endowed with sacred properties by certain religious groups. In general, eBay will remove items for a violation of our Offensive Materials policy only in extreme examples in which the listing explicitly promotes hatred, violence or racial intolerance.
CCRL believes that an item need not promote hatred, violence or racial intolerance in order to be unsuitable for auction. The sellers product description trivialized beliefs that are very important to the worlds 1.1 billion Catholics, the League said in its letter to eBay.
Historically, most civil rights campaigns originated primarily within religious communities. It would seem odd to consider anti-religious attitudes as being somehow less shameful or less offensive than racial attitudes, says Mr. Horgan.
In Canada, the Advertising Standards Council upheld a CCRL complaint based on anti-religious depiction in the 2003 Puretracks.com billboard campaign, which was subsequently withdrawn (Civil Rights, December, 2003).
In the eBay case, the seller changed his mind in the wake of all the controversy, and returned the host to diocesan authorities in his area, where it was disposed of according to Church law. However, eBay has refused to change its policy. People of all faiths should expect more from eBay. The online service risks future participation in its business if no appropriate safeguards are implemented, says Mr. Horgan.
Catholic Civil Rights League (www.ccrl.ca) assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization. The Catholic Civil Rights League is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.
For further information: Joanne McGarry, Executive Director, 416-466-8244; firstname.lastname@example.org