Should Churches Be Blurred in Aerial Images? June 7, 2009

Should Churches Be Blurred in Aerial Images?

Read this paragraph for a moment:

Joel Anderson, a member of the California Assembly, has more expansive goals. He has introduced a bill in the state Legislature that would prohibit “virtual globe” services from providing unblurred pictures of schools, churches and government or medical facilities in California. It also would prohibit those services from providing street-view photos of those buildings.

Anderson is worried that terrorists may be spying on certain buildings in order to plan future attacks.

Outside the whole issue of privacy and what should and should not be censored, reader b raises another question: Why are churches included on that list?

I understand why churches might be targeted by terrorists. After all, most terrorism is based in religion. But the 9/11 terrorists didn’t target churches, they targeted commercial and government buildings. How is a church more important than, say, a shopping mall? Or a sports arena? Why does a religious building need special protection instead of, say, a Boys and Girls club? Hell, most days there are more people in bars than in churches.

Should churches get special protection here (if you want to call this protection at all)?

Would that be a violation of church/state separation?

And should this politician (or others) be allowed to decided what should and should not be censored?

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  • Erp

    And why churches and not synagogues or mosques or temples?

    It seems a bit absurd. Next thing we’ll know people won’t be allowed to post their wedding pictures if it includes outside views of the church.

  • This reminds me of the Simpsons when creditors were after Homer.

    “I’ll just take the number off my house.”
    “Then we’ll look for the house with no numbers.”
    “Fine I’ll take the numbers of the neighbour’s house.”
    “Then we’ll look for the house next to the house with no numbers.”

    In other words, regardless of whether or not churches are involved, this idea blows.

  • llewelly

    Um. Do these people not know that parishioners make heavy use of online aerial photography to find churches? Do they have any idea how hard it would be to remove existing online aerial photography from the internet? It seems they have applied very little thinking to this idea.

  • Oh, puhlease.

  • I live in a small town in rural Oklahoma. If they fuzzed out the churches, the entire town would be gone! No exaggeration!

    On a side note, one of the local churches is running a sign saying “There are no atheists in hell.” I’m assuming it’s supposed to mean that once we’re all in hell then we’ll believe. I prefer to interpret it as meaning that even the church recognizes that atheists are typically more moral than some of their parishoners. 😉

  • It just goes to show that we are have our fair share of nutty politicians here in California.

    But, seriously WTF!

  • 7fta

    terrorist1: Which one’s do we target?

    terrorist2: The fuzzy ones dummy!

    terrorist1: Why not just use wwwdotyellowpages?

    terrorist2: hmmm

  • Thilina

    Just when you think people can’t be any more paranoid (well past the point of insanity)………

    Any terrorist who [inexplicably wants to] target a church but is too lazy to get off his ass drive there and take pictures himself is very unlikely to actually commit to killing himself.

    Do they expect others to be as stupid as them. Are they saying that the only way a terrorist can find a target to bomb is using Google earth?

    What’s next putting giant curtains around the churches so the “terrorist” can’t see them.

  • Epistaxis

    Hemant, don’t you read the news? There was a terrorist attack at a church in Wichita just a week ago.

  • Miko

    Unfortunately, our would-be terrorist could still walk/drive by the church and take photos. Methinks we need some type of holographic perimeter displays to blur out the churches in real-life too.

  • medussa

    If god is so damned powerful, can’t he protect the churches? Can’t he be counted on to distract those evil terrorists to target other, less critical places, like schools, high rises and government buildings?
    Jeezus, doesn’t look like these theists believe in their own god’s powers.

  • Richard Wade

    The quickest way to make yourself look ridiculous is to take yourself too seriously. Assemblyman Anderson is just one more person who thinks his and other churches are far more important than they really are.

    I’m surprised that churches don’t already look blurry on aerial images. They use fuzzy logic, they blur church-state lines, they fail to focus on the right issues, their understanding of science is often unclear, their thoughts about non-believers are clouded, they have foggy recollections of their questionable conduct, their interpretation of their own scripture is woolly, their last refuge in a debate is to be obscure, the true events of their history are lost in the mists of time, and their world view is myopic.

  • Ian

    Wow – what a truely insane idea.

    Here, Mr Terrorist, here is a detailed map of our country with the places we’re rather you didn’t strike clearly marked.


  • If God had meant for us to blur images he would have invented blurring technology.


  • Luther

    There is a good reason to blur churches…to prevent those susceptible to religion from finding them!!!

    Then lets blur fast food outlets with high fat content.

    And how about military recruiting stations.

  • GodlessGreg

    I think they should put crosses over the churches on the maps. “X” marks the spot!

  • gribblethemunchkin

    Funny, but you can tell he is a republican even before i checked on the web.

    This kind of person just seems to reek of fear. I wonder if it is at all tied into a religious mindset…

    This guy has more chance of being killed in a car crash or by wild animals than he does in a terrorist attack, but his fear has overwhelmed what little reason he once had.

    Either that or he is trying to build such fear in others. Fear is after all, pretty much the only effective tool the republicans have left.

    The guys and idiot. the idea is idiotic too. We can’t defeat terror by giving into fear, the hint is in the word “terror”ism.

  • Randy

    How about you remove the churches? Then they won’t show up on the photos! Problem solved.

  • Infinite Monkey

    Grab a phone book and tear out the churches section. Post them on a wall, assuming you can find a wall big enough to fit them all. Stand back, and throw a dart. Where that dart lands….call the number “Excuse me, what’s your address again?”

  • Steven Capsuto

    It’s easy to poke fun at this sort of thing, but the fact is that houses of worship and other religious buildings *are* inordinately the targets of terrorist acts worldwide: mosques, churches, synagogues, etc.

    There’s even a history of this in the U.S. within living memory, when black churches were targeted by racist domestic terrorists in the mid 20th century, and when Jewish buildings were attacked more recently.

    To my mind, photo services like the ones we’re discussing are a violation of privacy across the board, but if they’re going to exist, it seems reasonable to exclude certain types of buildings that have been targeted by terrorists in the past.

  • I kind-of like the idea of blurring the churches.

    Image if a liberal secular politician proposed the same bill. Fox news and talk radio would be all over it saying how it part of a secular anti-religion conspiracy to make it difficult to find churches.

  • Heidi

    Given that we’re talking about California, perhaps rather than worrying about somebody bombing a bunch of little churches they should concern themselves with somewhere like, oh, Disneyland?

  • mspeir

    And I was just about to go on a church bombing rampage, too. Guess that’s out now. Dang.

  • Finlay

    Any terrorist trying to bomb a church around these parts would be lucky to find one not converted to a theatre, cafe, bar, restaurant, concert hall, apartments etc.

  • littlejohn

    If the terrorists really are willing to eradicate our churches, I say blur everything BUT the churches. Hell, print red circles around them.

  • Stephen P

    The commenters who say that terrorists could take their own photos are still missing most of the point. Which is: why on earth would terrorists need photos in the first place?

    Have you ever experienced the problem of driving around a town for hours without being able to find a single church or school anywhere? Me neither.

    About the only time terrorists would need (aerial) photos is for a rocket attack on something like a well-screened army installation which can’t be seen at all from the public highway.

    The entire measure is stupendously pointless, churches or not.

  • Siamang

    To my mind, photo services like the ones we’re discussing are a violation of privacy across the board, but if they’re going to exist, it seems reasonable to exclude certain types of buildings that have been targeted by terrorists in the past.

    Yes, by all means, let’s remove Boston, Newark, and Washington Dulles International Airport from the maps.

    That’ll have Bin Laden on the run.

    Are you seriously, seriously advocating the elimination of mapping the location of churches?

    “Gee mom, where’s Vatican city? Where’s the Mormon Tabernacle, where’s the Old North Church? Where’s the Crystal Cathedral? Where’s the Mission San Juan Capistrano? I don’t know!”

    That’s what you call “reasonable?”

    What about hiding the Pentagon under a tarp, and changing the address of the World Trade Center from “One World Trade Center” to ‘302 Nowhere Street, Nothingsville New York’? Would that have stopped terrorists?

    To my mind, photo services like the ones we’re discussing are a violation of privacy across the board,

    Under what reading of the constitution do you come to the conclusion that churches have a right to privacy?

    People do, yes. But I don’t think any court in the United States has suggested that churches enjoy a right to privacy.

    All you’re advocating is the crippling of maps because of the stupid reason that a terrorist might also use a map. Let’s ban cell-phones and the internet, and airplanes while we’re at it.

    Name me one time in history when a crippled map kept terrorists from attacking a public, not-military, non-secret target.

  • Richard Wade

    Ditto to Siamang.
    You have the right to privacy inside your home or business. Unless you have a high wall or hedge, your home or business reflects light out to public property. You do not have the right to control the light that your building reflects beyond the boundaries of your private property. It’s free to go into the eyes or cameras of anyone on public property.

    The atmosphere and space are not private property. If you don’t want your building to be seen from on high, build underground like a paranoid doomsday cult.

    Or better yet, learn to stop living in fear, and find ways to make mutually beneficial peace with your enemies.

  • Cypress Green

    “There are no atheists in hell.”

    You REALLY need to send a photo of that to the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
    They publish those in their monthly newspaper.

  • CybrgnX

    Really people like him are all just plain stupid!!!!
    I figured out 3 methods a terrorest could use to get the photos by the time I got to the end of the article!!!
    Any terrorist not smarter then me can be led to the target without having to worry about his actions. Any terrorest smarter then me will get to the target no matter what you do to google earth..& I aint much above average smart.

  • Cypress Green:
    That’s a really good idea but the sign is of the scrolling electronic variety and the entire message isn’t up all at once to get a picture. Thanks for the suggestion though!

  • Eliza

    Hats off, Richard Wade, for your fuzziness summary above! Well done!

  • Richard Wade

    Thank you, Eliza. You’re sweet. And your comments are crystal clear. 🙂

  • Like Google would pay attention to anything they say anyway. Google is blatently flouting copyright law by putting most of a book up electronically on GoogleBooks. Do you really think they’ll give two fraks (damn it, now I’m saying it) about some crazies worried about churches?
    Hell, they put up something like 500 miles of new street view a day, they don’t have time to go through and blur all the people let alone every third building like some downtowns are with their churches.
    Not everyone is so crazy about this privacy thing. I once saw a picture from Street View of a whole line of people smiling and waving to the Google van as it sent by; they’d found out it was coming to their area and staged a mass welcome. I’d love to be part of something like that.

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