Result / Summary of policy
- Answers which state or imply that a religious work is fiction should be flagged for moderator attention. Moderators will delete such answers.
- The only exception in which an answer is permitted to cite a religious source is if the question clearly states that non-fictional sources are allowed, and the answer does not state or imply that the religious work is fiction.
- Since the validity of an answer depends on the asker's clear intent, we require the asker to clearly state in the question post whether or not he's looking for non-fictional inspiration. We will not make assumptions about the asker's intent based on the question's tags.
The moderation team is proposing the following policy regarding answers that cite religious sources:
- Questions which clearly ask for fictional sources only are not to be answered with religious sources. Users who find such an answer should flag the answer for deletion. No change from current policy. status-completed
- Questions which clearly allow non-fictional sources may be answered with religious sources if applicable. In the event that such an answer could be interpreted as treating the religious sources as works of fiction, we will add a disclaimer that the community does not consider religious texts to be works of fiction. This disclaimer will be in the form of either an edit to the answer or a moderator post notice. The answer would not be deleted. status-declined
- Since the validity of an answer depends on the asker's clear intent, we will require the asker to clearly state in the question post whether or not he's looking for non-fictional inspiration. We will not make assumptions about the asker's intent based on the question's tags. status-completed
The community recently decided how to handle answers that cite religious texts. All the upvoted answers on that meta discussion are clear that the overarching goal of the policy is to avoid offending users by treating their religion's texts as fictional. @AncientSwordRage's post is the most comprehensive explanation of the agreed-upon policy. To summarize the important points:
- Moderators are obligated to delete answers which are flagged as offensive, whether or not that moderator personally finds the answer offensive.
- Because the topic of this site is a specific type of fiction, answers are generally expected to cite works of fiction (and thus not religious works).
- There is an exception in which answers may cite a religious work if a question asker is looking for a (possibly non-fictional) inspirational source. @AncientSwordRage suggested using inspiration to indicate non-fictional sources are acceptable (or, of course, the asker can specify it in the question text).
This policy is largely sound, but the moderators have been discussing it extensively among ourselves and we would like to suggest a few modifications.
Rationale for the disclaimer
The main modification we are suggesting is to add a disclaimer rather than delete answers which cite religious sources on questions that allow non-fictional sources. The edit would add a disclaimer that the citation of a religious source is not intended to imply that the religious work(s) cited are fictional.
The purpose of this suggested modification is to preserve content which is potentially useful while still attempting to avoid offending religious users. The existing policy to delete such answers certainly avoids offense but is vulnerable to a tyranny of the offended censor -- content can be deleted easily by just a few offended flaggers even if it is useful to the majority of the community. Worse, moderators are expected to delete flagged answers of this type even though we cannot know whether or not the flagger is truly offended (the flagger may raise a flag simply because someone else might be offended, or to troll). We've already seen flags in which the flagger did not appear to be personally offended but raised a flag simply because the answer cited a religious text. The existing policy also risks offending the answerer, who may feel censored after having posted an answer with no ill intent. This suggested modification seeks a middle ground.
To make this editing policy easy for everyone, we propose the creation of a disclaimer template which would be edited into an answer which cites religious source(s). An example of such a disclaimer is:
The citation of religious source(s) in this answer is not intended to imply that said source(s) are fictional; answers citing such source(s) are allowed by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange community only when relevant to questions seeking non-fictional inspirations for works of fiction. See [link to "answers with religious works" policy on meta] for more details.
...where the link to meta would point to the faq meta discussion in which the community agreed upon the text of the disclaimer template. Don't worry too much about the template text at this point -- we'll figure out the exact text in a future meta discussion if consensus is achieved for the suggested policy change in this meta discussion.
There are two ways to apply the disclaimer template:
- Simply edit the answer. No moderator intervention would be required: any user can simply edit the disclaimer to the [top? bottom?] of the answer (users without the edit privilege can suggest the edit).
- Add a custom post notice. We would need to post a feature-request to convince Stack Exchange to add such a post notice. Additionally, a moderator would be required to add the post notice (users would need to raise a flag "in need of moderator attention").
There are pros and cons to each approach. For example, (1) is easier to apply but such an edit could be rolled back in spite of site policy. On the other hand, while (2) is more permanent it requires a feature change to the site and moderator intervention. Please discuss the pros and cons of each approach and suggest one or the other if you approve of changing the policy to add a disclaimer.
This policy change would only apply to questions which do not clearly indicate that only fictional works are acceptable; if a question explicitly asks for only fictional works then the answer would still be deleted (it either treats a religious text as fiction in violation of site policy, or it treats it as non-fiction and is thus "not an answer"). You can flag such answers as "offensive", "not an answer", or "in need of moderator attention".
Rationale for determining the asker's intent
The other suggested modification (more of a clarification) deals with the intent of the asker and enforcement of the policy. The linked meta post by @AncientSwordRage suggested using inspiration -- but not the related history-of -- to indicate that the asker is looking for non-fictional sources and thus possibly religious sources. However, the moderators have come to a consensus among ourselves that tags are an unreliable method of determining the asker's intent because (a) users are often ignorant of tag wikis explaining the proper use of the tag and (b) someone other than the asker can easily add or remove a tag by mistake. Therefore we propose that tags -- like inspiration or history-of -- are to be ignored when determining whether or not non-fictional/religious sources can be included in answers. To be sure what is acceptable, the asker needs to specify in the question post.
- Indicate your support or disapproval of the proposal to add a disclaimer rather than delete answers which cite religious works on questions that allow non-fictional sources.
- Indicate your support or disapproval of the proposal to ignore tags when determining the intent of the asker to allow or disallow non-fictional sources.
- If you approve of adding a disclaimer, indicate whether you think it is better to add it via normal edit or via a moderator post notice (and why).
- If you approve of adding a disclaimer but you think the example wording requires significant changes, please suggest alternate wording. Don't worry about it yet if you think the wording just needs minor tweaking -- we will work that out later if the disclaimer is approved by the community.
To help determine consensus, please consider the above tasks in separate answers to this meta question. Also, votes on this meta question will not be considered for determining consensus -- only votes on answers to this question will be considered. If a clear consensus is not achieved for the above proposals the current policy of deletion will continue to be enforced.