Showing posts with label UK. Show all posts
Showing posts with label UK. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Australia: same-sex marriage debate heats up

By Elizabeth Kendal

Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd has shifted his position on same-sex marriage. As reported by The Australian (21 May 2013): "Kevin Rudd has thrown his support behind gay marriage as an important social reform for the nation, in a dramatic reversal of his long-held public position.

"After what he calls a difficult personal journey, the former Labor prime minister says he has concluded the secular Australian state should recognise same-sex marriage, while religious institutions should be legally allowed an exemption maintaining their historic position that marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman."

What MP Rudd is not talking about is that the legalisation of same-sex marriage requires a change to the definition of "marriage" in the Marriage Act -- and that would have enormous, wide-reaching implications.

In the United Kingdom, in March 2012, a Home Office official asked the Department for Education (DfE) whether schools have a legal responsibility to teach about marriage, and how the introduction of same-sex unions would affect this.

According to the Daily Mail (2 July 2012): "Officials at the Home Office and the Department for Education concede that teachers may be under a legal obligation to inform children about same-sex marriage once it has passed into law.

"Under the Education Act 1996, pupils must learn about the nature of marriage and its importance for family life in sex education classes. . .

"Tory MP David Burrowes questioned whether schools will be able to exercise discretion on the subject. 'The issue of same-sex marriage is not just one about equality, but what happens in our school classrooms as well,' he said. 'Teachers should be able to exercise their consciences according to their own views on marriage, but that could well be constrained by these proposals. As much as I am sceptical about the Government being able to exempt churches from conducting same-sex marriages, I also doubt whether it will be possible to construct exemptions for teachers. They would be open to legal challenges.'

"Colin Hart, campaign director at the Coalition for Marriage, said: 'Marriage appears more than 3,000 times in law, affecting every aspect of our lives. It is simply impossible to redefine it without many serious unintended consequences, not least forcing schools to teach children about gay marriage, even if this goes against the wishes of the parents, children and teachers.'"

According to a senior lawyer, QC Aidan O'Neill, if British law is extended to include same-sex unions, then schools will be forced to promote same-sex marriage to their pupils, and parents with traditional and religious views who oppose same-sex unions, will be "hard-pressed" to remove their children from the classes.

It should also be noted that  the UK's Equalities and Human Rights Commission has deemed religious liberty a "qualified right" which "the state can interfere with" in some circumstances.  The equality regulator has ruled that whilst employees working in the public sector -- specifically marriage registrars, teachers and chaplains -- should be free to express their views on marriage without being disciplined they are not free to "opt out" of duties because of religious beliefs. In other words, religious beliefs will not be accommodated.

A survey has revealed that whilst 74,000 British teachers (17 percent of all teachers) said they would teach "the importance" of same-sex marriage (as required) but would not be happy about it, a further 40,000 teachers said they will refuse to teach on "the importance" of same-sex marriage despite knowing they may face disciplinary action or dismissal.

Meanwhile, France has drafted laws to ban the use of the words "mother" and "father" in the civil code, replacing them simply with "parent"; while the U.S. Department of Education is replacing the terms "Mother" and "Father" on student loan forms with the less gender-specific "Parent 1" and "Parent 2".

Redefining marriage would have a huge impact on society. This debate has not even started in Australia yet. Consequently, most people have no idea just how drastic the consequences could be.

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

THE WEST: heading for "dogmatic tyranny" and "cultural totalitarianism"; UK debates teaching same-sex marriage in schools.

By Elizabeth Kendal

The West today is hurtling down the road towards repressive authoritarianism. For, as Peter Hitchens observes in his fantastic book, The Rage Against God (Zondervan, 2010), "the new anti-theism [that is taking hold in the West] is emphatically not just an opinion seeking its place in a plural society. It is a dogmatic tyranny in the making." (p 206)  

IMPLEMENTING IDEOLOGY

In September 2003, I wrote a Religious Liberty News & Analysis report for the World Evangelical Alliance on Belarus, entitled "Resuscitating the Soviet Machine".

The first part of the posting was devoted to a 27 March 2003 speech by Belarusian dictator Aleksandr Lukashenka, in which he declared: "Ideology for a state is what the immune system is for a living organism. If the immune system grows weaker, any infection, even the slightest one, turns deadly."

Lukashenka maintained that the inculcation of an official state-controlled ideology into the country's citizens was essential in order to protect Belarus from "infection".

To this end, Lukashenka recommended that an "official Belarusian ideology" be taught in schools, universities and workplaces, and promoted through the media and the Orthodox Church. Maintaining that dissidents could not be permitted to hold positions of authority or influence, he advised rectors of both state-run and private universities to get rid of professors and lecturers who oppose government policies or are "wavering" in their opinions regarding the government's course.  "If you do not accept the ideas declared by the government and the president, do not apply to a state university for a job," Lukashenka said explicitly. "Before the end of the year [2003], the state of ideological work in colleges, both state and private, should be changed drastically, or else we are going to lose our youth. I could say the same about vocational schools and general-education schools, especially those in Minsk."

Today when I read reports from the UK (example) and USA (example) of Christian educators, health care professionals, service providers and carers being expelled from their positions and dragged through the courts, I can only think of Lukashenka. For these British and American Christians are not being dismissed, expelled, sued, fined, struck off and closed down because of anything they have done. Rather, it is because of what they could not do: generally they could not affirm that all cultures, beliefs or lifestyle choices are equally good.

No Western state has, as yet, moved Belarusian/Soviet-style to formerly codify to implement an official state ideology. However, it is clear that forces with ideological agendas are comprehensively and aggressively yet subversively leading the West in that direction. Their success can be attributed to skilful organisation and propaganda with savvy use of media; and most critically, their devious hijacking of human rights.

Unless there is an awakening and returning, then the day will surely come when the Western world will follow the Belarusian/Soviet model, where no person may qualify for or gain employment as a teacher, professor, nurse, counsellor, doctor, service provider, administrator, supervisor, carer etc, unless they can affirm the official state ideology.

Individuals unable to do so will be deemed unsuitable for certain roles on the grounds that they do not comply with "minimum standards" (example). Institutions that cannot sign up to the state ideology -- something that will doubtless be determined through a registration process -- will likewise be penalised. At the very least they will lose government funding. At worst, they will be deemed illegal and forced to close or move "underground".

To justify the repression, dissenters will be vilified: made the objects of mockery, slander, vitriol and outright disinformation. This in turn will trigger an escalation in crippling discrimination and increasingly violent persecution. And if protecting the human rights of those vilified as backward, hateful, everythingaphobic dissenters is ever deemed politically unviable, then impunity will become the order of the day.

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UK debates teaching same-sex marriage in schools

E-mails between the Home Office and the Department of Education suggest that teaching materials may have to be rewritten to cover same-sex marriage if the law changes to recognise same-sex marriage.

Anna Davis, Education Correspondent for the London Evening Standard reports:  "In March a Home Office official asked the Department for Education whether schools have a legal responsibility to teach about marriage, and how the introduction of same-sex unions would affect this.

"The DfE responded: 'Under section 403 of the Education Act 1996, the Secretary of State must issue guidance designed to secure that when sex education is given to registered pupils at maintained schools, they learn about the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and the bringing up of children. Depending on the outcome of the consultation, there may be a need for the Sex and Relationships Education  guidance to include some additional material in respect to same-sex marriage.' "

James Chapman, reports for the Daily Mail (UK): "Officials at the Home Office and the Department for Education concede that teachers may be under a legal obligation to inform children about same-sex marriage once it has passed into law.

"Under the Education Act 1996, pupils must learn about the nature of marriage and its importance for family life in sex education classes. . .

"Tory MP David Burrowes questioned whether schools will be able to exercise discretion on the subject. 'The issue of same-sex marriage is not just one about equality, but what happens in our school classrooms as well,' he said. 'Teachers should be able to exercise their consciences according to their own views on marriage, but that could well be constrained by these proposals. As much as I am sceptical about the Government being able to exempt churches from conducting same-sex marriages, I also doubt whether it will be possible to construct exemptions for teachers. They would be open to legal challenges. Is the Government really going to order primary school teachers to go against the views of the churches that run them?'

"Colin Hart, campaign director at the Coalition for Marriage, said: 'Marriage appears more than 3,000 times in law, affecting every aspect of our lives. It is simply impossible to redefine it without many serious unintended consequences, not least forcing schools to teach children about gay marriage, even if this goes against the wishes of the parents, children and teachers.' "

According to a senior lawyer, QC Aidan O'Neill, if the law is extended to include same-sex unions, then schools will be forced to promote same-sex marriage to their pupils, and parents with traditional and religious views who oppose same-sex unions, will be "hard-pressed" to remove their children from the classes.

Andrea Williams, CEO of Christian Concern expressed her fears teachers would lose their jobs if they did not want to promote same-sex unions.

Conservative MP Peter Bone has also previously expressed concern for freedom of belief in schools, commenting that: "It is simply inconceivable in today's world where political correctness runs amok in our institutions, that there would not be profound consequences for those who hold traditional views.

"Parents who object will be treated as bigots and outcasts . . . discriminated against and persecuted because they hold views that have been enshrined in our laws and have been the cornerstone of our society for 2,000 years.

"And what of the teachers who object to teaching about same-sex marriage? Will they face disciplinary action? How will it affect their careers?"

----------------------------------------------------

In a brilliant article entitled, The new intolerance (April 2012) -- an article that serves as a perfect introduction to her book, The World Turned Upside Down (Encounter Books, 2010) -- commentator Melanie Phillip's writes: "Unlike Soviet Communism, the mass movements of today are not so much political as cultural: anti-imperialism and anti-Americanism, anti-Zionism, environmentalism, scientism, egalitarianism, anti-racism, libertinism and multiculturalism. These are all not merely quasi-religious movements — evangelical, dogmatic, fanatical and with enforcement mechanisms ranging from demonisation to expulsion in order to stamp out any heresies. They are also millenarian and even apocalyptic in their visions of the perfect society and what needs to be swept aside in order to attain it.

". . . With both Communism and fascism defeated, however, the West has fallen victim to a third variation on the theme: not religious or political but cultural totalitarianism.  . . . Moral and cultural relativism are the order of the day. Any attempt to prioritise any culture or lifestyle over any other is illegitimate. Subjective individualism is the one revealed truth, the old order of Western civilisation has to be destroyed and any dissent is to be stamped out. "

Phillips wonders "what causes militant atheists to hate religious belief so much".

For an answer, she looks to the slogan that atheists promoted in 2009: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

"I think this fatuous slogan gets to the heart of why people have turned away from biblical religion," says Phillips. It's "not because it is irrational but because it puts constraints on their behaviour." 

Peter Hitchens concludes his book, Rage Against God, along the same lines. "A new and intolerant utopianism seeks to drive the remaining traces of Christianity from the laws and constitutions of Europe and North America. This time, it does so mainly in the cause of personal liberation, born in the 1960s cultural revolution, and now inflamed into special rage by suggestion that the sexual urge should be restrained by moral limits or that it should have any necessary connection with procreation. This utopianism relies for human goodness on doctrines of human rights derived from human desires . . . These must then be policed by an ever more powerful state." (p 213-214)

In his March 2003 speech, Belarusian president Aleksandr Lukashenka denied that ideology was an invention of the Soviet-era Communist Party. "In Western states, the very system of ideological work is concealed from the general public's eye," he stated. "However, it is as comprehensive and aggressive in Western states as Soviet standards, or even more so."

And he is right!

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To follow these issues visit:

UK:
The Christian Institute
Christian Concern
The Christian Legal Centre

USA:
Alliance Defending Freedom (previously known as Alliance Defence Fund), in particular, watch the ADF video (2:36 mins): "In A World Where Marriage Is Redefined Religious Freedom Does Not Survive." (18 June 2012)

Friday, April 30, 2010

UK: Landmark ruling leaves Christians with no right to conscientious objection

Below are some selected quotes from some selected articles on the Gary McFarlane case.


Gary McFarlane: the counsellor whose case led to warnings of 'civil unrest'
By John Bingham, Telegraph, 30 April 2010

When Gary McFarlane, 48, a father of two from Bristol, began working for Relate, the counselling organisation, in 2003, he did not allow his traditional evangelical Christian beliefs stop him from giving advice to homosexual couples.

It was only three years later, when he qualified as a psychosexual therapist – a role which required him to give intimate sexual advice to couples – that he raised concerns about a potential clash between his work and his moral views.


Sacked Christian counsellor Gary McFarlane's appeal bid dismissed
By Stephen Howard, Press Association, 29 April 2010

A marriage guidance counsellor's bid to challenge in the courts his sacking for refusing to give sex therapy to homosexuals led to a serious clash between Christians and the judiciary today.

In a powerful dismissal of the application to appeal, Lord Justice Laws said legislation for the protection of views held purely on religious grounds cannot be justified.

The judge's ruling continued: "We do not live in a society where all the people share uniform religious beliefs.

"The precepts of any one religion - any belief system - cannot, by force of their religious origins, sound any louder in the general law than the precepts of any other.

"If they did, those out in the cold would be less than citizens, and our constitution would be on the way to a theocracy, which is of necessity autocratic.

"The law of a theocracy is dictated without option to the people, not made by their judges and governments.

"The individual conscience is free to accept such dictated law, but the State, if its people are to be free, has the burdensome duty of thinking for itself. [. . .]

". . . the conferment of any legal protection of preference upon a particular substantive moral position on the ground only that it is espoused by the adherents of a particular faith, however long its tradition, however long its culture, is deeply unprincipled."

He said this would mean that laws would be imposed not to advance the general good on objective grounds but to give effect to the force of subjective opinion since faith, other than to the believer, was subjective.

"It may of course be true; but the ascertainment of such a truth lies beyond the means by which laws are made in a reasonable society

"Therefore it lies only in the heart of the believer, who is alone bound by it. No-one else is or can be so bound, unless by his own free choice he accepts its claims."


Christian sex therapist Gary McFarlane loses appeal bid
BBC 29 April 2010

Gary McFarlane, 48, from Bristol, was sacked by Relate Avon in 2008. He claimed the service had refused to accommodate his Christian beliefs.

Lord Justice Laws said legislation for the protection of views held purely on religious grounds cannot be justified.

He said it was irrational and "also divisive, capricious and arbitrary".

'Strongly-held'

Mr McFarlane said after the hearing that the decision not to let him appeal against the ruling left him "disappointed and upset".

"I have the ability to provide counselling services to same-sex couples," he said.
"However, because of my Christian beliefs and principles, there should be allowances taken into account whereby individuals like me can actually avoid having to contradict their very strongly-held Christian principles."
[. . .]
Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, said: "Mr McFarlane simply wanted his religious beliefs to be accommodated by his employer, which, in the specific facts of the case, was not unreasonable.

"It seems that a religious bar to office has been created, whereby a Christian who wishes to act on their Christian beliefs on marriage will no longer be able to work in a great number of environments."


Judge rules Christians have NO special rights as he throws out case of sex therapist who refused to work with gay couples
By Steve Doughty, Daily Mail, 30 April 2010

A senior judge ruled yesterday that Christian beliefs have no place in the law and no right to protection by the courts.

Lord Justice Laws said that Britain would become a religious dictatorship if the views of a single faith were given a priority over others in legal matters.

In a landmark case, the appeal judge told relationship guidance counsellor Gary McFarlane, a Christian, that he had no right to refuse to give sex therapy to gay couples.

And the judge delivered a scathing criticism of former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, who spoke up for Christians who try to follow their beliefs. . .

The Appeal Court judgment is a resounding rebuff for Christian workers who had hoped to persuade employers that they should be allowed to exercise their religious rights by not recognising the legitimacy of homosexual partnerships or by wearing crosses with work uniforms.

And it means that gay equality legislation, however controversial, will in future take precedence over individual conscience.

. . . former Bishop of Rochester the Right Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali, said the judgment allowed no room for people to act according to their conscience.

He told the BBC: 'I think if we reach a stage where there was a kind of tyranny of legislation without conscience it would be a very sorry stage.'

(The above article includes a very interesting profile of Lord Justice Laws, described as a "legal 'activist'', as well as a section entitled: "Does the law really treat all faiths equally? Other Christians have run into trouble with the courts or their employers when they stood up for their beliefs, but some Muslims have fared better. . .")


Gary McFarlane: judge's assault on 'irrational' religious freedom claims in sex therapist case
A senior judge has launched a dramatic assault on religious faith, dismissing it as “subjective” with no basis in fact.
By John Bingham, Telegraph, 30 Apr 2010

Last night there were warnings that the judgment could enshrine the “persecution” of Christians in modern Britain and sideline religion in public life.

Lord Justice Laws ruled that while everyone had the right to hold religious beliefs, those beliefs themselves had no standing under the law.

Mr McFarlane said that his treatment was “without a doubt” an example of Christians being persecuted in modern Britain.

“This is a sad day for our society which I believe is on a slippery slope in terms of balancing competing interests,” he said.

“I represent the Christian faith but I suggest that all other faiths will be concerned about this judgment.”

Last night Lord Carey described the ruling as “deeply worrying”, continuing a move by the courts to “downgrade” the right of religious people to express their faith.

“The judgement heralds a ‘secular’ state rather than a ‘neutral’ one,” he said.

“And while with one hand the ruling seeks to protect the right of religious believers to hold and express their faith, with the other it takes away those same rights.”

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, said that the ruling had “driven a coach and horses” through the ancient ties between Christianity and British law.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

PERSECUTION, whatever that is.

This post is written in the context of the debate concerning whether or not Christians are facing persecution in the UK.

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On Easter Sunday, the BBC screened a programme by Nicky Campbell that probed the question of whether or not British Christians are being persecuted. While Campbell acknowledged that "Labour's anti-discrimination legislation has led to clashes between religious conscience and equality for homosexuals", he concluded: "So, are Christians being persecuted? No they're not being tortured or killed like Christians in Pakistan and the Sudan. But a minority believes they are being sidelined and victimised. By the standards of a liberal society that can feel like persecution."

See: BBC’s Nicky Campbell: Christians feel persecuted by human rights law and councils
By Martin Beckford, Telegraph, Religious Affairs Correspondent, 31 Mar 2010

Similarly, in his ecumenical Easter Letter to fellow church leaders, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, maintained that, unlike many other Christians around the world, Christians in the UK are not persecuted, and he called on the church to keep its fears in perspective. In his sights were advocates such as Lord Carey and Bishop Nazir-Ali, who have decried what they maintain is escalating marginalisation, discrimination and persecution of Christians in the UK. (See also UK versus "traditional Christian values".)

Ruth Gledhill, religion correspondent with Timesonline, entered the debate on 13 April, with a column and video interview in which she echoed Nicky Campbell and Rowan Williams, contending that is shameful to suggest that Christians in the UK are suffering persecution "on a par with" Christians in Jos, Nigeria (not that anyone ever suggested they were). Gledhill maintains that it is ridiculous and embarrassing to suggest that Christians in the UK are being discriminated against or persecuted for their faith.

See: It can only harm Christians to bleat about persecution
Ruth Gledhill, religion correspondent for The Times, 13 April 2010

However:

The Collins Concise Dictionary Fifth Australian Edition (2001) defines "persecute" as: "(1) to oppress, harass, or maltreat, especially because of race, religion etc. (2) to bother persistently."

Jesus warned his disciples that persecution would come, indeed, that it would be inevitable (John 15:18 - 16:33). Jesus explained: "If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you." (John 15:19-20a ESV) The Apostle Paul likewise reminded Timothy that "all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Timothy 3:12).

The line some want to draw in the sand to separate "us" (not persecuted) from "them" (persecuted) is both imaginary and unhelpful. We are one body, and Christians need to understand that persecution -- which is a complex and varied phenomenon -- is integral to their testimony. This is why Jesus advised his would-be-followers to first count the cost, because unless they were prepared to carry a cross, they may as well not bother even trying to follow him (Luke 14:25-35).

Generally, Christians in the West have had to endure only the mildest forms of persecution: marginalisation, mockery, rejection, maybe some bullying, maybe some discrimination etc. This is because Christians in the West have been protected from violent expressions of hatred not only by rule of law, but by a Judeo-Christian culture that extols religious liberty as a fundamental human right. However, as the culture evolves into "post-Christian" (read "non-Christian"), intolerance escalates, authoritarianism emerges, religious liberty fades, and persecution intensifies. (See Understanding Religious Liberty)

My biggest contention with Ruth Gledhill's statement is her assertion that persecuted Christians are "victims". The Collins Concise Dictionary Fifth Australian Edition (2001) defines "victim" as: "a person or thing that suffers harm". Obviously anyone who "suffers harm" on account of their faith is a victim of persecution. But this is not what Gledhill is talking about. By "victim" she clearly means "loser".

This of course is absolutely ridiculous. When hostility emerges, the loser is the one who compromises or abandons their faith in order to avoid hurt or humiliation. For example, Ruth Gledhill herself admits that she is reluctant to wear a cross because she does not want to be seen as a victim (i.e. one of those losers). According to the Bible, affliction and persecution are means by which God's people are "sifted" (Isaiah 30:28) or "winnowed" (Matthew 3:12). In which case, Ruth Gledhill herself appears to be amongst the "victims" (losers).

On the other hand, those who stand firm despite the cost can never be losers even if they do end up as victims of persecution. Rather, they are winners who did not yield and could not be bowed. Persecuted believers are those who, in the face of injustice, dictatorship and threats stand firm and say, "Over my dead body!"

To suffer persecution for righteousness sake is the ultimate form of cultural criticism. Persecuted believers are protesters who refuse to act against their conscience despite the risks. In suffering the consequences they embody the shame and disgrace of society.

That a supposedly civilised society would persecute peaceful, law-abiding, benevolent citizens simply on account of their faith is shocking and unacceptable -- so shocking and unacceptable in fact, that virtually every state that does it denies it. To cover up what is really happening these states enshrine religious freedom in their constitutions and then enact laws that devout believers simply cannot in good conscience abide, while denying them the right to conscientiously object. For example, no-one is imprisoned for their faith in China! The Christians in China's laogai (gulag/network of nearly 1000 state-owned slave-labour prison camps) are all law-breakers, incarcerated for exercising their faith in a manner deemed unacceptable by the State.

I believe that this is actually the crux of Campbell's, Williams' and Glendhill's complaint with the likes of Lord Carey, Bishop Nazir-Ali and others who are testifying against the escalating hostility in British society. I believe they are desperate to deny that Christians are being persecuted because they cannot tolerate the thought that the UK might be evolving (or regressing) into a place where persecution of the righteous is becoming systematic.

But sometimes it takes the cutting down of the righteous to shock a people out their nonchalance so that they cry out in horror: "What have we become? To what depths have we sunk?" All through the Muslim world, there are Muslims questioning and leaving Islam because they have been shocked out of their nonchalance by Islam's violent persecution of peaceful, righteous Christian believers. As persecution escalates in the UK it will be the same. God is doing something new in the UK.

And with that in mind I would like to close with the very commendable words of Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who, in the same letter quoted above also said: "We who live in more comfortable environments need to bear two things in mind. One is that fellow-Christians under pressure, living daily with threats and murders, need our prayers and tangible support [. . .] But the second point to remember is that we need to keep our own fears in perspective. It is all too easy, even in comfortable and relatively peaceful societies, for us to become consumed with anxiety about the future of Church and society. We need to witness boldly and clearly but not with anger and fear; we need to show that we believe what we say about the Lordship of the Risen Christ and his faithfulness to the world he came to redeem."

I say AMEN to that! And I know Lord Carey and Bishop Nazir-Ali would too.

And when it comes to showing what we believe about the Lordship of the Risen Christ, I advocate that the Church stop wasting time appealing to "Pharaoh" (Exodus 5:15) and instead, look to the Lord, our crowing glory, for the "strength to turn back the battle at the gate" (Isaiah 28:5-6).

by Elizabeth Kendal

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Understanding Religious Liberty

Most Westerners simply don't appreciate the degree to which their freedoms are intrinsically linked to Judeo-Christian culture. Nor do they appreciate the degree to which that culture is dependent upon a Biblical foundation. Consider this as an illustration: Judeo-Christian culture is a tree that grows out of Biblical soil and religious freedom is a fruit of that tree.

Throughout history, whenever a Judeo-Christian community has stopped attending to its Biblical foundation, the culture has declined and its fruits have failed. The only way to restore the fruits is to revive the culture. And the only way to revive the culture is to attend to the foundations.

Religious freedom was integral to the Protestant Reformation (1517). The Reformation not only advanced Biblical truth but the right of individuals to read it in their own language (championed in London by John Wycliffe as early as 1377) and exercise it without persecution. Britain and America's historic human rights advocacy and missionary endeavours have been the fruits of a dynamic post-Reformation Protestant culture that promoted and drew on the Bible.

Rip the foundations away, however, and the tree and its fruit go with it. Even if the foundations are slowly and subversively eroded, the tree eventually withers and dies as its roots cannot provide sustenance or stability. And everyone knows that a transplanted tree will not successfully take root, grow and fruit unless the soil is good in the first place. Furthermore, the post-Reformation Protestant culture of Christian liberty is so dynamic that unless that soil is right and good it will not be able to sustain or support it. Even when the soil is right and good, if the roots are withered through neglect and drought, renewal of the plant through the restoration of its root system will only be possible through considerable struggle and long-term diligent care.

This is the situation facing the UK, northern Europe, and to a lesser extent the USA. Foundations long neglected are being both subversively eroded and openly demolished, for Western political elites determined some time ago (undemocratically) that evolution mandates a transition to a 'post-Christian' culture. Therefore renovations are in order.

However, it is coming as a shock to many to learn that 'fruits' long taken for granted -- such as religious liberty, benevolence, restraint and 'manners' -- are withering and disappearing before their very eyes. It is also coming as a shock to many in the demolition crew that they do not have control of the situation. For before they even get a chance to build their utopia, other builders with stakes in the game are moving in as soon as a space opens up. And these new builders (some very dangerous) are winning hearts and minds amongst Europe's identity-challenged youth.

'Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die.' (Revelation 3:2a ESV)

Only through the LORD can the Church have the strength to "turn back the battle at the gate" (Isaiah 28:6b) .

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This article is an edited excerpt from the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin 051 entitled UK: UNDERSTANDING RELIGIOUS LIBERTY (14 April 2010)

The UK versus "traditional Christian values"

Hospital hypocrisy

The National Health Service (NHS) is being accused of hypocrisy after it relaxed rules on hygiene to let Muslim staff wear long sleeves (in violation of established health and safety codes) and Sikhs display their religious symbols only days after Christian nurse Shirley Chaplin (54) lost her discrimination claim against the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital Trust which banned her from wearing the innocuous cross she had been wearing throughout her 30-year long nursing career.

Muslim nurses CAN cover up... but Christian colleagues can't wear crucifixes
By Jonathan Petre, Daily Mail, 12th April 2010

NHS RULES RELAXED FOR MUSLIMS AS CRUCIFIX IS BANNED
By Jo Willey, Express, 12 April 2010

Muslims vs police

The Telegraph reports: "The Metropolitan Police has quietly sanctioned the throwing of shoes by Muslim protesters on the grounds that it is 'a symbolic' political gesture rather than a criminal act of violence."

So while throwing a bottle is criminal violence; and while a non-Islamic shoe-throw is criminal violence; shoe-throwing done by a Muslim is an act of "ritual protest".

As the Times online noted, Scotland Yard's willingness to bow to Islamic sensitivities and accept that Muslims are entitled to throw shoes in ritual protest "could have the unintended consequence of politicians or the police being hit. . .

"The concession has already been taken up enthusiastically by Muslim demonstrators, who pelted Downing Street with shoes in protest at the Israeli bombing of Gaza last year.

"Dozens of ski-boots and clogs were also hurled at the US consulate in Edinburgh in a related protest, in which three policemen sustained minor injuries."

Afterwards the protestors allegedly joked that the police "didn’t realise we were going to throw the shoes so hard."

Sam Leith commented in the London Evening Standard, that this decision essentially means that Muslim shoe-throwing is to be "regarded not as an act of violence but as a protected form of speech."

With tongue in cheek, Leith queries the Muslim's right to throw Ski boots and clogs. "Did the Prophet, blessings be upon him, also take a special interest in ice-skates, toe-capped Doc Martens and spiked golf shoes?" As far as Leith is concerned, the rule should remain: "Your freedom to swing your arm . . . ends where it meets my nose."

Insult doesn’t need to come with injuries
By Sam Leith, London Evening Standard, 10 April 2010

Met allows Islamic protesters to throw shoes
By David Leppard, Times online, 11 April 2010

Muslim protesters 'will be allowed to throw their shoes'
Telegraph, 12 Apr 2010

The police encourage Muslims to throw shoes at them? Just what community relations needed. blogs Telegraph, 12 April 2010
By Douglas Murray who writes: "In the meantime, I should announce that I feel passionately angered by all this. So I would be very interested to know from Scotland Yard whether or not I will be arrested if I decide to track down Lindsey German, Aquib Salim, Judge Denniss and co and invite them to smell my shoes. I think the police would probably look on my shoe-print on their foreheads as assault, don’t you? And probably a hate crime to boot.

"What a nuisance it is not being a Muslim in this society."

Bishops vs judges

Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, and other senior leaders within the Church of England are urging that senior judges who are biased against Christianity should be barred from ruling in religious rights cases.

Lord Carey has prepared a witness statement for Mr McFarlane (48) from Bristol, who is appealing against an employment tribunal ruling that supported his sacking for refusing to give sex therapy to homosexual couples. Similarly, Lillian Ladele was found to have broken the law by refusing to conduct civil partnerships. Late last year the Court of Appeal ruled that a homosexual's right not to be discriminated against by anyone, trumps a Christian's right to conscientious objection.

The religious rights of Christians are treated with disrespect
Telegraph, 28 March 2010

Labour Lord slams Govt anti-Christian attitude
Christian Institute, 9 April 2010

Church leaders are heading for showdown with top judges over bias against Christians
By Andrew Alderson, Chief Reporter, Telegraph, 11 Apr 2010

Judges are biased against Christianity, say senior Church figures
Christian Concern for our Nation, 12th April 2010

'Anti-Christian' judges should be banned from religious cases, says Lord Carey
By Laura Clark, Daily Mail, 12th April 2010

Thank God for Lord Carey
By Melanie Phillips, Daily Mail, 12 April 2010

While Lord Carey and the bishops have indeed identified a problem, this proposition however, can only raise another question. If cases pertaining to Christian faith and expression are to be heard by judges who have an understanding of Christianity and are sympathetic to Christianity or at least not biased against it, will Muslims have the same right to have cases impacting alleged Muslim rights heard by judges of their choice -- judges who have studied Islam and are sympathetic towards it or at least not biased against it?

UK vs traditional Christian values

The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, is appealing for all new immigrants to be integrated and willing to accept and adapt to traditional British values, which have been largely derived from the Judaeo-Christian tradition.

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali: immigrants should accept Britain’s Christian values
By Martin Beckford, Telegraph, 14 Jan 2010

While the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali has indeed identified a problem, his proposition can only raise another question. Does the UK itself actually wish to preserve its "traditional Christian values"? For, in order to transition or evolve from a Christian British society into a post-Christian multi-cultural society, the old order must, of necessity, pass away. The question is: Is this really what the British want?

See:
The secret plot to destroy Britain’s identity
By Melanie Phillips, Daily Mail, 24 February 2010

Friday, April 9, 2010

UK: Equality Bill Passes through Parliament

Homosexuals and transsexuals delighted

High caste Indians protesting; UK "Dalits" rejoicing

Employers extremely anxious

Religious liberty advocates concerned

Lawyers anticipate boom in business

Equality Bill Passes through Parliament

On Tuesday 6 April 2010, the House of Lords' amendments to the controversial Equality Bill passed through the UK parliament. Thus the Equality Bill has now completed its progression through the parliament and now only awaits Royal Assent to become law.

As the UK Parliament website Equality Bill 2008-09 to 2009-10 states: "The Bill will harmonise and in some cases extend existing discrimination law covering the 'protected characteristics' of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. . ."

(This website has a chart illustrating the progress of the Bill, as well as links to the Act and other relevant documents.)

Below are a few selected articles, with a few selected quotes, representing a few selected responses to the Equality Bill.

Homosexuals and transsexuals delighted

Equality Bill passes through parliament
By Jessica Green, Pink News, 7 April 2010 By

Quoting Pink News: "A flagship feature of the bill is equality duty on all public bodies, which will require institutions such as schools, councils and the NHS to actively promote equality.

"Employers will be permitted to use positive action to select candidates from under-represented groups when two people applying for a job have the same qualifications.

"The bill will also prohibit private members’ clubs from discriminating against members or guests based on their sexual orientation or gender reassignment. . ."

However, the Gay Rights lobby groups are disappointed that the government yielded to "the House of Lords over an amendment clarifying who churches can refuse employment to.

"Provisions in the bill would have clarified the law requiring churches only to discriminate in terms of sexual orientation when hiring those who will teach doctrine or lead worship.

"But after the Pope publicly criticised the bill, equality minister Harriet Harman backed down. She is thought to have made the climbdown to avoid a continuing dispute with church leaders.

"The new laws will begin to take effect in the autumn [October 2010]. The public sector equality duty will be introduced in April 2011. . ."

High caste Indians protesting; UK "Dalits" rejoicing

UK bill links caste to race, India red-faced
By Manoj Mitta, Times of India, 31 March 2010,

Quoting Times of India: "In the first such legislative move anywhere in the world, and much to the embarrassment of India's official position, the British House of Lords has passed a law that treats caste as 'an aspect of race'. . .

"Though the bill originally contained no reference to caste, the Gordon Brown government agreed to its inclusion even as it commissioned a research on the nature of the problem that is believed to have come into Britain through the Indian diaspora. A parliamentary committee, while recommending last year that caste be considered as a subset of race, cited specific instances of caste discrimination in Britain."

India clashes with Britain over Equality Bill racism law
Dean Nelson, in New Delhi, for Telegraph UK, 31 Mar 2010

Quoting the Telegraph: "The bill, which has been passed in the House of Lords, has been welcomed by campaigners for India's 'dalits' or 'untouchables', a caste which suffers extreme violence and persecution, but has been rejected by their [Indian] government. . .

"Ministers in London have become increasingly concerned about discrimination and persecution against lower caste Indians in Britain following a report last year which claimed thousands had been ill-treated because of their caste. . ."

As Nelson notes, the Indian government has long fiercely resisted any suggestion that caste discrimination be linked with racism. "'India's position on this issue has been clear and consistent. Caste and race discrimination are two separate issues and there is no case to equate the two. We are opposed to attempts at international fora to equate the issues,' said an official source."

In an article in Himalsouthasian magazine (April 2010 issue) entitled, Dominating the diaspora , Priyamvada Gopal, an academic and writer based in Cambridge, UK, says: "The vehement arguments of some high-profile Hindu groups notwithstanding, the UK’s new Equality Bill will include some reference to caste."

As Gopal notes: "immigrant communities often carry with them the most vicious dispositions and hierarchies of the societies they travel away from geographically. Indeed, such communities often entrench such biases further as they settle into other (at times hostile) cultures, and as they carve out new political niches for themselves.

"Often seen within a liberal multicultural and human-rights framework as homogeneously victimised by racism and anti-immigrant sentiments, Southasian communities in Britain often escape nuanced critical scrutiny. . . In the current climate of a national preoccupation with Islam in the context of the US-led 'war on terror', British Hindu and Sikh communities have become even less accountable for some of the more unsavoury features of their collective existence. . .

"Two important factors have contributed to this willed looking-away on the part of the British government. The first is the vehement lobbying by groups such as the Hindu Council UK and the Hindu Forum of Britain – both of which share historical links to chauvinist groups such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and the memberships of which are heavily dominated by upper-caste Hindus. The second is the insistence of the Indian government in high-profile forums such as the UN Racism Conference, where activists have tried to raise the issue, that caste discrimination cannot be equated with racial discrimination. Therefore, despite the claims by some, it is not clear that caste discrimination in Britain will be redressed without challenge under existing race-discrimination legislation."

(Note: For millennia, the high caste white Aryans have basically enslaved the indigenous "black" tribal peoples of India -- Dalits/untouchables -- by means of the Hindu caste system which is, quite simply, institutionalised racism.)

Employers extremely anxious

Equality Bill: what employers need to know
Sandra Wallace, HR (Human Resources) Magazine, 9 April 2010

This article is in Question & Answer format.
Quoting from HR Magazine: "It [the Equality Bill] will affect all recruiters and employers because, while having been designed to make the law simpler, it will now make it much easier for individuals to bring complaints of discrimination if they feel their employer has treated them unfairly. Some of the changes to the law will mean employers will have to significantly change some of their established processes - such as they way they recruit staff - if they want to avoid complaints."

Concerning "positive action" HR magazine writes: "Positive action is probably more commonly known as 'positive discrimination'. Under the new rules employers are allowed to discriminate in favour of a minority candidate who is as qualified as another candidate for a role, if that group is under-represented in the workforce.

"This is likely to be a particularly tricky area of the new law. However, employers are not legally obliged to take such action, but merely have the opportunity to do so if they wish. Therefore, employers should treat this provision with care and take legal advice before making a decision, as those who get it wrong could face legal action from unsuccessful candidates who feel they have been discriminated against."

See also: Equality Bill: Top 10 issues employers must prepare for
Louisa Peacock, 7 April 2010

Religious liberty advocates concerned

Harman’s Equality Bill passes in Parliament
Christian Institute, 9 April 2010

Quoting the Christian Institute: "The Equality Bill was passed in Parliament on Tuesday, with the Government forced to accept defeat over church employment freedom.

"However, other measures in the Bill – championed by Equality Minister Harriet Harman – may interfere with the religious liberty of Christians.

The Tories and the Lib Dems welcomed the Bill. Labour vowed that the Bill will be 'driven and pressed through society' if they win the General Election. . .

"The Bill also imposes a legal duty on public bodies, like schools and the police, to promote homosexual and transsexual rights.

"While the Bill also introduces a 'religious equality' duty, such measures have in the past resulted in Christianity being sidelined from public life in a misguided attempt to avoid offending other faiths."

Parliament passes Equality Bill
Christian Concern for our Nation, 9th April 2010

Quoting ccfon: "As part of the ‘Wash-Up’ to clear legislation before the end of this Parliament, the Government accepted all the Lords’ amendments. These include protection against discrimination for pregnant schoolgirls and young mothers; removal of the ban on civil partnerships taking place in religious premises; and retention of the rights of a church to refuse to employ people in leadership roles who practice sexual ethics incompatible with its beliefs.

"A Lords’ amendment aimed at rescuing faith-based adoption agencies from being closed down by homosexual equality laws was not included. . ."

(The Christian Institute and Christian Concern for our Nation have excellent resources on their websites to enable understanding and tracking of religious liberty in the UK.)

Lawyers anticipate boom in business

Employment tribunal claims to jump after parliament passes Equality Bill
Thursday, 8th April 2010

"EMPLOYERS in the UK are bracing themselves for a jump in employment tribunal claims after parliament yesterday passed the Equality Bill. . .

"Employment tribunals are expected to hear up to 370,000 new claims within the next three years, costing employers £2.6bn.

"The number marks a 46 per cent hike on previous years. . ."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

UK. Amendment to Equality Bill threatens church's liberty. 3 March 2010

At 11 pm on 2 March 2010, the House of Lords voted 95 to 21 in favour of amending the Equality Bill so that homosexual civil partnerships may be legally performed in churches.

The amendment was moved by openly gay Labour Peer Lord Waheed Alli.

According to the amendment, churches will be allowed, but not compelled, to register homosexual civil partnerships. However, critics fear the change in the law could open the way for litigation under the Equality Bill or Human Rights Act against churches that refuse to register such unions.

The Telegraph quotes Lord Waddington, a former Home Secretary, who warned: "'. . . it would only be a matter of time before it was argued that it was discriminatory for a church incumbent to refuse to allow a civil partnership ceremony to take place when the law allowed it.' And, that a clergyman 'prepared to register marriages but not to register civil partnerships would be accused of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of services and pressure would be brought to bear on him to pocket his principles and do what he believed to be wrong'."

Clergy could be sued if they refuse to carry out ‘gay marriages’, traditionalists fear
By Martin Beckford and Heidi Blake. 3 March 2010
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religion/7361378/Clergy-could-be-sued-if-they-refuse-to-carry-out-gay-marriages-traditionalists-fear.html

Indeed, religious liberty advocates will be watching and waiting for the test case which will set the precedent for the future. It will be case to decide whose "rights" will prevail. It will determine whether churches will retain their right to conscientious objection, or whether Gay Rights lobby groups will win the right to dictate to the church in the name of equality, human rights and non-discrimination.

The amendment was supported by Stonewall, a leading Gay Rights lobby group.

From the Christian Institute:

"Lord Waddington, a former Home Secretary, argued: 'If this amendment were carried, it would only be a matter of time before it was argued that it was discriminatory for a church incumbent to refuse to allow a civil partnership ceremony to take place when the law allowed it.'

"And if legal challenges in the courts failed, Lord Waddington added, 'it would not be long before Stonewall was back, demanding repeal of this permissive provision and for a clear duty to be placed on churches to register civil partnerships.

" 'Is that not the way Stonewall has always worked? And was not Mr Ben Summerskill of Stonewall hinting just that when recently he said that right now faiths should not be forced to hold civil partnerships although in 10 or 20 years time things may change.' "

Homosexual unions allowed in churches
3 March 2010
http://www.christian.org.uk/news/homosexual-unions-allowed-in-churches/

As Pink News commented: the amendment "has yet to be approved by the House of Commons but MPs are unlikely to oppose it".

Lords back religious civil partnerships for gay couples
By Jessica Geen. 3 March 2010
http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2010/03/03/lords-back-religious-civil-partnerships-for-gay-couples/

See also:

House of Lords vote to allow Civil Partnerships to take place in Church
3 March 2010
http://www.ccfon.org/view.php?id=1006
(Christian Concern for our Nation is a sister organisation to the Christian Legal Centre www.christianlegalcentre.com.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

UK: religious liberty fading fast

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 027 | Wed 21 Oct 2009

UNITED KINGDOM: RELIGIOUS LIBERTY FADING FAST

In London, England, in the 1370s, John Wycliffe suffered intensive persecution for daring to protest for biblical truth. In 1415 John Hus was burnt at the stake in Prague, Bohemia, for doing the same. On 31 October 1517 a German monk named Martin Luther risked martyrdom and worse -- the Inquisition -- when he launched his protest for biblical truth: salvation by grace through faith, not merited by works. He sought reform but got division, and the Protestant Church was born. Religious liberty and the revival of biblical theology brought many positive consequences to the societies that embraced it. As a result, 31 October has traditionally been remembered as Reformation Day. But as Protestant prosperity grew, so too did the rot of pride and arrogance. Before long, Protestant societies were not only forgetting God and the truths that gave liberty to their positive energies and made them great, but 'in pride and arrogance of heart' (Isaiah 9:9b) were rejecting God and his word as irrelevant.

British MP William Wilberforce (1759-1833), though remembered primarily as an abolitionist, was passionate about Britain's need for spiritual reformation as it was in a state of advanced decay. Not only had the nation largely forgotten God but its church had mostly returned to a works-based theology, believing that people merited salvation because they were 'good' -- not that people were good because they were saved by grace through faith. (See William Wilberforce, A Practical View of Christianity, chapter 3.)

The awakening and spiritual reform that Wilberforce launched turned the tide in the UK. But today nearly 500 years on from Luther and some 250 years on from Wilberforce, the UK is in trouble again and is desperately in need of a fresh awakening. Moreover religious liberty is fading fast.

All Nations Church in Kennington, South London, was recently ordered not to use its sound system for its sermons or music so as to avoid offending its (Muslim) neighbours. A Christian office worker from South London, Denise Haye (25), was recently sacked for expressing her disapproval of homosexuality. A Christian nurse from Exeter, Shirley Chaplin (54), was recently threatened with disciplinary action after she refused to remove the cross from her necklace that she had worn without a complaint throughout 30 years of nursing. A Deputy Registrar with Islington Borough Council, Theresa Davies (59), was demoted because she refused to preside over same-sex civil partnership ceremonies. A Christian nurse with 40 years' experience, Anand Rao (71), was sacked after he suggested to a training seminar that distressed palliative care patients could try going to church. A Christian community nurse and professional foster mother (with 80 children's-worth of experience) was recently struck off the register for failing to prevent a 16-year-old Muslim girl converting to Christianity. A Christian homelessness prevention officer with 18 years' experience, Duke Amachree (53), was sacked by Wandsworth Council for sharing his faith with a client who had lost hope. Revd Noble Samuel of Heston United Reformed Church, West London, who debates Muslims on his TV Gospel program, was hijacked in his car by three Urdu-speaking assailants who grabbed him by the hair, ripped off his cross and threatened to break his legs if he continued broadcasting. These cases (all in 2009) are just the tip of the iceberg. If the Equality Bill that is now making its way through parliament passes (as expected), then persecution will increase dramatically.

(For the above cases see http://www.christianlegalcentre.com http://www.ccfon.org
http://www.christian.org.uk )

While Christians are being silenced, Islamisation is advancing, with Islamic fundamentalists appeased at every turn by short-sighted politicians who lack political courage and hanker after political gain. While Christians are fined, sacked and sued for expressing their faith, Anjem Choudary's Islam4UK is free to run its Islamic Roadshows all across the country . Independent think-tank Civitas recently reported that Britain already has some 85 Sharia Courts operating openly, advising illegal actions and transgressing human rights with impunity. Not content with this, some 5000 supporters of Islam4UK are expected to join a 'March for Sharia' from the House of Commons to Trafalgar Square on 31 October, which coincidentally is Reformation Day.

(An example of Islam4UK's Islamic Roadshow in action {Birmingham, June 2009} )

As long as the various anti-Christian lobby groups can silence Christians and shut down debate through anti-defamation, anti-vilification and anti-discrimination laws along with threats of violence, they will be on a winning trajectory with little resistance -- that is, until violent conflict erupts. Violent 'race' clashes are already on the increase, mostly in response to protests against Islamisation. The UK is in trouble.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT:

* God will greatly bless those Christians who are courageously defending gospel truths and values in the UK's courts and streets, that they will have abundant grace, wisdom and boldness from the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 10:16-20,38,39)

* as Muslims 'March for Sharia' on 31 October -- Reformation Day -- British Christians will remember the courage of Martin Luther and be motivated by the heritage they have in Wycliffe, Ridley, Wilberforce, Carey and others.

* revival will come to the UK Church so that the nation's Christians will step out boldly with gospel truths and values, being prepared to suffer and, in Wilberforce's words, 'be wholly indebted' to the God of grace for everything.

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. (v29 of Isaiah 40:28-31 ESV)

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

UK: Religious tolerance laws will stir strife.

Date: Tuesday 15 February 2005
Subj: UK: Religious tolerance laws will stir strife.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.


The British government is presently seeking to extend the existing offence of "incitement to racial hatred" to cover also "religious hatred". Having passed through the House of Commons the proposed religious hate law now proceeds to the House of Lords. A Barnabas Fund press release of 8 February calls on "the House of Lords to be firm in the face of government pressure and reject laws banning incitement to religious hatred which pose a serious danger to free speech." (Link 1)

If the House of Lords passes this religious hate law, then Britain can expect to experience the same troubles, tensions and divisions – not just between faiths but within them – that are now being experienced in Victoria, Australia, since the introduction of the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act. (Link 2)

----------------------------------------------

The proposed British legislation, which forms Schedule 10 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill, was passed by the House of Commons on Monday 7 February by 291 votes to 191.

The government rejected calls to amend the proposed law by tightening up definitions. The only concession from the government was to change the proposed offence of causing "racial or religious hatred" to "hatred against persons on racial or religious grounds". Home Office Minister Hazel Blears said the change would help clarify the situation. She assured MPs, "This is about protecting people, not about the ability to criticise, ridicule, lampoon and have fundamental disagreements about beliefs." (Link 3)

Like the proposed British law, Victoria's Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 (R&RT Act) also aims to protect persons (not ideologies) and safeguard free speech. However, as the case of the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV) vs Daniel Scot and Catch the Fire Ministries (CTF) proved, an attack upon the the integrity and teachings of the Qur'an, or upon Islam (as a faith or as a social-political-legal system), may be deemed to be an attack upon all Muslims. And this, despite persistent calls to love Muslims, and the acknowledgment that most Muslims don't even know (let alone follow) many of the teachings of the Qur'an. What's more, defamation is not the issue here, so truth is not a defence. The only issue is whether the judge believes anyone could be incited to hate members of any racial or religious group on the basis of what you said! This is why on 17 December 2004, after two years of court procedures in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, pastors Scot and Nalliah (CTF) were convicted of religious vilification. The penalty hearing will be held on 2 May 2005. There will probably be an appeal.

The judge's decision in the Victorian case demonstrates that a judge may fail to differentiate between words, texts or behaviours that are anti-Islam or anti-Qur'an (against an ideology/religion) and those that are anti-Muslim (against the person). Or the judge may simply regard vilification of Islam AS vilification of Muslims, having no understanding of the uniquely Christian world view that demands that even if the ideology is 'hated', the adherent is to be loved .

Under the proposed British law, a person "who uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or displays any written material which is threatening, abusing or insulting..." whether they intend to stir up religious hatred or simply permit the "words, behaviour or material to be heard or seen by any person in whom they are likely to stir up racial or religious hatred", can be found guilty of the offence of inciting religious hatred.

Like the Victorian state government, the British government insists that free speech will be protected. However, protection cannot be guaranteed. In Victoria, the exemption that was supposed to protect the two Christian pastors – the exemption for debate held reasonably and in good faith for genuine religious purposes or in the public interest – did not protect them. The judge simply determined that the pastors had not acted reasonably or in good faith for a legitimate religious purpose or in the public interest, and were therefore not protected by Act.

The British comedian Rowan Atkinson is a vocal opponent of the proposed religious hate law. In explaining why he supported the Liberal Democrats and Labour dissidents in their objection to the law (a link to the objection can be found at Link 2), he acknowledged, "I understand what the intentions of the government are here. I know that they do not intend to militate against people like me or [author] Salman Rushdie or playwrights.

"But the only safety valve that they have put in the legislation is the fact that the attorney general will have the final say. A safety valve operated by a politician subject to the political agendas of the day is not to me a good enough safety valve," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Monday [7 Feb].

Mr Atkinson told the BBC that the legislation is problematic because it is "all-encompassing". "The incitement of religious hatred doesn't even have to be intended, it is just if it offends any person. It couldn't be more broad." (Link 3)

-----------------------------------------
COMMENT BY REV. DR MARK DURIE (Australia)

The Reverend Dr Mark Durie provides an analysis of the assumptions behind such vilification and religious hate laws. While this is written specifically with regard to the Victorian R&RT Act, what he says can equally be applied to the British situation.

Dr Durie writes: "The Victorian Racial and Religious Tolerance Act reflects a world view according to which religion is an expression of cultural diversity: it is seen as an attribute of personal identity, like culture, language or social customs.

"This is an inadequate assumption for regulating religion. Different religions will and do seek radically different values, and can produce quite different kinds of societies. Such differences extend to different understandings of slavery, caste, marriage (e.g. monogamy, divorce, polygamy), the death penalty, euthanasia, the distribution of wealth, sexual politics, abortion, attitudes to truth, the nature of political representation, the whole legal system, and warfare. Treating religious beliefs as merely a matter of identity is a recipe for confusion.

"The case demonstrates that apologetic religious activity which challenges a religious belief system could be found illegal to the extent that it is judged to marginalize and diminish the dignity of those who hold such beliefs. This could be done, for example, by saying that a particular belief system is flawed and inferior to other belief systems. By means of this law, the state could end up protecting — and thus promoting — particular religious beliefs. Similar protection does not exist for most other kinds of beliefs. For example if you state that the virgin birth is ridiculous, you could be breaking the law, but if you said that the flat earth theory is laughable, you would be safe as long as no Australian religious group holds this view.

"It is a fact that the Qur'an and Hadiths contain numerous examples of shocking material, including incitements to hatred and killing. Few would dispute that this material, taken in isolation, has the potential to offend. There is no doubt that this material, because of its place within the canon of Islam, and its embedding within the exegetical and legal traditions of the shari'a, forms part of the 'attributes' of Muslim beliefs – whether or not individual Muslims are familiar with it – and thus it gains a measure of protection under the Act.

"For this reason the Act's presupposition (paragraph 4(1)a) that ignorance is the cause of religious tensions is naive. It is the knowledge, not ignorance of some religious teachings, that is more likely to create religious tension.

"The problem of an offensive canon is not unique to Islam, but it is particularly acute for Muslims: there is nothing so offensive in the life of Jesus or Buddha: a frank critique of the life of Muhammad risks illegality to a degree that a critique of the life of Jesus does not. The very nature of such material makes robust religious debate difficult in a way the Act does not anticipate. Because religions differ in the degree to which their canon contains such material, the Act causes a kind of religious discrimination."

---------------------------------------
BRITISH MUSLIMS DIVIDED

Most Muslims support the proposed religious hate law and have lobbied aggressively for it (see Barnabas Fund 8 Feb press release at Link 1). They see it primarily as a tool they can use to silence public criticism of their religion, and thus protect Islam, leaving Muslims free to propagate a more peaceful apologetic in line with their own beliefs or interests. This however, is not acceptable. Muslims must confront the problems in their Qur'an, sharia law and history.

There are other Muslims however, who are not so sure the religious hate law is a good thing. An article on the fundamentalist Khilafah.com expresses the concern, "The adoption of an 'incitement to religious hatred' law will be an attempt to muzzle Muslims from quoting the Quran, and the other sacred texts of Islam. There is no shortage of verses in the Qur'an to excite the interest of the British judiciary. The dozens of verses exhorting Jihad for starters, or perhaps the verses warning of the plans of the Jews or Christians, or which castigate the unjust!" (Link 4)

These laws do not inhibit confrontation between people. They create that! But they do inhibit confrontation with troublesome and offensive ideologies, texts and histories. The more offensive the material, the more probable it is that its exposure will be deemed vilification or incitement to hatred.

These laws open a religious and legal Pandora's Box. Is this really what the British want?

- Elizabeth Kendal
rl-research@crossnet.org.au

Links

1) BARNABAS FUND
Religious Hate Law: A threat to free speech?
http://www.barnabasfund.org/news/itrhc/about_itrhc.htm
This site contains everything you would ever need for studying or monitoring the UK's proposed religious hate law. The site contains Barnabas Fund press releases on the progress of the law, the text of the proposed religious hate law, and numerous media articles and political statements.

2) RELIGION LAW
http://www.religionlaw.co.uk
This site contains a link to the text of the UK's proposed incitement to religious hatred law, and gives some history behind the present law proposal.
This site also contains links for everything to do with the Victorian situation (click on "Australia")including links to the transcript of Daniel Scot's Seminar on the Qur'an (run by Catch the Fire Ministries in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 2002); as well as the Islamic Council of Victoria's initial complaint, Catch the Fire Ministries' formal defense, the judge's decision, and various other submissions and documents.

3) Religious hatred law gets backing. BBC 7 Feb 2005
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4242397.stm
ALSO http://www.christiantoday.com/news/soc/186.htm

4)The Qur'an to be banned in UK?
http://www.khilafah.com/home/category.php?DocumentID=10645&TagID=1

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Anti-Semitism in the EU, and the EU response to it.

Date: Wednesday 14 April 2004
Subj: Anti-Semitism in the EU, and the EU response to it.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal

------------------------------------
ANTI-SEMITISM IN THE EU
- and the EU response to it.

------------------------------------

The European Union (EU) still appears unwilling to acknowledge the findings of its own reports. Last year the EU-sponsored report into anti-Semitism in the EU was shelved, citing data collection irregularities, after it reported that the majority of anti-Semitic attacks were being perpetrated by Muslim youths. A new report was commissioned. However this produced the same conclusion that Muslim youths are increasingly responsible for anti-Semitic violence in the EU.

This year the language was softened and the issue of the identity of the perpetrators was either avoided or smoothly glossed over. The report states, "It is not any more the extreme right that is mainly responsible for hostility towards Jewish individuals and property. Varying proportions of victims of hostility classified perpetrators to be 'young Muslims', 'people of North African origin', and 'immigrants'". Yet this finding is written-off with a reminder that this is merely the victims' "perception" and cannot be verified, certainly not on official records. (Executive Summary, page 25; Conclusions, page 319.)

The EU Monitoring Centre for Xenophobia and Racism (EUMC) released to the media a 22-page summary that actually presented a contradictory finding. Hence media across the world have reported that the perpetrators of anti-Semitic acts in the EU are primarily "young, disaffected white Europeans" - the opposite of the actual finding of the report. This false reporting is deeply troubling.

Anti-Semitic attitudes and attacks are escalating at an alarming rate, while those who disseminate anti-Semitism and fuel or perpetrate anti-Semitic acts are being protected with a cloak of invisibility. This must end, because impunity equals permission, and if anti-Semitic attacks are permitted to escalate at this rate then the future looks truly horrifying - like something we vowed we would never let happen again.

----------------------------------

BLATANT FALSE REPORTING

The EU-commissioned report entitled "Manifestations of Antisemitism in the EU 2002-2003", by the EU Monitoring Centre for Xenophobia and Racism (EUMC) was released in late March 2004. (Link 1)

The 22-page summary released to the media states, ". there has been an increase in antisemitic incidents in five EU countries, (Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK). These incidents ranged from hate mail to arson. In some other countries there has been little evidence of increase in antisemitism. Although it is not easy to generalise, the largest group of the perpetrators of antisemitic activities appears to be young, disaffected white Europeans. A further source of antisemitism in some countries was young Muslims of North African or Asian extraction. Traditionally antisemitic groups on the extreme right played a part in stirring opinion."

Generally speaking, the world's media took this and ran with it, seemingly ignorant of the fact that it contradicted both reality and the EUMC report itself.

The BBC reported (Wednesday 31 March 2004) "Attacks against Jews in Europe have sharply increased, says a report by a European anti-racism watchdog. The study singles out Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Britain, where it says the rise in anti-Semitism has been of particular concern. Other countries, including Ireland and Portugal, showed little sign of any rise in attacks, the report says.

"It identifies 'young, disaffected white Europeans' as the key culprits followed by North African or Asian Muslims."

On 1 April, The Hindu published an article entitled, "White males blamed for attacks on EU Jews." It stated: "Brussels, April 1. (GUARDIAN NEWS SERVICE): Attacks on Jews have increased in five EU countries in the last two years with white males rather than Muslims being blamed for many of them, according to a report published yesterday.

"The study by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) contrasted with the controversial findings of research carried out in Berlin last year, which said young Arabs and Muslims were mainly responsible for rising anti-semitism."

JEWISH GROUPS OUTRAGED

Jonathan Fisk commented on 1 April, "A long-awaited report on European anti-Semitism confirms that it is a growing problem across the continent - but dances around the politically sensitive question of who is responsible. The 344-page report by the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia, or EUMC, details a rise in anti-Semitic incidents in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and England. Physical assaults are absent or rare in Greece, Austria, Italy and Spain, the report found, but anti-Semitic discourse is virulent there as well.

"Those findings are unlikely to surprise observers who have watched a rash of anti-Semitic outbursts spread across Europe since the Palestinian intifada began in September 2000.

"More surprising was the almost passing reference made to the perpetrators. Newer actors such as immigrant Muslim youth are mentioned in the report, but an EUMC press release accompanying the report sought to highlight the role of more traditional sources of anti-Semitism, such as far-right groups and skinheads." (Link 2)

Regarding the contradictory statements made in the media summary, Jonathan Fisk quotes Elan Steinberg, executive vice president of the World Jewish Congress as protesting, "After the scandal of the previous report, the EUMC has compiled an impressive quantitative analysis that shows an unprecedented wave of anti-Semitism in Europe. But they studiously avoid going into the causes of the anti-Semitism; you're almost left with the impression that it occurred from outer space. It's an intellectual whitewash and an instance of moral cowardice."

Fisk also quotes Serge Cwajgenbaum, secretary general of the European Jewish Congress, "It's contradictory that the EUMC puts an emphasis on 'white, right-wing perpetrators,' whereas the report reveals that the majority of attacks in most countries are committed by young Muslims of North African origin. How can we effectively fight anti-Semitism when we refuse to identify the true perpetrators?"

ARAB ANTI-SEMITISM

A brilliant Special Report by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) entitled "What is Arab Antisemitism?" draws this conclusion: "Arab antisemitism must be closely monitored and its many manifestations translated and exposed, in the hope that exposure will lead to international protests and diplomatic pressure on the states guilty of propagating it."

This MEMRI report is highly recommended for anyone wanting to understand contemporary Arab anti-Semitism.

MEMRI "What Is Arab Antisemitism?"
By Menahem Milson, 27 February 2004

Another excellent summary and analysis is by the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity (ISIC - an arm of the Barnabas Fund). ISIC Briefing 12 November 2003
"Mahathir Mohamad and Muslim Antisemitism."

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After all the Country Reports, Part 2 of the EUMC "Manifestations of Antisemitism in the EU 2002-2003" report focuses on "Evaluation of National EUMC-RAXEN Data on Antisemitism". The Conclusions are detailed from pages 318-326.

THE EUMC RAISES SERIOUS QUESTIONS AND ISSUES

On page 319 we read, "There is evidence to support the view that there is a link between the number of reported antisemitic incidents and the political situation in the Middle East." This is of course a simple observation.

On page 323 however, we read, "Another topical issue with regard to contemporary antisemitism is the influence of the crisis in the Middle East on both attitudes towards Jews and hostile acts directed against Jews."

This statement comes without qualification or explanation and is therefore contemptible. Such an unqualified statement subtly implies, or yields to the propaganda, that "the crisis in the Middle East" is responsible for anti-Semitic attitudes and hostility and may even therefore ultimately justify them.

It is well known that the situation in the Middle East is regularly used as an excuse for anti-Semitic attitudes and actions. However it should be noted that we are not seeing evidence that Palestinian and Arab Islamist terrorism against Israeli civilians in the Middle East is producing hateful, aggressive, violent and destructive Jews in the EU (and we don't expect to). So to blame "the crisis in the Middle East" is quite unfair and misdirected. As far as the Middle East goes, it is anti-Semitism that is an obstacle to peace, not the other way around.

Likewise, we read in the Executive Summary, "What should not be considered as antisemitic and therefore does not have to be monitored under the heading 'antisemitism' is hostility towards Israel as 'Israel' i.e. as a country that is criticised for its concrete policies."

This is a very delicate area. It is often said that Jews worldwide are hostages to Israeli policies (which are by implication bad). I fear however that the real situation is that Israel is hostage to pervasive and widespread anti-Semitism.

It is this anti-Semitism that denies Israel the right to exist and defend herself. It is this anti-Semitism that will, without making any demands on any Arab leaders, make Israel the Middle East's, and even the world's scapegoat. Through this anti-Semitism Israel is demonised and contempt for her is then used to justify the expression of anti-Semitic attitudes and acts.

Some criticisms of Israeli government policies (standing out as they do against a background of silence regarding Arab policies) are rational and reasonable - most however, are not. They are pure anti-Semitism dressed up in political garb.

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Serious questions were raised on page 323 under the main heading,
"Proposals for Data Collection and Research".

The report states that there are two separate manifestations of anti-Semitism:
1) "ideological and symbolic antisemitism as represented in political and media discourses, literature and public attitudes towards Jews";
2) "concrete incidents directed against individual Jews or Jewish organisations".

The reports then questions whether these two manifestations are connected or related. The report states that the issue needing to be addressed is "how far these two strands are dependant or independent from each other".

The report then acknowledges that the EUMC report has not examined "the motivations of the perpetrators and the relationship between their acts and antisemitic attitudes and ideology".

The EUMC should certainly be encouraged to examine the ideology and motivations of the perpetrators. They should do this through independent research and analysis, not by seeking statements from Islamic and Arab propagandists. This may however result in another report that will be shelved for its lack of political correctness.

The EUMC might like to start by examining the educational materials used in Islamic schools in the EU, especially Saudi-funded schools, and Saudi-produced and disseminated Islamic educational materials.

The EUMC might also like to examine the virulent anti-Semitism being disseminated through Arab broadcasting and Arab Internet sites (for example, Link 3) including those of Arab Embassies (most of which have links to the Saudi government's Islamic Affairs Department).
Examination should be made of the rabid anti-Semitism preached from many mosques, especially Saudi-funded, Saudi-established mosques through out the EU.

If the EUMC does conduct such research, they might find that a poisonous anti-Semitism is infesting Europe's airwaves, Muslim communities, Islamic schools and media, creating and feeding antisemitic hate and directly and indirectly provoking antisemitic acts.

Antisemitism is a serious issue that requires a serious response. All must have equality before the law.

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Finally, here is an interesting article on immigration, demographics, the radicalisation of Europe's Muslims and the short-sighted attempts by European leaders to appease them. These things do help explain the rise in anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic acts in the EU, especially in states with higher levels of Arab Muslim immigration.

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- Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) "Manifestations of Antisemitism in the EU 2002-2003"
by the EU Monitoring Centre (EUMC) for Xenophobia and Racism.
http://eumc.eu.int/eumc/index.php

2) Report notes rise in anti-Semitism, but blurs question of
responsibility
by Jonathan Fisk, JTA, 12 April 2004
http://www.virtualjerusalem.com/news/lateststories/?disp_feature=5P8lNz.var

3) Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)
"Former Al-Azhar Fatwa Committee Head Sets Out the Jews' 20 Bad
Traits As Described in the Qur'an" - for an on-line chat room on 22
March 2004.
http://www.memri.org/bin/opener_latest.cgi?ID=SD69104

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Europe: Escalating Anti-Semitism

Date: Tuesday 23 July 2002
Subj: Europe: Escalating Anti-Semitism
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator

There has been a shocking surge of anti-Semitic attacks across Europe since the Palestinian uprising erupted in September 2000. Anti-Semitic violence escalated further in early April 2002, corresponding with the Israeli offensive in the West Bank.

Although violence against Jews has been reported from the Ukraine to the UK, France has been the most severely hit, with some 360 anti-Semitic attacks in the first few weeks of April 2002 alone (BBC - see link below) - everything from graffiti and abuse to the firebombing of synagogues. Recent events in the UK and Italy show that the disease is continuing to spread and will not be extinguished without a decisive strategy.

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On 19 July, the New York Times (NYT) reported the desecration of the Jewish section of the historic Verano cemetery in Italy. In all, thirty-four graves were desecrated and one coffin was partly ripped open. According to Frank Bruni's article entitled, "Nearly 40 Jewish Graves Are Desecrated in a Rome Cemetery", it was " a chilling scene that marked the arrival in Italy of a wave of anti-Semitic attacks across Europe."

Tullia Zevi, the former president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, is quoted in the NYT article as saying, "I think it's a very complex phenomenon. Is it the old anti-Semitism which has been nurtured for centuries and reached its tragic climax in the concentration camps, or is it something that has a kind of link with the Middle East situation? Whatever the case, our civilization is somehow unable to prevent or counteract this violence." Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi lamented, "Italy has a deep-rooted tradition of civility, but not even Rome is immune from the barbarity of anti-Semitism."

An Associated Press article entitled "Culprits Desecrate Jewish Tombstones", AP 18 July 2002, quoted Italian Deputy Premier Gianfranco Fini as saying that the desecration "unfortunately shows that our society isn't immune from the risk of new and odious forms of anti-Semitism.'" The new anti-Semitism, he said, is "often masked by a violent criminalisation of Israel." A spokesman for Milan's Jewish community, Yasha Reibman, was also quoted as saying, "in Italy and in Europe, a new, political anti-Semitism is growing, which uses as an alibi all that's happening in Israel."

On Thursday night 11 July, vandals broke into a synagogue in Swansea, South-western Britain. Mike Whine of the Community Security Trust, which oversees security in Jewish communities, told the Associated Press, "There was a big sign saying 'T4,' which we believe is a reference to the Nazi euthanasia program in the concentration camps. Excrement was left, and there was a failed attempt to set fire to the place." According to the Associated Press report, a swastika was daubed in green paint on the rabbi's lectern, an ancient scroll was destroyed and the prayer shawls had been hurled to the floor.

The European governments have been quick to denounce anti-Semitism. On Sunday 21 July, France's Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, pledged to catch and punish anyone found complicit it anti-Semitic attacks, saying an attack on France's Jewish community is an attack on France.

Not since the end of World War II has Europe seen such aggressive anti-Semitism. The situation is complicated, with the perpetrators coming from various reaches of society - from the political far-right neo-Nazis / anti-immigrant skinheads, and from Muslim immigrants, mostly Arabs from North Africa.

The World Jewish Congress (WJC http://www.wjc.org.il ) charge that while the majority of violent anti-Semitic attacks in Europe have been perpetrated by Muslims, it is Europe's social and intellectual elites that have made Jews and the Jewish state the targets of an intense campaign of public vilification and demonising. The WJC insist that these elites have helped create the present climate where anti-Semitism (cloaked of course behind a self-righteous indignation over Israeli policy) is somehow acceptable and even justifiable. (WJC: see link below)

But surely violence and vilification against Jews is not justifiable on the grounds of Israeli aggression in the West Bank, just as violence against Arab Muslim immigrants could not be justified on the grounds of Palestinian Muslim aggression in Israel.

Once again Europe is facing a moral testing and the way this issue of rising anti-Semitism is handled will certainly direct the future of the continent that some 50 years ago said, "Never again!"

- Elizabeth Kendal


BBC: "Jews warn of rising anti-Semitism" - 23 April 2002
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/1946851.stm

The Word Jewish Congress, Policy Dispatches, number 77 - April 2002
"The 'New Antisemitism': A haunting reawakening of anti-Jewish
violence stirs memories of the Holocaust".
http://www.wjc.org.il/publications/policy_dispatches/pub_dis77.html