Monday, 29 March 2010

Ekklesia: Bishops should substantiate or desist over ‘persecution’


In a letter to the Sunday Telegraph today, a group of Church of England bishops and retired bishops / archbishop (Lord Carey; Michael Scott-Joynt, Bishop of Winchester; Michael Nazir-Ali, Former Bishop of Rochester; Peter Forster, Bishop of Chester; Anthony Priddis, Bishop of Hereford; and Nicholas Reade, Bishop of Blackburn) claim widespread discrimination against Christians and that:

“There have been numerous dismissals of practising Christians from employment for reasons that are unacceptable in a civilised country.”

Predictably it has given rise to yet another misleading Sunday Telegraph headline: “Britain is persecuting Christians, say bishops”

This Britain that allegedly persecutes Christians, of course continues to afford many privileges to Christians. It has state funded church schools for example which legally and routinely discriminate in employment against those who aren’t Christians. There would be justifiable outrage if the situation were reversed with ‘secular’ state schools giving priority to atheists (or even those of other religions), in the same way.

But putting aside the institutionalised discrimination which exists in the opposite direction, what of the claim that there have been “numerous dismissals of practising Christians from employment for reasons that are unacceptable in a civilised country.” ?

To my knowledge, even the most extreme pressure groups like Christian Concern for our Nation and the Christian Legal Centre who are stoking and reinforcing the Christian persecution complex, haven’t made the claim that there have been “numerous dismissals”. So far they have pointed to only a handful of examples where there is some alleged injustice. Rarely have this small number involved dismissal. And even where (if?) they have, upon further investigation, the claims have tended to fall apart. Indeed, in one case, it even seemed to be the intervention of Christian campaigners which brought the dismissal about, after confidential client details were given to a national newspaper. In another, CLC claimed dismissal and then reinstatement, when dismissal never actually seems to have occurred.

The bishops should cite these “numerous” cases, or stop making such allegations. Why?

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