Written March 2009
‘Persecuted for Praying’ – the headline of the Daily Mail (2/2/09) drew attention to the case of Caroline Petrie, a Christian community nurse, who faced dismissal for offering to pray for an elderly patient. Mrs Petrie, who is married mother of two, was accused by her employers, North Somerset Primary Care Trust, of failing to demonstrate a ‘personal and professional commitment to equality and diversity’ because of her offer of prayer. No doubt as a result of the bad press coverage, she was reinstated after being suspended without pay.
Jennie Cain, a school receptionist at Landscore Primary School in Devon, is being investigated for professional misconduct for sending a private email prayer request to friends following an incident where her five year old daughter had been told off by a teacher at the school for discussing Jesus in the classroom.
A foster mother in the north of England has been struck off because a Muslim girl in her charge decided to convert to Christianity. The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has fostered more than 80 children and is a practising Anglican. She says she put no pressure on the girl, who is 16 and well capable of making up her own mind. When the girl decided she wanted to be baptised, council officials said her carer had failed in her duty to preserve the girl’s religion and should have used her influence to prevent the baptism from going ahead. They said the girl should stay away from church for six months, and later struck the carer off the fostering register.
PC Graham Cogman was working in Yarmouth, Norfolk, when gay liaison officers circulated an email encouraging staff to wear a pink ribbon on uniforms in Gay History Month. He responded by sending e-mails to colleagues quoting Bible texts which say that homosexual sex is sinful. He was accused of failing to show respect and tolerance and following a misconduct hearing on November 25 2008, he was found guilty of two charges: one of failing to comply with a lawful order over the use of police computers and another of failing to treat a colleague with politeness and tolerance. He was dismissed for the first charge and will be required to resign for the second, although he still has the right to appeal against both.
Rev Mahboob Masih, a Church minister from East Kilbride, was dismissed from hosting his radio programme on Awaz FM, a community radio show in Glasgow designed to serve the Asian Community. In the talk show on 26th July 2008 he responded to a talk given by a prominent Muslim speaker and critic of Christianity, Zakir Naik on Peace TV, a popular Islamic channel in which the divinity of Jesus Christ was denied. On the radio programme Reverend Masih and co-presenter Afzal Umeed sought to allow a response from the Christian perspective. In the course of the debate reference was made to Jesus Christ being the one way to God. The radio station management, worried that the debate had offended Muslim listeners accused the Rev Masih of not being balanced enough on air.
These are just a few of the incidents that have taken place recently in Britain. Put them all together and we have an alarming picture of Britain losing freedom of conscience and a new breed of Thought Police censoring our opinions and our ability to say what we believe. When state officials start ordering people to stay away from church, Stalinist Russia comes to mind, not western democracy. It is becoming clear that in the name of ‘tolerance’ certain opinions will not be tolerated. Chief among them are the view that Jesus Christ is the one way to God and that the only sexual relationship which is acceptable to God is the relationship of one man and one woman committed to each other in marriage. In other words the basic beliefs of biblical Christianity.
It is also becoming clear that the attack is one sided. In the incidents mentioned above, the gay rights officers who bombarded PC Cogman with emails about wearing pink ribbons for Gay History Month were not censured. The Muslim preacher, Zakir Naik, was not rebuked for criticising Christianity on air. And the likelihood that the foster mother would have been struck off if a Christian child in her care had converted to Islam is nil.
In relation to the case of Mrs Petrie, the NHS has brought out a new document called ‘Religion or Belief: A Practical Guide for the NHS.’ This gives warning that attempts by doctors or nurses to preach to other staff or patients will be treated as harassment or intimidation under disciplinary procedures. The document states: ‘Members of some religions… are expected to preach and to try to convert other people. In a workplace environment this can cause many problems, as non-religious people and those from other religions or beliefs could feel harassed and intimidated by this behaviour. To avoid misunderstandings and complaints on this issue, it should be made clear to everyone from the first day of training and/or employment, and regularly restated, that such behaviour, notwithstanding religious beliefs, could be construed as harassment under the disciplinary and grievance procedures.’ If a nurse discusses her beliefs with a colleague during a coffee break, will she risk losing her job?
Andrea Williams, the founder and Director of the Christian Legal Centre, said: ‘It is of huge concern that Christian citizens, whose desire is to do their jobs well, are increasingly being silenced and pushed out of the ‘public square’ because of Equality and Diversity Policies. It is extraordinary, that these policies which purport to ensure tolerance are ushering in a new form of censorship and intolerance which should concern us all’
It is not just in Britain that this concern is being raised. An article by Soeren Kern entitled ‘Europe’s War on Free Speech’ published in Brussels Journal, Belgium 09 February 2009 gives some details of ways this is happening.
The Amsterdam Court of Appeals has ordered the criminal prosecution of a Dutch Member of Parliament for criticising Islam, after he produced a hard-hitting film that says verses from the Koran promote violence. In a written judgment, the appeals court said that ‘by attacking the symbols of the Muslim religion, Wilders also insulted Muslim believers.’ In 2006, former Dutch lawmaker Ayaan Hirsi Ali was forced to flee the country after criticising the mistreatment of women in Islamic societies. In France a teacher, Robert Redeker wrote an article ‘In the face of intimidations by the Islamists what should the free world do?’ which was published in the leading newspaper, Le Figaro in September 2006. Since then he and his family have been secreted away on advice of the French government to a safe house for fear of an Islamic death threat. Similar cases have been reported in Austria and Italy.
In Britain, the 2006 Racial and Religious Hatred Act, has created a new crime of intentionally stirring up religious hatred against people on religious grounds. While this allows for discussion of faith issues, it raises the possibility that a Muslim may be offended by a Christian denying that Mohammed is the last of the prophets and saying that Jesus is the one mediator between God and humanity. A person making such a claim could be considered to be insulting Islam and therefore criminalised.
Fear of offending Islam has led to zealousness bordering on the absurd. In Nottingham, for example, the Greenwood Primary School cancelled a Christmas nativity play because it interfered with the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha. In East London, all elected members of Tower Hamlets town council were told not to eat during daylight hours in town hall meetings during the Muslim month of Ramadan. Special arrangements were also made to disrupt council meetings to allow for Muslim prayer. Meanwhile, the council renamed a staff Christmas party as a ‘festive meal’. To be fair to Muslims, many of them have spoken out against some of these absurdities which are generally enforced by white liberals and leftists with a guilt complex about western imperialism and racism and a dislike of all things connected with traditional British society, especially Christianity.
The issue of homosexuality is also being used to restrict free speech in Europe. In Britain the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act was passed in May 2008 creating the criminal offence of ‘incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation’. A group of Peers led by Lord Waddington won an amendment to the act in the House of Lords, forcing the Government to accept that people should not be hauled before the Courts for stating that homosexual sex is wrong, or for trying to persuade homosexuals to remain celibate. But now the government wants to remove that protection. The crime of inciting homophobic hatred includes any words or behaviour which is threatening and intended to stir up hatred. Speaking out Bible passages which say that gay sexual activity is sinful in the sight of God may be perceived to be threatening and so be considered to be unlawful.
The European Parliament has passed a resolution which calls for abortion rights and ‘gay marriage’ to be promoted throughout the EU. The resolution was proposed by Italian Communist MEP, Giusto Catania. The resolution also calls on all EU member states to recognise same-sex civil partnerships equally with heterosexual marriage and calls for critics to be silenced. The resolution says the European Parliament ‘takes the view that discriminatory comments against homosexuals by social and political leaders fuel hatred and violence, and calls on the relevant governing bodies to condemn them.’
Meanwhile, government ministers from the 27 member states of the European Union are debating a draft EU Directive that aims to outlaw discrimination and ‘harassment’ in the provision of goods and services. The new legislation would, for example, shut down Christian adoption agencies if they refuse to provide same-sex couples with children. Indeed, the definition of ‘harassment’ is so broad that even moderate explanations of Christian beliefs on sexual conduct or other religions could be considered a crime.
In the article quoted above Soeren Kern writes, ‘Europe’s war on free speech is the result of a profound identity crisis, one that is being generated by the blanket abandonment of traditional Judeo-Christian values coupled with mass immigration from Muslim countries. But in their zeal to criminalise free thought and free speech, the leftwing guardians of Orwellian political correctness are systematically destroying European democracy. Not only are European elites using hate crime legislation to silence people with opinions that do not conform to official state policies. They are also dividing Europeans into two groups (the majority and the minority), each with different rights and responsibilities. The minority (Muslims, homosexuals, Socialists) are imposing their will upon the majority (non-Muslim, heterosexuals, non-Socialists) by aggressively prosecuting those who refuse to fall into line.’
At the same time in America President Obama is poised to be the most pro-homosexual chief executive in history. Unveiling his agenda on the newly refurbished version of the White House Web site, Obama called for the repeal of the federal Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA), as well as the extension of more than 1,000 federal marriage benefits and of adoption rights to homosexual couples. The new administration laid out its plans on the Web site (whitehouse.gov). The site’s ‘Civil Rights’ section lists a number of items long on the homosexual agenda, including expanding federal hate-crimes laws, repealing the ban on homosexuals in the military and extending the definition of workplace discrimination to include sexual orientation. Obama also favours granting adoption rights to homosexual couples, saying that children benefit from a healthy home, regardless of whether the ‘parents’ are homosexual or not.
A film produced by Coral Ridge Ministries in the United States shows how the planned extension of ‘hate crimes’ legislation could end up in the criminalisation of Christianity. It shows how Christians in America, Canada, Australia, and Sweden have been arrested and prosecuted for expressing opinions that are rooted in the Bible regarding homosexual conduct, Islam or other topics about which Scriptures express clear teachings. ‘On the surface, hate crime laws might sound like a good idea,’ said Jerry Newcombe, of Coral Ridge, who hosts the film. ‘After all, none of us advocates hatred or violence against another person. But if you look below the surface, suddenly you realize that these laws are really thought crime laws.’
He gives the following examples. The governor of Colorado, Bill Ritter, signed into law last year a plan that analysts believe effectively bans publication of the Bible in the state. The gender ‘anti-discrimination’ law bans publication of statements that can be perceived as being negative toward those individuals choosing alternative sexual lifestyles. Canada already has an aggressive ‘hate crimes’ law, and there authorities have gone so far as to tell a Christian pastor he must recant his faith because of the legislation that bans statements that can be ‘perceived’ as condemning another person. In Sweden, Pastor Ake Green spoke out against homosexual conduct in a 2003 sermon and was prosecuted for ‘hate speech.’ In Australia, all it took to bring two ministers into a courtroom on charges of vilifying Islam was a seminar in their own church about Muslim beliefs.
President Lula of Brazil said ‘opposing’ homosexuality makes you a sick person, and he believes such thoughts need to be criminalised. The First National Conference of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transvestites and Transsexuals was held in Brazil to condemn the biblical belief that homosexuality is wrong. President Lula not only officially opened the event to promote homosexuality across his nation but also issued a presidential sanction for the conference. Calling for ‘the criminalisation of homophobia,’ he said opposition to homosexuality is ‘perhaps the most perverse disease impregnated in the human head.’ He said ‘prejudiced’ people need to ‘open their minds and clean them.’
In the face of all this Christians need to stand up for the right to teach what the Bible says on controversial issues. In doing this we have to realise that we are swimming against the tide. Gordon Brown may have spoken about his ‘moral compass’ when he took office as Prime Minister, but the direction the ship of state he presides over is going in looks increasingly perilous as far as issues of Christian conscience and freedom of speech are concerned. This is not just a party political issue either, so voting Labour out of office may not solve the problem. EU directives and even UN resolutions are being used to bring in this kind of control of people’s thoughts and neither of these institutions can be voted out of existence. Another factor is that over the past decades politically correct people have been taking over control of public institutions, notably the BBC, the education system, local councils, the health service, the social services, the police and the judiciary.
Given the fact that these developments affect the whole of the western world and that anti Christian measures are already in place in Muslim and Communist countries, it is not hard to see the development of a world wide anti Christ system which fits in with the prophecies of the end times in the Bible. Jesus said that in the last days ‘You will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake’. Matthew 24.9. Revelation 13 describes the last days when the world system is ruled by the beast: ‘And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue forty two months (3 1/2 years). Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue and nation.’
How far we are off the fulfilment of these things only God knows, but we certainly see the preparation in the way the world is going. Often the people responsible for pushing the world in this direction think they are anti-establishment, daring radicals campaigning for freedom. In fact they are slavish conformists doing the will of spiritual forces of evil and the powerful people who are shaping the world for its final conflict with God.
The real non-conformists are those who refuse to bow the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19.18) and keep the faith delivered to us by the apostles of the Lord Jesus: ‘Beloved while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. … But you beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourself in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.’ Jude 3-4, 20-21.