The Church of England Newspaper reports today on the ‘Persecution of Christians in the UK’ conference held in the House of Commons on July 3rd. The conference was attended by Baroness Cox, the Bishop of Manchester, Andrea Minichello-Williams of the Christian Lawyers Fellowship (CLF) and Canon Yaqub Masih, secretary general of the Asian Christian Fellowship.
Canon Yaqub Masih reportedly said ““Christians in this country are being sidelined and discriminated and even some pastors have been threatened and beaten, because of preaching the gospel.”
The report interested me for a number of reasons. Andrea Minichello-Williams and the CLF have supported a number of cases involving what they claim is persecution against Christians for expressing views and taking actions which are in conformity with their faith but which have been deemed homophobic and for which they have been censured. The CLF is building up a case by case claim that Christians are being victimised and oppressed by legislation protecting LGBT people from discrimination in the workplace.
I was at a meeting convened by Stonewall last night at which their recent publication ‘Religion and Sexual Orientation: How to manage relations in the work place’ was presented. The booklet presents case studies on many of the cases fought by the CLF and demonstrates why CLF lost every time. The cases are often misreported (in the Daily Mail) and it is these reports that conservative Christians rely on for information.
I was curious about Canon Masih’s claim that pastors have been threatened and beaten for being Christian and undertook my own research on Google. There are many reports from other parts of the word but I could find only one report of a physical attack on a minister, despite trawling through the growing number of sites reporting the persecution of Christians in UK and western culture; try searching http://vladtepesblog.com/?p=8907 or http://blog.echurchwebsites.org.uk/category/uk-christian-persecution/
The only report of a physical assault I could find was a Daily Mail report about an alleged attack on Nobel Samuel on 14th March 2009. I say alleged because there were no witnesses to the attack.
The Daily Mail reported that the Reverend Nobel Samuel, based at Heston United Reformed Church, West London, was driving to his TV studio on 14th March 2009. Mr Samuel reported that a car pulled over in front of him and a man got out and asked him questions in Urdu. The man put his hand into the window, which was half open and grabbed Mr Samuel’s hair and opened the door. He started slapping his face and punching his neck. He was trying to smash his head on the steering wheel. Then he grabbed his cross and pulled it off and it fell on the floor. He was swearing. The other two men came from the car and took his laptop and Bible. The Metropolitan Police are treating it as a ‘faith hate’ assault and are hunting three Asian men. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1162039/Minister-beaten-clashing-Muslims-TV-show.html
I checked Google to see if there were other reports of the attack. The top 40 results on Google were all based on the Daily Mail article. Just one report added more information: http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/2009/s09060037.htm.
This reports Mr Samuel’s presence at and contribution to the Persecution of Christians Conference. At the Conference Mr Samuel said ‘he was attacked by four people after Musilm callers questioned the Christian belief of the “Sonship of Christ.” He said a Muslim caller asked him why Christians eat pork and drink liquor. “I was attacked and threatened when I told the caller that Muslim drink in Saudi Arabia and in other Islamic countries too,” said Nobel Samuel’. The Christian Legal Centre is supporting Dr Samuel.
How accurate are any of these reports – in the CEN, the Daily Mail and online? Stonewall have demonstrated that the reports of the cases supported by the Christian Lawyers Fellowship are inaccurate, and the cases have been lost. The claim reported in the CEN that pastors are being threatened and beaten because of preaching the gospel seems to refer to Mr Nobel Samuel. He wasn’t preaching the Gospel when he was attacked. Those who attacked him did not refer to his faith. It is Mr Samuel who makes the connection in his remarks at the Conference between the attack and callers to his programme.
Conservative Christians are trying to persuade Parliament and bishops and church leaders that legislation protecting LGBT people is causing Christians to be persecuted. Existing and proposed legislation benefits LGBT Christians. It is a minority of conservative Christians who believe they are being persecuted. Their freedom to refrain from offering goods and services to LGBT people has been circumscribed and they don’t like it. They fail to understand how the law works to protect the freedom of LGBT people and their freedom in the work place.
They misreport events and then rely on the misreporting to pursue their claims of persecution. Their lack of honesty and integrity is not Christian. I hope the Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester, a good friend, isn’t taken in by the CLF inaccuracies and misrepresentation of reality. More about the Stonewall report in a future post.