Wednesday 19 August 2009

Christian Legal Centre

Anonymous posted a comment on the thread about the Christian Legal Centre’s campaign, defending their freedom to preach publicly against homosexuality. He says “the evidence is that the Christian Legal Centre is doing a good job in protecting the civil rights of Christians.” My first comment – they are not protecting the civil rights of all Christians but only those who think in a narrow, biblically conservative way.

In support of his (or her) claim that they are doing a good job, he refers to the incident which took place in Chorlton in 2007. He gives the URL to the Christian Institute report. I’ve read the report, looked at the leaflet and watched the video clip. It doesn’t substantiate Anonymous’s claim.

Julian Hirst is interviewed. He says that two mounted policemen arrived as they were giving out invitations to Easter services. They dismounted and said it had been reported that they were handing out offensive literature. After 10 or 15 minutes three more policemen arrived wearing body armour, which Julian found a little bit unnerving (“Armour-clad officers jumped out of a police van” is what the written report says). With all these policemen around Julian wasn’t quite sure how they were going to react or how they would deal with the group.

The scenario is one familiar to many gay people from 20 or 30 years ago, when police could be very intimidating, were often prejudiced and set out to entrap gay men. Stonewall and Gay Pride came into being in response to just such an aggressive police raid on the Stonewall Inn in New York.

Julian wryly comments that the broad response seemed disproportionate considering that the group was just giving out a leaflet advertising Easter services. Police take hate crime very seriously. The UK government and society have identified hate crimes involving racial, sexual and other attitudes to be unacceptable.

The police returned later and said they had spoken to the person who had made the complaint. He had changed the complaint, now saying that he found the leaflet offensive. He found the presence of Christians from an evangelical church offensive in a place where there is a sizeable gay community.

The complainant seems to be out to make trouble and his complaint is rightly rejected. But many who read this blog will feel instinctively uncomfortable with street preachers. I confess that I tend automatically to assume that part of their message will be a condemnation of gay people and sadly, I am often proved right.

The following day a policeman from the Race and Hate Crime Unit came. They had taken away a selection of the church’s literature and gone through it. He explained that everything was okay and there was no problem with any of the literature.

Julian said he thought freedom of speech for Christians and all members of the community is very important and everybody should have the freedom to express their view freely. If some people try to gag Christians then he thinks our society would be the poorer for it. I agree with freedom of speech and freedom to preach the Gospel, but I also think that freedom should be restricted when people incite prejudice and hatred.

The problem for conservative Christians is their inability to understand that the verses they like to quote about men having sex with men are hateful to gay men. The passages, especially in inaccurate translations used by conservatives, are offensive and do not, in any case, apply to the loving, faithful relationships embraced by Christian LGBT people.

Anonymous said in his comment “the police went in mob handed to stop an evangelical church inviting people to the Easter service.” They didn’t. Their response seemed disproportionate, as Julian Hirst, the pastor, says in the video, but they didn’t stop the church handing out the leaflet.

Anonymous enables me to point up some key lessons.
Conservatives repeat stories and misrepresent them to mean what they want, not what in truth happened. Don’t trust conservative stories until the facts have been checked. This takes time, but Changing Attitude is here to try and unearth the truth.

Conservatives use the 7 proof texts as anti-gay texts, not just anti-gay sex, but anti-gay identity, anti-gays in ministry, anti-gay respect and inclusion.

Conservative Christians are doing immense damage to the mission of the church in England and corrupt the Gospel.

The police should be targeting those Christians who demonstrated at London Pride and will almost certainly be present again at Manchester Pride on 29 August.

CLC cannot be trusted to present evidence truthfully. As with many extreme conservative groups, they will distort the reporting of events and research evidence to present a worse-case scenario.
Finally, the Christian Institute video ends with the text: “Let’s be free to disagree.” Amen to that. We also believe in free speech, but not in Christian preaching and teaching which is hateful and provokes hatred towards LGBT people.


  1. Have you any comment on the dishonest report by a homosexual which started the whole incident. What worries me is that the police were ready to believe this and acted in a disproportionate manner. However you have identified your enemy "the conservative Christian" so if anything unpleasant happens to him you rejoice. Your attitude is totally contrary to the spirit of Jesus. 7 verses against homosexuality you say but in favour none!

  2. 10 [His] disciples said to is better not to marry."
    11 He answered, "Not all can accept [this] word, but only those to whom that is granted.
    12 Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it."

    I do not hear many Conservatives demanding the right to preach this, or in practice showing the respect due the single person in Church. You ask a conservative to accept that they are in the second rank if married and you will see a strong reaction! This text is consciously ignored by Conservatives because it soesn't suit them, specifically it doesn't fit with their ideas about how society should operate ie their prejudices.

    Yet, it is one of the passages where you most clearly hear the voice of Jesus, speaking against the norms of his day directly through the ages to those who will listen.

    Same-sex orinented people should be permitted partners for the same reason as non-same-sex oriented, because of their weakness. Jesus was clear about this. It is better not to marry.

  3. The test is quite simple. If you can substitute the words "black" or "Jew" for gay without being seen to incite hatred, then you should be allowed to preach whatever it is you're preaching.

    But if changing the words shows that you are really only preaching hatred against one group of people, you should remain silent.

    Saying you are merely reading from the bible is no defence.

  4. You mention that conservatives "repeat stories and misrepresent them to men what they want". Don't we all do that, more or less consciously?

  5. qpitpjl, we may all unconsciously repeat stories to mean what we want. I try, consciously, to communicate information and stories as accurately as I can, knowing that in selecting stories, I am taking a stance and presenting a particular perspective. There are conservative Christians who consciously and deliberately misrepresent and falsely report news and information. Anonymous does it here. CLC does it. People who post to Stand Firm and VOL do it.

  6. In response to the first Anonymous remark about the dishonest report by a homosexual, I think we would all agree that this was wrong. I know many gay people who would be offended by the very presence of street preachers, but they must respect their right to speak their views freely. Conversely, conservative Christians (or any other faith) must exercise their right to free speech responsibly. They are free to tell gay people they are sinning, but must make sure their language cannot be construed as an excuse to persecute gay people. I believe misrepresenting information, by any side of a debate, is wrong. Yes we do select stories to articulate our own particular viewpoint, but they must be accurate and not skewed. There is a difference between selecting accurate stories you feel back up your argument, and using false and misrepresented stories because they suit.

  7. Mr Coward,

    May I suggest it is you who "consciously and deliberately misrepresent and falsely report news and information." in for example your malicious attack on Tom Wright.

    The official position of the Church of England is that
    That this Synod affirms that the biblical and traditional teaching on chastity and fidelity in personal relationships in a response to, and expression of, God's love for each one of us, and in particular affirms:

    that sexual intercourse is an act of total commitment which belongs properly within a permanent married relationship;
    that fornication and adultery are sins against this ideal, and are to be met by a call to repentance and the exercise of compassion;
    that homosexual genital acts also fall short of this ideal, and are likewise to be met by a call to repentance and the exercise of compassion;
    that all Christians are called to be exemplary in all spheres of morality, including sexual morality; and that holiness of life is particularly required of Christian leaders.'

    These are the words of the General Synod not Westbro Baptist.

    Your smears against Stand Firm and Virtue on Line are unsubstantiated.

  8. Dear anonymous 1
    Not sure where you found the `dishonest report by a homosexual' - I can't find any reference to the complainant's sexual orientation. Dishonest? He/she took offence and reported it to the police, who quite correctly investigated the complaint. Why are you worried that the police `chose to believe (the allegation)? It doesn't say they believed it, only that they investigated, as is their duty.

    The Christian Legal Centre does not hesitate to call in the police to investigate what they consider to be breaches of the law.

    The police subsequently decided that the complaint was perverse/frivolous and disregarded it; they also decided that the distribution of literature was lawful. Where is the curtailment of free speech? The freedom to distribute literature was endorsed by the police with the caveat that the distributors do not incite hatred.

    By the way, it is normal for police officers on mounted patrol to wear stab vests (armour clad sounds so dramatic), as do most operational police officers, a sign of the times I'm afraid.

    Where do you get the idea that we rejoice over something unpleasant happening to `the conservative Christian'? There is nothing to suggest that in Colin's blog. Paranoia?

    This is the kind of inaccurate spin that characterises Virtue on Line and Stand Firm.

  9. I agree with the above comment. Some commonsense needs to be applied here. If the police receive a complaint, they are duty bound to investigate, it is not some concerted campaign against conservative Christians! Unfortunately, people do sometimes make "frivolous and vexatious" allegations against others and perhaps there should be some way of discouraging this ( a fine for those who persistently make unreasonable complaints?)

    Moreover in this Chorlton case, the complaint was quite rightly dismissed, which does rather scotch the idea of the police as intent on harrassing conservative Christians! The day that a Church or pastor is arrested or charged for simply handing out a friendly invite to Church, I will be on the streets protesting!

    Colin also is right that each "case" reported in the media needs to be carefully looked at. Lurid headlines such as, "Nurse sacked for praying with a patient" or, "child told not to mention God" often conceal a much more complex situation.

  10. Doesn't all this "calling in the police" stuff - whether by the CLC to defend conservative Christians against discrimination, or by people who feel offended by the presence of evangelicals (who probably disapprove of gay sex), just show how legalistic the situation has become in "liberal" Britain?

    It seems that conscience, and social pressure to behave well, etc have all been replaced by legislative regulation! I even heard some "expert" on the Moral Maze this evening (BBC Radio 4) discussing how "we" should ensure moral behaviour through the law!

    The end of freedom of conscience ->

    In the 60's the argument against moral constraints went: "even if you think it's wrong, provided it's not against the law, provided it's not against the law" but in the 00's it's been turned round: "if it's wrong it should be illegal"!

    We need a new Human Right: "The Right to be Wrong"!

  11. That last paragraph should have read

    In the 60's the arguement against moral constrainst went: "even if you think it's wrong, I should be free to do it provided it's not against the law" but in the 00's it's become: "if it's wrong it should be illegal"!

  12. To the last Anonymous, you do have the "right to be wrong" but I also have the right not to be treated to your opinion as I go about my daily life.
    If these people want to spout their offensive views from the pulpit - that's fine - I'll find a more enlightened church. If you want to put them on the internet - Ok I don't have to read your blog. I don't buy newspapers anyway - but that's another story.
    However, keep your views off the public streets where I have to interrupt the normal course of my day to avoid them.
    The church has had a priviliged position for so long that it has forgotten the need to think how its proclamations on what is sin and what is not affect people.
    Does anyone remember those appalling Chick Tracts? Some years ago the five year old daughter of a friend of mine was handed one by a street evangelist. It affected her badly - nightmares, bedwetting, fear of being left. When her father tried to complain to the organisation behind the evangelist he was told that the man was preaching the gospel as he had every right to do. The police and local council told him the same story.
    Now it is within the power of ordinary people to complain and to ask the civil authorities to help them do so. Of course there will be spurious complaints. Of course the police will waste time on them.
    Eventually there will be better training for preachers needs reflecting this - always assuming that they actually have any training.

  13. Sapphire,

    You are tight is saying that the Manchester police need better training!

  14. The trouble is that "giving offense" and "speaking hatefully" aren't universal rules applied without regard to the person or cause.. They are just being aimed at things that legislators think are "wrong"; effectively allowing them to ban expression of anything they don't agree with, while still allowing material that others find offensive (can't they just get over it?) and still allowing real expressions of hate (against people who are "wrong").

    So someone who expresses the wrong morality in some areas is at risk of investigation, whereas you can make accusations, and even rail vitriolically, against someone who you consider a homophobe, sexist, racist etc ( I've never heard of anyone being investigated for defamation etc based on such accusations, however ill founded and violent). There seems to be no protection, even if such agressive speech leads to the target feeling psychological distressed, at risk, socially ostracised, having services withheld, even possibly loosing their job.

    It seems that, in such cases, it is ok to express how you "hate the sin and hate the sinner!" :-o

  15. Anon 1 It's the preachers who need training they are a menace.

    Anon 2 Defamation is a civil wrong and the victim had the right to sue in a civil court so you won't hear of anyone being "investigated".
    If I were to accuse you of being a racist or anything else that was untrue you could sue me, gain gamages and prevent me from saying it again.
    If you say that all gays are sinners, paedophiles, hated by God and going to hell I can do nothing unless the police are satisfied that you are saying it in a way and in a context that incites hatred against gay people purely on the grounds that they are gay.
    Who has the greater protection?

  16. Owen and Eunice Johns found the support of CCFON invaluable in their fight for righteousness and the right for Christian civil liberty. CCFON has enabled and empowered the Johns to make a stand and maintain their Christian values in the face of challenging and undermining legalistic legislation. Over 2 years ago Owen and Eunice submitted an application to become foster carers. Due to the new Sexual Orientation Act of 2007 the Johns found themselves in a legal tangle with their local authority. This denied needy children, the opportunity, skills and experience the Johns had gained as previous foster carers for the same authority. The Johns had previously cared for over 15 children without any complaints or any issues relating to the newly formed act. The Johns feel that it is sad that organisations such as CCFON need to exist in order to protect the rights of Christians in this nation. You can help by supporting us in this fundraising event. We aim to raise awareness, raise funds, but most of all say a big thank you to those who work without fee for such a worthy cause.

    Blessings: Owen and Eunice

    Date: Friday 18th September 2009
    Venue: Heritage Hotel, Macklin Street, Derby. DE1 1LF

    Reception drinks 7.00 pm

    Price: £20.00

  17. Anonymous

    I'm not at all sure what your point is? You don't explain exactly what is the Johns' difficulty with their local authority.

    As Christian Concern for our Nation (CCFON) is a sister organisation to Christian Legal Centre, with Andrea Minichiello Williams as a common factor, it is hardly likely that most readers of this blog would be minded to support them financially or in any other way. I have met Andrea, who believes that the earth was created less than 10,000 years ago, and find her views on `homosexuality', which border on the obsessive, to have about as much intellectual foundation.

  18. "her views on `homosexuality', which border on the obsessive"

    Oh that is just classic, what a stinker of an irony.

    That's all this blog is about is your obsessions with sodomy (oh and of course tearing down other Christians in the process)

  19. There was never a Sexual Orientation Act
    The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation Regulations) was an amendment to existing discrimination legislation adding discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation to discrimination on the grounds of age, gender, race and disability.
    There were several procedural issues following the acceptance of the SOR and some of these made the process of becoming a foster care more complicated in some places.
    Being a foster carer is not a "right" it is a difficult job that carries a high level of responsibility. The Johns were denied nothing.
    As for the fund raiser, I can think of better things to do with £20, thanks.

  20. The case of Jennie Cain

    ,which has nothing to do with homosexuality, shows the value of the work of the Christian Institute and the Christian Legal Center