Archive for the ‘Freedom of Conscience’ Category

postheadericon Justin Welby: I’m an extremist, according to the Govt’s definition

The Archbishop of Canterbury says the Government has a seriously flawed view of extremism that places Christians alongside extreme Muslim groups. Criticising ministers and civil servants for “religious illiteracy”, Justin Welby said many assume conservative Christian believers are “a bit bonkers”. The Archbishop also recounted a conversation where he told a politician that he was an “extremist” because he believed the “kingdom of God outweighs everything else”.

‘Trying to catch up’

He made the comments to leaders of Church of England schools as he considered the challenges they face. “The Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defence, our Government generally, is desperately trying to catch up, to understand a world in which they have no grip on what it is to be religious at all”, he said. The Archbishop added that the atmosphere in Whitehall is one “where religious illiteracy is prevalent” and where people fail to see “the difference between an extremist Muslim group like the Muslim Brotherhood and a sort of conservative evangelical group in a Church of England church”. “They assume they’re a bit bonkers”, he said.

Faith

He then described a conversation with a politician who questioned what could be wrong with the Government’s British values drive. The “very senior politician” said, “are you seriously going to tell me that I don’t call someone an extremist if they say that their faith is more important than the rule of law?” He responded: “So I took a deep breath and said ‘Well, you’ve got a real problem here because for me personally my faith is more important than the rule of law so you’ve got an extremist sitting in here with you.” He explained: “We do not believe as Christians that the rule of law outweighs everything else, we believe that the kingdom of God outweighs everything else.”

State-imposed orthodoxy

In 2015, Sir Edward Leigh MP warned that faith schools were “under attack from the forces of intolerance”, as he highlighted the treatment from Ofsted against several schools. Sir Edward argued that the schools’ regulator “appears to be guilty of trying to enforce a kind of state-imposed orthodoxy on certain moral and religious questions”. Ofsted came under fire after the introduction of new British values rules in 2014.

 

Christian Institute 9th November 2016

 

postheadericon Christians should be able to share their faith at work

Theresa May has said Christians should be able to speak about their faith in the workplace.

Responding to a question in Parliament today, the Prime Minister said the UK has a “very strong tradition” of “religious tolerance and freedom of speech”, and added that our “Christian heritage is something we can all be proud of’.

Fiona Bruce MP had raised concerns that many Christians are worried “about mentioning their faith in public”, after a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) hit out at organisations which suppress Christianity for fear of causing offence.

The Prime Minister agreed that the ability to ‘speak’ freely, respectfully and responsibly about one’s religion’ should be a ‘jealously guarded principle’.

She went on to say: “I am sure we would all want to ensure that people’ at work do feel able to speak about their faith, and feel able to speak quite freely about Christmas”.

The EHRC’s report, due to be published this week. hits out at organisations which discipline Christians or drop references to Christianity.

According to The Mail on Sunday, it references several cases where believers were treated unjustly, including that of Institute client Adrian Smith. Mr Smith was demoted for writing that gay marriage was ‘an equality too far’ on his private Facebook page,

One section is reported as saying: “There is no right in Britain not to be offended and. in our view, respect for people’s right to express beliefs with which others might disagree. is the mark of a democratic society.”

Deputy Director for Public Affairs at the Institute. Simon Calvert, responded to the report saying: “Christians have certainly felt that their fundamental freedoms have been set aside by the human rights and equality industry in recent years.

“It’s a relief to see the Commission stand up for freedom of religion as a fundamental right and recognise that it should not be suppressed through fear of offending.

But Mr Calvert insisted that the current law needs to be amended.

“We have long argued that equality law needs rebalancing so that courts have to take time to weigh up competing rights to see if both sides can be reasonably accommodated.

“Too often the courts come down strongly in favour of the secular liberal side of the argument.”

Christian Institute

 

postheadericon Chief Constable warns of extremism mix-up

Chief Constable warns of extremism mix-up

ln the fight against extremism, there is a danger that ‘we get mixed up between religious conservatism and terrorism’, the Chief Constable of West Midlands Police has warned. Chris Sims said that there needs to be a “very strong gap” between the two issues.

This week, The Christian Institute’s Director Colin Hart and the Executive Director of the National Secular Society (N38), Keith Porteous Wood, highlighted the dangers of introducing overly broad extremism legislation using vague definitions. Chief Constable Sims told the BBC: “I think there is a danger in tackling extremism that we get mixed up between religious conservatism and violent extremism-terrorism. “And to me it is very clear there needs to be a very strong gap between those two issues.” He said it would be “utterly wrong” to “just label everything as extremism”, because the police need the support of the “great majority of the population who want normal lives“.

In a rare joint statement this week, The Christian Institute and the NSS warned that the “writing may be on the wall” for free speech if Extremism Disruption Orders (EDOs) are introduced next year. They warned that the plans could inadvertently turn millions of ordinary citizens into potential ‘extremists’ virtually overnight. The statement reads: “The vital importance of free speech is an issue on which both our organisations have always agreed. “We have previously been able to see off an attempt to make it illegal to be ‘annoying’ in public. We have prevented prosecutions for mere ‘insults’ by helping to secure changes to Section 5 of the Public Order Act. “EDOs are as bad as anything we have seen in the past — probably worse. it is another attempt by a Government to clamp down on free speech in the guise of combating extremism. “If they are brought in, the writing may be on the wall for free speech in this country.”

The campaign group Defend Free Speech was launched in October to oppose the Government’s plans for EDOs. The group is supported by The Christian institute, the National Secular Society, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, Big Brother Watch, Index on Censorship and Green MP Caroline Lucas. The website defendfreespeech.org.uk gives up-to-date information about the campaign, and helps people to contact their MP about the proposals.

Christian Institute -23rd December 2015

postheadericon True Martyrs


For by the sacrificial death of Christ we are set free,

our sins are forgiven.

Ephesians 1: 7

Wickersley Parish Church’s patron saint, a man called Alban, is believed to have been a Romano-British citizen of the Roman town of Verulamium around the end of the 3rd century, who gave shelter to an itinerant Christian priest, later called Amphibalus. Alban was impressed by his guest’s message and after a time he received Jesus Christ as his Saviour. Soon afterwards a period of persecution, instigated by the Emperor, brought soldiers in search of the priest whereupon Alban exchanged clothes with him so as to enable the priest’s escape. Believing Alban to be the priest the soldiers arrested him instead.

At his trial, with his true identity revealed, Alban was urged to prove his rejection of Christ by making offerings to the Roman gods. He refused and defiantly declared his faith in “the true and living God who created all things”. He was condemned to death, led out of the city, across the river and up a hillside, where he was beheaded.

The martyrdom of Christians did not begin and end with the Roman era. Christians have suffered for Christ in every generation since. Most Christian martyrs lost their lives in the 20th Century and conditions are not improving for many Christians across the world.

On Wednesday morning, 18 April 2007 in Zirva, Eastern Turkey, three Christian men, Tilman Geske, a German missionary, Necati Aydin, a Turkish pastor, and Ugur Yuksel, met to study the Bible. On the other side of town ten young men all under 20 years old put into place final arrangements for their ultimate act of faith, living out their love for Allah and hatred of infidels who they believed undermined Islam. The Christians attending the Bible study had met these Muslim men previously and believed them to be ‘seekers’; they readily welcomed five of the group when they turned up at the Bible study. However, their guests had not come to learn about the Christian faith but to kill the infidels. Equipped with guns, bread knives, ropes and towels they tortured the Christians for almost three hours before murdering them in a most grotesque way.

It is right that we should be shocked by this account of martyrdom, but we should not be surprised because Christ warned that such things would happen. “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first…. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the hour is coming when those who kill you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.” (John 15: 18, 16: 2-3)

Christians who live in the UK read such accounts with a mixture of horror and relief that we enjoy the freedom to practice and proclaim our faith. No one is likely to arrest us or try to kill us for believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, and were we to experience opposition from individuals or officialdom we may well consider it unseemly to complain when our fellow Christians are suffering such terrible persecution. That said, it would be unwise of us to ignore the change in the climate of tolerance towards Christians in the UK.

Recent months have witnessed what can only be described as the escalation of human rights abuses against British Christians. The arrest of a Christian street preacher in Cumbria shows how serious the situation is becoming. Dale McAlpine, when questioned by a woman, read from the Bible a list of sins, which included homosexual behaviour. Melanie Phillips, writing in the Daily Mail, graphically describes the event:

‘Terrifying as this may seem, the attempt to stamp out Christianity in Britain appears to be gathering pace. Dale McAlpine was preaching to shoppers in Workington, Cumbria, that homosexuality is a sin when he found himself carted off by the police, locked up in a cell for seven hours and charged with using abusive or insulting words or behaviour. It appears that two police community support officers — at least one of whom was gay — claimed he had caused distress to themselves and members of the public. Under our anti-discrimination laws, such distress is not to be permitted. And so we have the oppressive and sinister situation where a gentle, unaggressive Christian is arrested and charged simply for preaching Christian principles. It would appear that Christianity, the normative faith of this country on which its morality, values and civilisation are based, is effectively being turned into a crime.’

Given the politically correct consensus between our new government’s coalition partners the next decade is likely to bring more arrests of law-abiding Christians. This dire forecast begs the question ‘How should Christians respond to this increasingly oppressive secularising culture?’ We could complain but our complaints are likely to fall on deaf ears.  Not many of the 70% of Britons who ticked ‘Christian’ on their census forms are likely to take to the streets over the dismantling of the last vestiges of Christian Britain.

Our second option is to compromise with the prevailing culture. It would guarantee us less hassle but we could no longer, with any integrity, claim to be truly Christian.  A third option is to challenge the prevailing culture through word and deed. The message of the Gospel is freedom from oppression and sin but also freedom of conscience, thought, speech, and practice (little wonder tyrants wish to silence it). By proclaiming Christ and living out our creed with neighbourly love we serve as salt and light to our nation and emulate the many Christian men and women who countered tyranny with love as they defiantly declared their faith in “the true and living God who created all things”. Their example points us to the example of the Lord they loved and served. Jesus Christ, who defied tyranny, died in gentleness of spirit, and gave his life for the world.

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postheadericon Manhattan Declaration

So the name of the LORD will be declared in Zion

and his praise in Jerusalem

Psalm 102: 21

The making of New Year’s resolutions can have a positive effect on our lives. However, I suspect for most of us they are more a source of despair as we fail to keep them. I came across a series of resolutions made by someone who was ‘keen’ to be a frequent worshipper at their local church.

2006: I will go to church every Sunday.
2007: I will go to church as often as possible.
2008: I will attend the Christmas Carol service.

2009: I will try to watch Songs of Praise.

It is understandable that as we fail to keep resolutions our future resolutions are likely to be less demanding. That is unless our situation becomes desperate and will only get better if we are resolute, motivated, and uncompromising.

It is the opinion of a good many Christians in America that their situation is desperate. The moral decline of their nation has accelerated markedly under their new president. The sanctity of life, the married family, and religious freedom are being gravely undermined by a totalitarian agenda dressed up as choice, diversity and equality. In the face of this moral challenge Christians of all denominations have united to make the Manhattan Declaration. They say:


Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of civil society, beginning with the family.

We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are:

1.the sanctity of human life
2.the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
3.the rights of conscience and religious liberty.

Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and the well-being of society, they are inviolable and non-negotiable. Because they are increasingly under assault from powerful forces in our culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their defence, and to commit ourselves to honouring them fully no matter what pressures are brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them. We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. (www.manhattandeclaration.org)

And the list of religious leaders who support this declaration is quite possibly the most formidable ecumenical gathering in US history, consisting, as it does, of eminences, graces, archbishops, bishops, reverends, professors, doctors, pastors, presidents, CEOs, deans, directors, founders, editors, not to mention a ‘TV Host’.

The US is not the only theatre for the culture war. Writing in the Telegraph, Gerald Warner highlights its international dimension:  ‘In a world where a Swedish pastor has been jailed for preaching that sodomy is sinful (similar prosecutions have taken place in Canada), the European Court of Human Rights has tried to ban crucifixes in Italian classrooms, Brazil has passed totalitarian legislation imposing heavy prison sentences for criticism of homosexual lifestyles, Amnesty International is championing abortion, David Cameron has voted for the enforced closure of Catholic adoption agencies, and Gordon Brown’s government has just been defeated in its fourth attempt to abolish the Waddington Clause guaranteeing free speech – this robust defiance (the Manhattan Declaration) is more than timely.’

Perhaps we could take a leaf out of the American Church’s book and make a similar stand for truth, righteousness and justice by endorsing the sentiments of the Manhattan Declaration. It concludes:

Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo­-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-­life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.

So, as true followers of Jesus Christ, let’s emulate the spirit of the Manhattan Declaration with a New Year’s resolution. Not one about meeting for worship frequently, although we should, nor a promise to watch Songs of Praise, which should always be optional, but to fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and under no circumstances to render to Caesar what is God’s.

Happy New Year!

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