Thursday, June 30, 2011

BBC makes The Life of Muhammad ‘in line with Islamic tradition’

Apparently, the Iranian culture minister has already objected to the BBC’s forthcoming documentary series on the life of Mohammed (or ‘small p’ prophet Muhammad, as The Guardian pointedly refers to him). So offensive is this documentary which no-one has yet seen that Iran has already pledged to ‘take serious action’ because it will 'ruin Muslims' sanctity'.

Muslims’ sanctity?

It is difficult to see how a documentary made ‘in line with Islamic tradition’, commissioned by Aaqil Ahmed (a Muslim), directed by Faris Kermani (a Muslim) and presented by Rageh Omaar (a Muslim) could possibly offend ‘Muslims’ sanctity’. It’s a bit like Goebbels commissioning ‘The Life of Hitler’ and asking Himmler to direct and Göring to present it - such a documentary could hardly offend any Nazis. And is that Sunni Muslim sanctity or Shi’a Muslim sanctity (not to mention Amadhi, Yazidi, Alawai, Druze, Qadiani and Sufi)? The BBC tends to bend over backwards not to offend Muslim sensibilities, and so this documentary will tell the history of Mohammed – from his birth in Mecca, through his quranic revelations, the Hijra to Medina, the rise and spread of Islam through war and conquest, and the return to Mecca – all without depicting any images of the face of Muhammad or featuring dramatic reconstructions of his life (the BBC assures us).

So it’s in line with the iconoclastic Sunni Islamic tradition, then.

And the BBC just can’t resist an anti-Israeli slant by filming on location in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan and Jerusalem, when Mohammed never set foot in Israel’s capital city. Sure, he dreamed he did, hence the Al Masjid al Aksa mosque. But that hardly justifies the expense of on-location filming (courtesy of the licence-fee payer). It has a whiff of hagiography about it; a hint of prophetic authentication, historical affirmation and religio-political validation.

Iranian culture minister, Mohammad Hosseini (a Shi’a, who obviously has not seen the programme) has already written a review for the Tehran Times Daily: “What the enemy is trying to do in ruining the Muslims' sanctity is definitely much more than causing us to react and unfortunately, some Islamic countries are not taking this issue seriously. One way to show objections is to express condemnation of the West over their despicable actions."

The reality is that, since Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses led to riots and civil unrest in 1988, just about anything staged, published or screened now tends to be ‘in line with the Islamic tradition’. Despite historic evidence from Islam's own texts, there is not likely to be any objective analysis of Mohammed the warmonger, who tortured, murdered, raped and pillaged. There is not likely to be mention of Mohammed’s betrothal to six-year-old Aisha, for that would provoke the masses to shouts of ‘paedophile’ and doubtless incite religious hatred.

No, the BBC will not question the central tenets and foundational claims of Islam, or cast doubt upon the honour and integrity of Mohammed or impugn his character in any way. For to do so would bring the distant threats of the Iranian culture minister a little closer to home. His Grace will be watching this documentary with interest. It is, he believes, a very good thing that such a programme is being made: the character and era do need a little de-sanctifying, and that must begin somewhere. And if any Muslims don’t like it, they can always switch off or complain through the usual channels.

But what irks His Grace ever so slightly is that he has spent decades watching his fellow Christians, the Holy Bible, the beloved Church, the holiness of God and the Lord Jesus being ridiculed, despised, trashed and spat upon by the BBC, while Allah, Mohammed, Muslims and the Qur’an are ' treated differently’, just as the Corporation's Director General insists they ought to be and somehow merit.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Witney Town Council bans LIFE’s pro-life celebration

Further to His Grace’s perspicacious comments about LIFE, it has come to his attention that the charity is 40 years old this year. Apparently they feel this is quite something and so, by way of celebration, they have been trying to organise a fitting festivity to take place in Witney. Why Witney? Well, it appears they wish at some point in the day’s jollities to present a submission to the Prime Minister, whose constituency it of course is, asking that greater care be taken of women’s health – in particular, that women seeking abortion should be warned of possible side effects to their health, and be offered counselling by somebody other than the abortion provider. And who, it should be added, has no financial benefit from performance of said abortion.

LIFE have planned a day of fun and celebration, complete with bouncy castle, craft stalls, music, and a range of speakers. The charity has gone to very great lengths to clear any possible obstacles with the Witney Town Council prior to making the application last October. It was agreed that parking would be organised well away from the proposed site in the centre of the town – an area well used to mass public events of this nature – and every effort taken to avoid disruption to the townsfolk. Everyone appeared happy.

As these things do, the application had to descend to the Hades of council bureaucracy: first to the ‘Amenities Committee’, and thence on to full Council for ratification. Amidst general rejoicing, the organisers thought it was in the bag when, having gone before ‘Amenities’, they were advised by the Town Clerk to obtain the relevant licences. All that was needed then was final sanction from the Council, which was to meet at the end of November last year.

Imagine the dismay, then, when a letter arrived in mid-December saying that permission had been refused. Council members, it was said, had considered the effect of the rally on other users of the recreation ground, and that, combined with the narrow vehicular access, restricted parking facilities within the town, and fears of possible congestion within the centre resulting from the arrival of large numbers of visitors, had made them decide against. No reference was made to other similar events which are regularly held on this land, in particular the ‘Witney Feast’, and the large Fair, both held annually without any adverse ‘effects’ on other users of the recreation ground and no problems at all with ‘narrow vehicular access’. The Council made no offer of an alternative site, and all phone calls, emails and letters since – to discuss the decision and lodge an appeal – have been resolutely ignored.

How can this be? In the absence of fears of public disturbance, Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights is binding on public authorities, and protects freedom of expression on political issues and matters of public interest:
Article 10 – Freedom of expression

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.
As far as His Grace is aware, LIFE present no risk to national security; they do not threaten the UK’s territorial integrity or compromise public safety. LIFE do not cause social disorder or crime, and are manifestly concerned with ameliorating the health and morals of others.

So why, in this case, given that Witney regularly hosts similar events, has permission been refused? Could it be that, yet again, the fury of the pro-abortion lobby has functioned to impose an illegal discrimination? If so, what price our much vaunted right to freedom of speech? Indeed, where saving the lives of the unborn is concerned, does it exist at all? LIFE are concerned, as their logo states, with loving life and offering hope. Witney Town Council appear to loathe life and offer nothing but despair – at least to this particular charity.

So, His Grace has a thought. If his readers and communicants believe LIFE ought to be given permission to hold their celebratory event and present their submission to David Cameron, why not write a letter of support to the Prime Minister:

10 Downing St
London
SW1A 2AA
(email: Office of the Prime Minister)

and copy it to Witney Town Council:

Town Hall,
Market Square
Witney
OX28 6AG
(email: info@witney-tc.gov.uk)

And then, of course, once a date for the festivities is agreed, you could even participate and help to celebrate 40 glorious years of LIFE’s outstanding work for the rights of the unborn child, with which the European Convention and Witney Town Council appear not to be remotely concerned.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Teaching unions give a lesson in blind self-interest

Teaching is a vocation; a noble calling which demands dedication. Not in the same sense as Christian ministry, which is divinely inspired and concerned with the fruits of the Kingdom. But in the sense of feeling strongly suited and necessarily gifted to inspire the minds of the young, which is concerned with the fruits of future society.

One does not enter the teaching profession for the money: it is a relatively low-paid public service job in which incremental salary increases are meagre. And the only opportunity for career advancement is the path which takes one out of the classroom altogether: to progress in teaching is to sit in an office and administrate on matters of equality, diversity and ‘excellence for all’. Over the past decade, interminable days have been filled dealing with ‘initiatives’ from the Department of Children, Schools and Families for literacy, numeracy, ICT, inclusion, the Gifted and Talented, Work Related Learning, Every Child Matters, Extended Schools, Specialist Schools, workforce remodelling, changes to curricula, qualifications, inspections and buildings.

And all of these programmes have only succeeded in breeding a culture of mind-numbing, box-ticking mediocrity. Schools do not now so much inspire learners to a genuine life-long love of intellectual discourse; they produce citizens who are able to regurgitate bite-sized snippets of pro-forma answers which subscribe to the state-decreed orthodoxy. The focus is on exam results and league tables, for that is how schools are judged.

But the best teachers will know that, although qualifications are important for the nation’s GDP, education must also equip children of all abilities to make positive, lifelong contributions to their families, communities and to wider society.

On Thursday the UK’s largest teaching unions, the NUT and the ATL, will call their members out on strike in opposition to the Coalition’s plans to pay down the national debt, which will require an adjustment to their traditional ‘gold-plated’ final salary pension scheme. It is a lesson in rootless individualism, for virtually everyone else knows and understands that the nation simply can no longer afford such schemes: the UK is not quite insolvent, but we are in dire economic circumstances which require remedial and swift intervention. You might have hoped that teachers of maths and economics at least would understand that equations need to be balanced and that the Laffer curve is not mere theory.

Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, has urged headteachers to keep their schools open: he has reminded them of their moral obligation to do so. Not all teachers will be striking, and these can be complemented with retired teachers or a "mum’s army" of volunteers to keep the curriculum rolling.

The ATL’s Mary Bousted hit the roof at this suggestion. She declared: “The idea that you can have untrained people in baby-minding large numbers of children, with all the potential that has for accidents, for chaos, for poor behaviour, I think that is a nonsense.”

What on earth do parents know about educating children? There is perhaps no better example of the arrogance and ignorance of the teaching unions than the offensive assertion that ‘untrained’ parents are fit for nothing but ‘baby-minding’. A mother or father in a classroom is not merely child-minding; they will have a plethora of things to contribute: stories to tell, wisdom to share, life experience to impart. Having negotiated relationships, marriage and child rearing, they would doubtless find themselves skilled moderators in the discussion of highly sensitive topics. Sure, there probably won’t be a lesson plan in accordance with Ofsted criteria and conforming to ‘best practice’. But Michael Gove’s "mums' army" would be as well-equipped as any emergency service. And they’ll be able to see for themselves what textbooks and curricular materials are being used to induct their children into particular worldview.

Student-teacher interactions are the most important determinant of the quality of the education a child receives in school: this strike is a wonderful opportunity for parents to experience such dynamic interaction for themselves – to experience first-hand what happens in their child’s classroom. Some will be delighted; others will be horrified. Doubtless many will leave full of admiration for what an awful lot of teachers have to put up with every day.

But let us consider what this strike is about: pensions. The NUT and ATL argue that their members’ pensions are sacrosanct. While the rest of the country adapts to the dire financial context, the teaching unions seek exemptions for their members. This is short-sighted and selfish. It is also antithetical to all virtuous notions of communitarianism and self-discipline: the dominant morality conveyed is materialism and the dominant ideology taught is critical of political conservatism and fiscal prudence.

But one has to wonder why the ATL has chosen this issue as the reason to strike for the first time in their 127-year history.

The number of school visits has declined significantly over the past decade, due largely to increased ‘health and safety’ bureaucracy and a shortage of funding and time to plan trips and activities. This impinges upon the learning experience of children. Why have teachers not taken strike action over this?

As school playing fields have been sold off, PE and sport have suffered. And playground games have declined because fewer staff are available to supervise children. Why have teachers not taken strike action over this?

Modular exams and limitless re-takes have seen a decline in academic standards, with teachers reduced to providing model answers for students to memorise and regurgitate. This has severely restricted the university and career options for millions of children. Why have teachers not taken strike action over this?

Just seven per cent of the population attend private schools, yet they account for 75 per cent of judges, 70 per cent of finance directors, 50 per cent of top journalists and 33 per cent of MPs. Grammar schools were the greatest single engine of social mobility ever devised in our nation’s history. They were meritocratic, permitting the poorest students to compete with the privately-educated élite and attain the highest offices in the land. Why did their abolition not cause teachers to strike?

Working class children in these schools were ‘pushed’ to aspire in ways their parents never knew how. Academic aspiration has historically been the preserve of the wealthier parents, but those from deprived backgrounds have rarely spurred their children to achieve beyond the confines of their context, principally for fear of them ‘getting above themselves’. Low aspiration begets low expectation; low expectation begets low achievement; low achievement begets low income; low income begets poverty; poverty begets crime. Yet, until Michael Gove’s push on ‘free schools’, no political party sought to address this demoralising spiral. Why did teachers not take strike action to spur successive governments on?

During New Labour’s years of ‘Education, education, education’, the perpetual boast was one of revolutionised provision and raised standards. Yet in 2010 the OECD established that British children have a poorer grasp of literacy and numeracy than most other children across the developed world. During Labour’s period in government, the UK plummeted from 8th to 22nd place in the international league table for Maths (behind Hungary, just above Slovenia), with British 15-year-olds falling ‘below average’ in comparison with their peers in other countries. We fell to 11th place in Science (beneath Estonia); and sunk to 20th place in Reading (way beneath Poland and Belgium). Why did teachers not taken strike action over this?

It is the task of the teacher to inspire students to think for themselves: to provide them with the skills necessary to recognise, criticise and dismiss the state’s efforts to preach to them; to teach them to weigh what they hear in school with what they learn from their parents and the news media. A teacher’s democratic mission requires them to teach students to deliberate critically about the common good and aspire to the Aristotelian virtues. A skilful teacher will excite and engage the minds of the young, and mediate epistemological difficulties with insight. His or her attitude will determine whether students approach a subject with enthusiasm or boredom, sympathy or hostility, imagination or torpor.

Those who understand this vocation will be in the classroom on Thursday doing the job they love. Those who do not, deserve to replaced by a "mums' army" for the day – health & safety legislation and CRB checks permitting.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Greece lightning


Anyone with half a brain knows the euro cannot survive in its present form. Greece is insolvent, broke, bankrupt: its government cannot repay its debts and will never be able to do so. Pumping in bailouts of billions of euros may make the country liquid for a time, but it is nothing but political sticking plaster. It will not improve solvency; it merely delays the inevitable.

When a nation does not bear the consequences of its actions, its behaviour is distorted. ‘Moral hazard’ is a natural consequence of insulating the profligate from punitive judgement. Greece would have behaved differently if its people had been fully exposed from the outset to the risk, because pain encourages responsibility.

When we do not bear the consequences of our actions, there emerges a false sense of security. While abortion and the ‘morning-after’ pill are available on-tap, why not indulge in endless irresponsible sex? And so it is with the EU and the IMF granting Greece another bailout, another abortion, because the consequences of delivering the child of default are too frightening to contemplate.

But that baby will be born: default is inevitable. And when the lightning strikes Athens, the thunder will reverberate throughout Europe – principally in Lisbon, Rome, Dublin and Madrid. And the gathering storm will make the collapse of Lehman Brothers seem like a walk in the park. For when the banks of Portugal, Italy, Ireland and Spain begin to teeter, there isn’t a nation in Europe which will escape the gathering storm.

The euro was always a gamble, especially for the Hellenic branch of the Indo-European family. Why they ever ditched their ancient drachma – the currency of Plato, Ptolemy and Alexander the Great – is a mystery, and evidence, if any were needed, that they don’t deserve the Elgin Marbles. A nation which loses its marbles and squanders its sovereignty without regard for its unique heritage as the cradle of Western civilisation – the birthplace of democracy, the fount of Western philosophy and literature, the creator of the Olympic Games, the originator of historiography, political science, mathematical principles, and our dramatic traditions of tragedy and comedy – does not deserve much sympathy for its economic woes.

The introduction of the euro artificially decreased the interest rates of many EU members countries, in particular those with a weak currency. The countries who benefited the most from this decrease were Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, and Italy.

And which countries are now carrying insupportable debt and suffering intolerable deficits?

Just to fulfil the dream of being at ‘the heart of Europe’.

And, bizarrely, while Greece now struggles to survive amidst public sector strikes, austerity measures including pay freezes, tax hikes and extensions to the official retirement age, soaring unemployment and civil unrest, Tony Blair still believes the UK should ultimately join the euro.

He talks of the need for a secure foundation – the rock of EU-wide economic governance. The single currency was built on sand: it was destined to founder without political union, which will now arise.

But remove from a nation the right to set its own interest rates to suit its own domestic economy, and in times of turmoil it is left either to tinker with taxation or slash spending. Since the people are not particularly disposed either to high rates of taxation or to cuts in their public services, disquiet turns into protests; protests become marches; marches become riots; riots become social turmoil.

And social turmoil slips into civil war, which is precisely what looms.

Never forget that the EU’s answer to the EU’s problems is invariably ‘more Europe’: every crisis is an opportunity for more regulation and centralisation. And the sovereign debt crisis that threatens to engulf European financial markets is no exception. The eurozone will be stabilised economically in accordance with Bundesbank discipline and bound politically by Teutonic politico-militarism. The German constitutional court would have it no other way.

All it will lack is a leader, an emperor, a religio-political philosopher-king of sufficient stature to strut after the fashion of Napoleon, to hold the allegiance of the people führer-like, and to lift them out of the economic morass in which they have sunk.

But he is surely coming.

When a government guarantees the liabilities of a financial institution, it risks weakening the currency and causing an increase in interest rates, with all the consequent unemployment, recession, inflation and increased poverty. This is an undoubted moral issue, for people are reduced to hardship and depression, firms are condemned to closure, more workers to unemployment and more families to homelessness through unprecedented levels of repossession. The total number of suicides, heart attacks, divorces and mental breakdowns is never known.

God cares for the poor, the oppressed, and the underdogs in society. He pours his wrath upon those who corrupt justice or create economic machines designed to provide more wealth for the wealthy and deprive the poor. The story of Naboth’s vineyard in 1 Kings 21 establishes that authorities are not free to pursue any policy they please or to ride roughshod over the rights of the poor. These same concerns are vehemently expressed by the prophets Amos, Hosea, Isaiah and Micah, writing in the 8th century BC. God demands conscience above political conviction, and a government which places narrow economic considerations above liberty and justice is guilty of worshipping Mammon above God.

Perhaps the natural moral order demands that they be allowed to fail in order that the profligacy and irresponsibility of idolatry might be rectified. Bankruptcy is humiliating, but it is the only just corrective.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The EUterus - the womb of the cult of death


His Grace's regular readers and communicants will know that he eschews hyperbole, exaggeration and distortion, for he likes to deal objectively, dispassionately and impartially with facts. Bruno Waterfield brings us the latest from Brussels - details of the EU's new £280m building which is to become the Presidential Office and home to future Brussels summits, replete with 'humane gathering place' and 'diversity carpet', all enclosed in a steel (rib-)cage which houses 'the heart of Europe'.

Our President, Herman Van Rompuy, described his 'Europa building' as a 'jewel box' (he would).

David Cameron refers to it as a 'gilded cage' (but even as Prime Minister is impotent to do anything about it).

Bill Cash, Chairman of the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee, called it an 'Aladdin's palace...a cross between the bonfire of the vanities and Kafka's Castle' (and, being a mere MP, is also impotent to do anything about it).

But Mr Waterfield reveals that EU officials refer to this hubristic architectural extravagance the E-Uterus (His Grace prefers EUterus), on account of its womb-like central structure. "It looks like a womb and, I am sure, many grand visions of Europe will be birthed from there," quipped one official.


It is up to us to ensure that this moniker sticks. From this moment on, the EUterus must be a reminder to us all of the cult of death to which it gives birth.

Hyperbole?

Not a bit of it.

It transpires that EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding has threatened Hungary with financial penalties for promoting adoption over abortion.

There is apparently no justice for the unborn child in the EU's secular cult of death. No, indeed: steel and glass count for more in Brussels than flesh and blood. This is the 'pro-life' poster to which the EU so forcefully objects. The caption on the advertisement reads: 'I understand it if you aren’t ready for me. But think twice, and put me up for adoption. Let me live!’ This, apparently, is a message unpalatable to EU Justice Commissioner Reding. European Dignity Watch informs us:
During the plenary session of the European Parliament on the 8th of June 2011, the Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding expressed concern that the Hungarian Government’s campaign, encouraging adoption instead of abortion to promote a better work-life balance was “not in line” with the European Social Agenda and asked the Hungarian Government to stop the initiative without delay.

...Although Mrs Reding expressed her disapproval for the campaign, she did not explain in her answer to the European Parliament, the basis upon which she disapproved of the campaign. She did not cite any legal basis for her comments, nor did she say how it contradicted the European Social Agenda....
Protect the Pope comments:
Here we see the depth of intolerance among the leadership of the European Union to any expression of pro-life sentiments among member states of the EU. Only one message is acceptable to the EU, the unquestionable, unassailable right of a mother to kill her pre-born child through abortion. To suggest the possibility of adoption is intolerable to a political institution that so actively promotes the culture of death.

The tragic irony is that it is the Justice Commissioner of the EU that is perpetrating this gross injustice against the pre-born children and mothers of Hungary and Europe. She wants to censor a campaign that merely raises the possibility of adoption. What of Europe’s much vaunted claim to defend the right to free-speech? This right only seems to apply to those who blaspheme and desecrate!

What more proof do we need to show the world that the European Union is developing into a totalitarian political institution that will only allow the promotion of anti-life propaganda?
This being the case, why did the Pope lure Ireland into the EU's rotten heart? Why lead Poland into mortal sin? Why are the bishops positively effusive over ever closer union? Why deceive Hungary into believing that they can lead a Christian club? Why lure Croatia into what is manifestly a profoundly anti-Christian secular political cult?

If the sanctity of the uterus is to be guarded and preserved, the profanity of the EUterus must be abated and bound. The uterus brings forth life; the EUterus is the harbinger of death. There can be no fellowship between darkness and light.

Tony Blair launches another campaign to become 'President of Europe'

Friday, June 24, 2011

Sunny Hundal: LIFE are 'religious nutjobs'

Sunny Hundal doesn't haven't much time for religion, and that's a matter for him. But when he dismisses LIFE - one of the country's foremost children's charities - as 'religious nutjobs', it calls for a little inquiry.

He made the remark in the context of the cross-party efforts of Frank Field and Nadine Dorries to ensure that women seking an abortion are provided with impartial and comprehensive information about the alternatives as well as the potential consequences. Presently, the Government only funds abortion providers if the abortion proceeds. And yet it is these same providers which are entrusted to counsel vulnerable and often emotional women before the procedure is carried out. There is no requirement in law for women to be informed about the alternatives, like adoption.

As Frank Field pointed out: "This is a clear conflict of interest that would not be allowed anywhere else, because the clinic will not receive the large fee for carrying out the abortion if the woman decides not to go ahead with it. My proposal is not closing down choice, but promoting choice – because women will receive independent advice about their options."


Clearly, this slightly irritates Sunny Hundal, who detects a conspiracy to usurp BPAS and replace them with LIFE. To him, BPAS are the enlightened ones; LIFE are the 'religious nutjobs'.

What do these nutjobs do? From their website:
LIFE exists to save lives and transform the futures of some of the most disadvantaged children and young people in the UK by supporting vulnerable pregnant mothers and young families through difficult times, offering them the help they need to turn their lives around.

The activities we undertake to realise this vision fall under four broad programmes:

•Housing - Residential centres providing supported accommodation and access to skills training for pregnant homeless young women aged between 16-25 yrs;

•Care - A network of Care Centres offering non-directive counselling for anyone facing a crisis pregnancy, suffering the loss of a baby or coping with the after-effects of abortion. Also provision of free baby clothes, equipment or other practical support to families in difficulty;

•Education - Education Officers working in partnership with schools to provide young people with up-to-date, evidence-based information on abortion, stem cell research, sexual health and other related topics;

•FertilityCare - The UK's leading centre giving women a more natural alternative to traditional fertility treatment, which has just seen the successful birth of its 100th baby!
LIFE's mission is to uphold the utmost respect for human life from fertilisation (conception) until natural death. They fulfil this mission by:
•Offering non-directive counselling and information on pregnancy, pregnancy loss and abortion;
•Offering practical and emotional support to help women continue their pregnancy and supporting them for as long afterwards as necessary;
•Offering counselling and support for women and men damaged by abortion;
•Offering counselling and support for women and men suffering as a result of pregnancy loss;
•Offering information and support on adoption;
•Providing a nationwide network of supported accommodation for pregnant women and/or mothers of small children;
•Educating the public, but most importantly young people, about the rights and dignity of each person;
•Offering fertility treatment for married couples and women's healthcare and natural fertility management for all;
•Acting as an advocate at national and international level for the rights and dignity of each person from fertilisation (conception) until natural death and challenging governments and policy makers to adopt policies which reflect and uphold the utmost respect for human life from fertilisation until natural death.
If this makes one a 'religious nutjob', His Grace is proud to be one. He might have hoped that such an important debate would have been conducted in a more grown-up fashion with mature reason and argument. Apparently, that is not Sunny Hundal's way.

So His Grace will leave it to his communicants to call Mr Hundal whatever childish names they wish.

Christian groups force the SNP to delay ‘Sectarianism Bill’

Alex Salmond was intent on having his (succinctly-named) Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Bill on the statute book in time for the commencement of the new football season in July. It was being rushed through Holyrood in the hope of preventing the supporters of Celtic and Rangers being nasty to each other and their respective religions, despite concerns about religious liberty and freedom of speech expressed by the Law Society for Scotland, the Church of Scotland and the Equality Network.

It is bemusing that it took court action by the Christian Institute and CARE for Scotland to force a climb-down on the legislative timetable: the day after the papers were issued to the Court, the SNP announced that the Bill will now be postponed by six months in order to permit time for proper public consultation.

Legal papers urged the court to delay the legislation and ‘allow everyone to take a breath and make sure crucial mistakes are not made’. Mike Judge, of the Christian Institute, said: “We all wish to see the stain of sectarian hatred removed from our society but we must not act in haste. This is too important to get wrong.” They want to see a free speech clause inserted to prevent the unintentional criminalisation of religious jokes, atheists criticising Christianity, journalists debating fundamentalist Islam, or peaceful preaching.

Mr Judge added: “Rushed legislation that inadvertently impacts on free speech could be divisive and damage community cohesion. That’s the last thing anyone wants to see.”

He’s not wrong there. But His Grace is bemused that the SNP do not appear to grasp that there is already adequate legislation granting sufficient powers to deal effectively with sectarian disorder.

Traditionally, the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Scotland have objected to anything sung by Rangers fans, from the ‘Hokey Cokey’ (a ‘faith hate’ song) and ‘Follow, Follow’ (from the old evangelical hymn ‘Follow, Follow, we will follow Jesus’), to the more recent No1 hit on the terraces ‘The Famine Song’, to the tune of the Beach Boys' ‘Sloop John B’, which includes the refrain ‘The Famines over, why don't you go home’, dedicated to the many Celtic fans of Irish descent domiciled in Scotland.

Now His Grace will agree that the ‘Famine Song’ is more than a little insensitive to those Scots of Irish descent. But there is not usually any objection from Celtic Park (or the Scottish Roman Catholic Church) when ‘The Fields of Athenry’ is sung by Celtic fans. Originally a rather sad ballad about the Irish Potato Famine and a man who was exiled to Botany Bay for stealing corn to feed his starving children, the Bhoys (Hoops, Celts, Tims) have ‘enhanced’ it with a couple of chants lauding the IRA. They also sing ‘Boys of the Old Brigade’ which glorifies IRA murders. Now the Gers (Bears or Blues) are no innocents with songs rejoicing at ‘Being up to our knees in Fenian Blood’, but it does seem that protests against sectarianism in Scotland – whether from the Roman Catholic Church or the Scottish Parliament – have always been a tad one-way: anything sung by Rangers’ fans is blatant bigotry, while the melodious music of the Celts is but an expression of their culture.

It becomes more evident when you consider the words of Roseanna Cunningham MSP, who has refused to rule out that her party’s ‘Sectarianism Bill’ could criminalise the singing of ‘God Save the Queen’. And not only the national anthem, but also ‘Rule Britannia’ could be outlawed and deemed an expression of ‘hatred’ on the terraces or in pubs. And (here’s the best one) making the sign of the cross ‘aggressively’ could also land you in prison. Ms Cunningham said: "I've seen hundreds of Celtic fans making the sign of the cross in a manner I can only describe as aggressive.”

Talk about making windows into men’s souls.

And it is moot whether a woman is fit to judge what constitutes ‘aggression’ when the testosterone-charged male of the species is gathering to participate in his ritual ball-kicking cult. Indeed, is he then able to do anything un-aggressively?

It beggars belief that a constituent nation of the United Kingdom is intent on making it a criminal offence to sing the national anthem when a football is present. It is even more bizarre that someone blessing themselves could be arrested for making the sign of the cross. Supporters of Rangers and Celtic become McMontagues and MacCapulets:
JOCK: Do you cross yourself, sir?

HAMISH: I do cross myself, sir.

JOCK: Do you cross yourself at us, sir?

HAMISH [Aside to MUNGO]: Is the law of our side, if I say ay?

MUNGO: No.

HAMISH: No, sir, I do not cross myself at you, sir, but I do cross myself, sir.
And it will then be for the Prince to sort out who did what to whom and with what motive and intent. And whichever man is judged to have crossed himself ‘aggressively’ could be sent to prison for five years for bigotry.

Where this legislation will leave defence of the Act of Settlement 1701 or the Act of Union 1707, His Grace cannot begin to imagine. Will it become a criminal offence to make a defence of the Constitution of the United Kingdom?

Or will it only be when a football is present?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Geert Wilders verdict: INNOCENT


The implications will be seismic: the effects of this verdict will reverberate around the Netherlands, Benelux, the EU, Europe and all the world. Geert Wilders had never planted a bomb or fired a bullet: he is a democratically-elected politician who has written articles, delivered speeches and made a film (Fitna) which describes Islam as ‘fascist’ and compares the Qur’an to Hitler's Mein Kampf. Since Hitler’s tome is banned in the Netherlands, Wilders called for consistency in the application of Dutch law and so the banning of Mohammed’s. Both, he argues, incite violence and propagate hatred, and so both should be treated equally.

He has always insisted that his remarks on Islam were part of a legitimate political debate about the very survival of Christian Europe in a context of mass Muslim immigration and the ascent of cultural relativism. And the Courts have agreed: Geert Wilders may speak about such things openly, and so may we all. At last it is established that it is not a criminal offence to offend a group of people about their theology.

And not just theology, but political theology.

Geert Wilders wrote in 2006:
A moderate Islam does not exist. It does not exist because there is no distinction between Good Islam and Bad Islam. There is Islam and that is it. And Islam means the Quran and nothing but the Quran. And the Quran is the Mein Kampf of a religion that intends to eliminate others and that refers to those others – non-Muslims – as unfaithful dogs, inferior beings. Read the Quran, this Mein Kampf, again. In whatever version, you will see that all the evil that the sons of Allah commit to us and themselves originates from this book.
In the same year, he wrote an article entitled: ‘The Pope is completely right’, in which he said:

The demographic composition of the population is the biggest problem of the Netherlands. I am talking about what comes to the Netherlands and what reproduces here. If you look at the figures and the development therein, Muslims will move from the big cities to the country. We must stop the tsunami of the Islamisation. This hits us in the heart, in our identity, in our culture. If we do not defend ourselves all other points from my programme will appear to be useless.
He said in 2008:
Islam wants to control, subdue and is out for the destruction of our Western civilisation. In 1945 Nazism was beaten in Europe. In 1989 communism was beaten in Europe. Now the Islamic ideology must be beaten. Stop the Islamisation. Defend our freedom.
There is much more expounded in the Court Summons.

Whatever you think of these statements, they should never have been grounds for arrest and trial. Either one is free or one is not. And it is no freedom at all which may not criticise or offend. All that Geert Wilders did is tell it as he sees it. And that isn’t so very far from how thousands if not millions of others see it. Ignorant of the nuances of Islamic theology they may be. Unaware of Islamic scholarship and the plethora of schools of thought they undoubtedly are. But all Geert Wilders did was to point out the fact that the Qur’an contains offensive passages and that some imams still preach it – and they are free to do so.

His Grace is sometimes called a bigot. The Pope is occasionally called the Antichrist. The Holy Bible is frequently defiled, Christians are mocked and reviled, and the name of Jesus is dragged through the mud. And we all have to live with it. There should be no special protection for Allah, Mohammed, the Qur’an or Muslim sensitivities. For that would be to treat people unequally and elevate Islam to that place in law once occupied by Christianity.

Geert Wilders has fought to defend the liberties of us all, and he won.

Rejoice! This is a marvellous day for democracy and for liberty. When a politician sounds the trumpet to warn a continent of the incursion of an antithetical ideology and an oppressive power, it is ironic indeed that he should have been silenced not by that alien ideology or foreign power, but by the very agencies of government he seeks to guard and of which he is part.

But Geert Wilders has been vindicated. He will now be exalted, and his Party for Freedom poll rating will go stratospheric. Doubtless millions of Europeans will only be sorry that the Presidency of the European Council is not subject to the popular will. And the ruling class will breathe a sigh of relief.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Love Boat from Iran

Trevor Phillips on those militant, extremist, homicidal Christians


His Grace had not intended to comment on the Sunday Telegraph interview with Trevor Phillips, Chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, not least because any engagement with Mr Phillips invariably produces more heat than light. The article has been greeted with almost universal condemnation by the Christian media, and a certain disquiet expressed by the humanist-secularist-atheist lobby. Reports suggest that offence has been caused in equal measure, thereby establishing Trevor Phillips’ impeccable credentials for neutrality and impartiality.

Not quite.

Consider these exerts:
FASHIONABLE ATHEISM
"There is a view that says religion is a private matter and it's entirely a choice. I think that's entirely not right. "Faith identity is part of what makes life richer and more meaningful for the individual. It is a fundamental part of what makes some societies better than others in my view....”
Why is the Chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission giving us his opinion on whether or not religion is a matter of choice? Indeed, by suggesting that religion is not a matter of choice, he elevates it to the level of ethnicity. His observation that faith ‘makes some societies better than others’ seems designed to provoke and offend those of no faith.
STANDING UP FOR BELIEVERS
"Our business is defending the believer. The law we're here to implement recognises that religious identity is an essential part of this society. It's an essential element of being a fulfilled human being....”
Again, the assertion that religion is ‘essential’ to identity and fulfilment is nothing but offensive to non-believers.
WARNING TO CHURCHES ON CHARITY
"Churches, mosques, temples, religious organisations of all kinds now have to some extent protection under the law but they also have to obey the law including anti-discrimination law because they are charities, because they offer a public service... Catholic care was a clearer and simpler case. You're offering a public service and you're a charity and there are rules about how charities behave. You have to play by the rules. We can't have a set of rules that apply to one group of people simply because they happen to think it's right."
This section is duplicitous, and certainly contradicts his previous statements. Crucially, Trevor Phillips fails to distinguish between freedom of worship and freedom of religion: if Christians are no longer free to worship God in spirit and in truth in their daily lives, they are no longer free. If the state is intent on eradicating space in the public sphere for the conscientious objection of the believer, then it fails to acknowledge that ‘religious identity is an essential part of this society’ and intrinsic to being ‘a fulfilled human being’.

A shift from ‘freedom of religion’ to ‘freedom of worship’ moves the narrative from being ‘in the world’ to the physical confines of a church, temple, synagogue or mosque. It is also disconcerting that the new state orthodoxy of religion has been defined in terms of a Kantian notion of inviolable rights, as though the Platonic Forms and Aristotelian Virtues constitute no part of our syncretised conception of Christianity. Freedom of worship is meaningless for the Christian if it may not be the result of vibrant, living relationship with the Lord; if it may not sear the conscience daily on the life-long journey of faith.

In the Declaration of Religious Freedom Dignitatis Humanae from the Second Vatican Council, the Roman Catholic Church summarised this right: "Religious freedom, in turn, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society. Therefore it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ."

The practice of religion – true religion – permeates every fibre of our being and enters every fabric of our lives. After centuries of constitutional theo-political development, the British State arrived at a notion of tolerance and an understanding of liberty which Trevor Phillips appears to be intent on limiting to state-approved expressions. By advocating ‘freedom of worship’, he adopts the narrative of the ‘aggressive secularist’ who seeks to relegate faith to the private sphere.
NO POLITICS BEYOND CHURCH DOOR
"It's perfectly fair that you can't be a Roman Catholic priest unless you're a man," he said.
"It seems right that the reach of anti-discriminatory law should stop at the door of the church or mosque.
"At the moment the law says it [appointing openly gay bishops] is a matter for the Church of England. It's probably right.
"I'm not keen on the idea of a church run by the state. I don't think the law should run to telling churches how they should conduct their own affairs."
Welcome to the English Church Settlement, Mr Phillips. He is clearly a proponent of disestablishmentarianism, but Erastian Church-State relations are slightly beyond his remit. By expressing this view, he offends many Anglicans and people of all faiths who support Establishment. And doubtless he also articulates a view with which many will find themselves in sympathy. But the important point is that his opinion on this matter is irrelevant: Church of England bishops have already been successfully sued for failing to appoint homosexual youth workers, and we will doubtless begin to see vicars dragged into court by militant homosexualists who are denied a church wedding. Anti-discrimination law has already crossed the threshold and occupied the vestibule. It is presently coursing unhindered up the nave. It is only a matter of time before it crosses the transept, ambles through the choir and occupies the altar.
POLITICAL CHRISTIANS
"I think the most likely victim of actual religious discrimination in British society is a Muslim but the person who is most likely to feel slighted because of their religion is an evangelical Christian," he said.
"There are a lot of Christian activist voices who appear bent on stressing the kind of persecution that I don't think really exists in this country. There are some Christian organisations who basically want to have a fight and therefore they're constantly defining the ground in such a way that anyone who doesn't agree wholly agree with them about everything is essentially a messenger from Satan.
"I think for a lot of Christian activists, they want to have a fight and they choose sexual orientation as the ground to fight it on. I think that whole argument isn't about the rights of Christians. It's about politics. It's about a group of people who really want to have weight and influence and they've chosen that particular ground.
“Personally I don't know why they don't choose ground that really is defending Christian values. I wish they'd choose gambling or human trafficking or something."
It is not for Trevor Phillips to define what constitutes ‘Christian values’. Indeed, by doing so, he has rather made his position untenable. Having said that ‘anti-discriminatory law should stop at the door of the church’, he now seeks to define the extent of what should stop. And one wonders why he singled out Evangelical Christians as those ‘most likely to feel slighted’. Has he not heard any of the recent speeches by Pope Benedict XVI? Or is it just that the Evangelical Alliance is a softer target than the might of Rome?
"OLD TIME RELIGION" HARMING INTEGRATION
"I come from that kind of community. We like our faith strong and pretty undiluted. If you come from an Afro-Caribbean Christian background the attitudes to homosexuality are unambiguous, they are undiluted, they are nasty and in some cases homicidal.
"I think there's an awful lot of noise about the Church being persecuted but there is a more real issue that the conventional churches face that the people who are really driving their revival and success believe in an old time religion which in my view is incompatible with a modern, multi-ethnic, multicultural society.
"Muslim communities in this country are doing their damnedest to try to come to terms with their neighbours to try to integrate and they're doing their best to try to develop an idea of Islam that is compatible with living in a modern liberal democracy.
"One of the aspects of that is essentially saying 'whatever we feel about matter of sexuality we're going to have to deal with the fact that most of our neighbours, most of our children's friends, most of our work mates have a broader, more liberal view and we just have to live with that'.
"Integration is also about compromise and I think the reason you don't hear a lot about that from Muslims is that they're trying to find ways of being good Muslims in a way that is consistent with the society they're living in."
This is where Trevor Phillips hangs himself. He talks the ‘conventional churches’ and belief in an ‘old time religion’ which is ‘incompatible with a modern, multi-ethnic, multicultural society’. Setting aside the historic theological reality that Christianity has always been counter-cultural, Trevor Phillips appears to take David Cameron’s definition of the faith, which is basically that of being nice to everyone. In the context of a discussion on homosexuality, the Prime Minister said just a few months ago: “I think Christians should be tolerant and welcoming and broad-minded." Ergo, if you do not agree with David Cameron, you are intolerant, unwelcoming and narrow-minded, which amounts to the same as being unloving, inhospitable and bigoted.

To be a clanging cymbal with no love is not to be a Christian of any kind. Trevor Phillips states quite unequivocally that belief in those Church traditions or adherence to orthodox teachings which conflict with the zeitgeist of (post-)modernity is just ‘nasty’. And he chose the Afro-Caribbean churches to illustrate his point, seemingly because that is his own heritage. Yet, by doing so, he manifestly offends those black churches by divorcing their beliefs from the ‘old time religion’ of Rome, the Church of England, the Baptists, the Methodists, the Evangelicals, etc., etc. Each and every one of these ‘conventional churches’ has its divisions on issues of human sexuality, but, broadly, each of them coheres with the ‘nasty’ orthodox belief that homosexual behaviour is, as St Paul said, ‘against nature’ and a sin.

But it is with Trevor Phillips’ assessment of ‘Muslim communities’ where His Grace must depart from all those who insist this interview offends all in equal measure. Mr Phillips says: “Muslim communities in this country are doing their damnedest to try to come to terms with their neighbours to try to integrate and they're doing their best to try to develop an idea of Islam that is compatible with living in a modern liberal democracy.”

Some may be. But certainly not all. Yet Trevor Phillips does not qualify his assessment with ‘some’, or even ‘many’: he talks simply of ‘Muslim communities’, which presumably includes Saudi-funded mosques, schools and those ‘no-go areas’ of inner-city Birmingham.

He also states that the reason we don’t hear Muslims talking about integration is because ‘they're trying to find ways of being good Muslims in a way that is consistent with the society they're living in’. Well, that’s a very clever covert strategy: you integrate by not talking about the issues publicly; by simply ‘being good Muslims’ privately and getting on with the necessary syncretism which will make Islam tolerant, welcoming and broad-minded. It is not only astonishing that Trevor Phillips talks of Muslims as a cohesive and compliant group like this; it is a manifest prejudicial deception to ignore the existence of the Islamists. Of course, some communities are addressing the issues; of course many Muslims integrate with British culture. But it is a very curious model of integration which daubs the church door with ‘Dirty white dogs’ in red paint; where white children are met with a barrage of stones thrown by Muslim children shouting ‘Satan’; and where the local vicar is called a ‘f***ing white bastard’. Yet these are Trevor Phillips’ ‘good Muslims’. There no mention at all of the ‘nasty’ side of Islam; there is no mention of its attitude to homosexuality which is ‘unambiguous...undiluted....in some cases homicidal’. No, such vehement disapprobation is reserved solely for the Afro-Caribbean Christians - the Christianists.

Trevor Phillips has shown himself to be complacent on Islamic extremism whilst impugning that which is moderately liberal. And that which is moderately liberal is fused with two centuries of that which is liberally conservative. No true liberal society can impose an agenda upon any peaceable individual or democratic group whose conscience(s) do not permit obeisance to its formularies: to do so is to create a new liberal tyranny of ‘equality’ and ‘diversity’.

Our freedoms of speech, religion and association predate the ‘Rights of Man’ agenda, upon which the edifice of the Equalities Commission is constructed. Indeed, those rights spring from the fount of Scripture and so should be understood and interpreted in their Sitz im Leben. And the Gospel of Christ is paramount and pre-eminent: it is not for the State to re-write the Word of God or to impose a uniform theo-political expression of morality. And it is certainly not for the Chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission to attempt to do so.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

BBC apologises to The Freedom Association: some TV licence-payers are more equal than others


When comedian Alan Davies and his guest David Baddiel suggested on the BBC's Radio Five Live programme last December that the late Norris McWhirter CBE was a fascist, His Grace was irritated, to say the least. When they referred to The Freedom Association as being 'a slightly posher version of the BNP', he was very much angered.

So much so that he wrote an article, complained to the BBC and encouraged others to do the same (and they did). We all received the same dismissive cut'n'paste response, which was essentially a knee-jerk defence. We were all peremptorily informed: "The Alan Davies Show is a live, light hearted, entertainment programme and in this context we are satisfied that no broadcasting guidelines were broken." There was no allusion even to the possibility of an investigation into the matter.

But a complaint was also sent by John Whittingdale OBE MP, Robert Halfon MP and Julian Lewis MP, which has elicited a full apology.

And the BBC have finally admitted that they were in fact in breach of their editorial guidelines. The McWhirter family will be relieved and The Freedom Association is thoroughly vindicated.

Simon Richards, Director of TFA, said: "We are immensely grateful to all the MPs who complained to the BBC about the outrageous slur on the reputation of The Freedom Association and our founder, the late Norris McWhirter CBE. TFA campaigns for freedom of expression and for freedom of the individual. The BBC too often permits lazy and unfair attempts to tar respectable centre-right organisations with the BNP brush. We have struck a blow on behalf of all freedom-loving people who are fed up with being portrayed as fascists by a broadcasting organisation whose charter requires it to be impartial."

As far as His Grace is aware, MPs pay the same licence fee as us lesser beings. Will the BBC now be apologising to those of us whose complaints they summarily dismissed out of hand? Or are complaints from some TV licence-payers treated a little more seriously than others?

Bigotry at The Spectator? Surely not...


Is this anti-Semitic?
Are Jews going to inherit the earth? Or at least America? It is starting to look as though they might. Judaism is around 3-4,000 years old, and its followers make up just 2 per cent of the U.S. population. Yet they have an amazing number of the top jobs. It is well-known that leading Democrat Rahm Emanuel, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, still a strong presidential nomination, are Jews. It is less known that Jews increasingly run corporate America. A new Bloomberg report offers an impressive list of Jewish business leaders.

Bloomberg’s Caroline Winter attributes the success of Jews to the Missionary Training Centre, a sort of indoctrination camp for the Jewish work ethic. And I'm sure that's right. Yet Jews also benefit from the fact they are devoted to their families and almost invariably likeable. For all their weirdnesses — and there are many — they tend to be incredibly nice, albeit often in a rather disturbing, Midwich Cuckoo way. Even Bloomberg, as cheesy and slimey as any politician, has a certain irrepressible charm.

All this and more was said by Philip Delves Broughton in the Spectator in March. But the rise and rise of the Jews is an ongoing story.
Is this anti-Catholic?
Are Catholics going to inherit the earth? Or at least America? It is starting to look as though they might. Catholicism is 1700 years old, and its followers make up 22 per cent of the U.S. population. Yet they have an amazing number of the top jobs. It is well-known that leading Democrat Vice-President Joe Biden, and former Speakers Nancy Pelosi and Newt Gingrich, a strong contender for his party's presidential nomination in 2012, are Catholics. It is less known that Catholics increasingly run corporate America. A new Bloomberg report offers an impressive list of Catholic business leaders.

Bloomberg’s Caroline Winter attributes the success of Catholics to the Missionary Training Centre, a sort of indoctrination camp for the Catholic social doctrine. And I'm sure that's right. Yet Catholics also benefit from the fact they are devoted to their families and almost invariably likeable. For all their weirdnesses — and there are many — they tend to be incredibly nice, albeit often in a rather disturbing, Midwich Cuckoo way. Even Biden, as cheesy and slimey as any politician, has a certain irrepressible charm.

All this and more was said by Philip Delves Broughton in the Spectator in March. But the rise and rise of the Catholics is an ongoing story.
No doubt if these paragraphs had been written about ‘weird’ or ‘disturbing’ Muslims plotting to take over America through hundreds of Qur'an-inculcating madrassas, there would have been almost universal approval with grave expressions of concern about the inexorable rise of Sharia and the Islamist in our midst.

Yet Freddy Gray has written these paragraphs upon The Spectator’s Coffee House blog, in reference to Mormons.

Not, it must be stressed, about the beliefs of Mormonism, or the precepts of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, but about Mormons as people. And when he says: ‘All this and more was said by Philip Delves Broughton in The Spectator (£) in March’, it is simply not true. Broughton’s article is intelligent, humorous and insightful: nowhere does he disparage Mormons en masse for their ‘weirdnesses’ or for being ‘disturbing’.

Freddy Gray is Roman Catholic. Perhaps he presumes that gives him the right to pontificate and pour scorn upon members of lesser ‘sects’ and ‘cults’, of which the Church of England is, of course, simply one among many.

If someone were to write about Roman Catholic ‘weirdnesses’, or raise suspicions about Roman Catholic education programmes, or dare to say that Catholics ‘tend to be incredibly nice, albeit often in a rather disturbing, Midwich Cuckoo way’, no doubt Freddy Gray would object very forcefully, and quite rightly, too. Such crass journalism would be pandering to stereotypical prejudices which invariably lead to discrimination and injustice. Certainly, if he had been around when John F Kennedy was bidding to be the first Roman Catholic President of the United States, he would doubtless have been among the first to raise the cry of anti-Catholic prejudice. Indeed, today his words might even fall foul of Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986, which criminalises language which is not only threatening, but ‘insulting’. No doubt Freddy Gray would leap to defend his own religion with headlines and strap-lines declaring that such phobia and sectarianism have no place at all in a tolerant and enlightened society. If someone were to attack his co-religionists in such an ignorant and irrational fashion, he might even be justified in mobilising his mates across the Roman Catholic media to campaign for the offender to be humiliated, ostracised and dismissed from his or her job.

It is one thing to mock an individual, lampoon a belief system or pour scorn over a religious book, all of which must remain a reasonable matter of free speech and expression in a liberal democracy. But it is quite another to talk blindly and nastily of all adherents of a particular religion as being ‘weird’ or ‘disturbing’; or obstinately to compare them to mind-controlling genetic mutants and children of the damned; or hypocritically to incite suspicion and hatred about them running an ‘indoctrination camp’ which is subverting a culture or way of life.

Indeed, some might call it ‘bigotry’.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Desmond Tutu is wrong to back Freedom for Palestine song



“Music helped beat apartheid and can end occupation.”

Well, the UN, the EU and successive America presidents have consistently failed, so why not give music a chance?

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the South African human rights activist, has pledged his support for the new single ‘Freedom for Palestine’.

The song (which, in His Grace’s humble opinion, is rubbish) is performed by the musicians OneWorld, who include members of dance act Faithless and the Durban Gospel Choir. It has been viewed online by more than 250,000 people, which isn’t so difficult to achieve when it is supported by pro-Palestine charities who have ensured its ‘viral’ attraction. The single is backed by inter alia War on Want, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, A Just Peace for Palestine, Friends of Al Aqsa, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions UK, Stop the War Coalition and Trust Greenbelt. Proceeds from the single will go to War on Want to support ‘projects’ in Palestine.

Archbishop Desmond, who officially retired from public life last year, kindly came out of retirement to endorse ‘Freedom for Palestine’ on World Refugee Day (today, apparently). His Grace is informed by War on Want that some seven million Palestinians remain refugees or internally displaced, many since 1948.

This is a curious number, which appears to include the entire population of Jordan.

In his video message, Archbishop Desmond says: “I have visited the occupied Palestinian territories and have witnessed the humiliation of Palestinians at Israeli military checkpoints. I have seen the inhumanity that won't let ambulances reach the injured, farmers tend their land or children attend school.”

Well, His Grace has visited Israeli territories and has witnessed nothing but compassion and concern for religious and racial minorities; healing for thousands of Palestinian Arabs being treated in Israeli hospitals; and outstanding education for thousands of Palestinian children in Israeli schools. He met no farmers but he did have meetings with Arabs in the Israeli parliament.

The Archbishop continues: “This treatment is familiar to me and the many black South Africans who were corralled and harassed by the security forces of the apartheid government.”

It is a curious apartheid which permits an Arab to become President. There are many countries, including several in the Arab-Muslim world, that practise and promote discrimination against particular religious or ethnic communities. There are no songs composed about these to attract the magic Tutu support. In South Africa, there was a legally enshrined system for discrimination, but in Israel the precise opposite obtains. Its constitution enshrines equality before the law for all its citizens regardless of religion or ethnicity, and any discrimination which does occur can be challenged in the courts, which was certainly not the case in South Africa.

And what of those areas of social cohesion evidenced in many hospitals and schools, where Jews and Arabs work peacefully side by side to the mutual benefit of both? The black people of South Africa were strictly separated from the white, and the black people invariably got the least and the worst. The black people had no votes, yet in Israel Arabs not only have full democratic rights, there are Arab members of parliament, Arabs in government, and Arabs in the judiciary. Majallie Whbee’s appointment as President clearly exposes the lie that the Jewish state is an apartheid country. He said that his ascent to the position proved that those who draw such a parallel with the former South African regime were ‘ignoring the facts on the ground’. None of this was possible in South Africa, so there is absolutely no comparison.

Discrimination is a social ill that is manifest in Israel just as it is in every nation on earth. It is legitimate to criticise Israel for its failings, but the charge of ‘apartheid’ is a malicious libel designed to delegitimise the Jewish State and stir up anti-Semitic sentiment.

The Archbishop explains: “In South Africa, we could not have achieved our freedom without the help of people around the world and musicians were central to our struggle. Through music and art we speak to a common humanity, one which transcends political and economic interests.”

That’s nice. Frankly, His Grace couldn’t achieve much at all without Beethoven, who is central to his struggle. Music does indeed transcend political and economic interests. And so does football. But supporting Iran against the US soccer team does not change the minds of Iranians towards the 'Great Satan', and neither does it bring freedom to to the people of Iran: it simply perpetuates evil and suffering.

The Archbishop adds: “For this reason I am proud to support ‘Freedom for Palestine’ by OneWorld. I urge everyone to buy the single and spread its message. Let’s send a message to governments that a critical mass of people want to see an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the oppression of its people.”

His Grace urges you not to download or buy this single, because to do so will only prolong the suffering of the Palestinians and exacerbate the wrongs on both sides. A song which conveys the message that Israel does not care about humanity and possesses no conscience is evil. To equate the only democracy in the region with apartheid South Africa is evil.

His Grace wasn’t going to post this article, not least because it is giving the song even more exposure. But its lies need to be countered, and no-one will be producing a song entitled ‘Freedom for Israel’ any time soon (and not just because there isn’t much the rhymes with Hamas or Fatah).

With respect to the Archbishop, he has naïvely permitted himself to be used in an odious piece of blatant anti-Israeli propaganda. This song calls for the security wall to come down (despite it having reduced suicide bombings and saved thousands of lives). It refers throughout to ‘Israeli occupation’, which is becoming the dominant narrative in all discussions about the region: Israel ought not to exist; its land has been stolen and the Zionist State sustains its existence only by oppression. It is a lie. This song isn’t concerned with a new beginning for Palestine; it is about the end of Israel, neatly packaged and presented as a hummable (just) piece of soft rock (kind of) which people will absorb subliminally into their consciences and make the lyric truth.

The fact remains that Israel is surrounded by nations intent on her destruction. Over recent months, an entire Jewish family had their throats cut while sleeping; Hamas launched an anti-tank missile at a school bus carrying 30 children; random missiles continue to rain down indiscriminately upon Jewish towns and villages; there have been suicide attacks on kindergartens, schools, pizza parlours, a student cafeteria, shopping malls, a bus station...

But when Israel fights back, there is criticism, outrage and universal condemnation.

Perhaps Israel should release a single instead:

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down
Ye-eah we wept, when we remembered Zion.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Unhappy Father’s Day

His Grace has been following a particular heart-rending story of one father’s quest to be permitted to spend time with his young son, whom he has not now seen for 195 days (and counting). So distressing are the facts of this case, and so upsetting some of the details, that it beggars belief that such injustice compounded upon injustice might be possible in this enlightened era of ‘human rights’, in which the UK cannot deport 102 foreign criminals because of their 'right to a family life'. And yet our ‘Family Courts’ treat some of our own fathers with utter contempt, inculcating the belief not only that they are worth less than the immigrant, but making them feel that they are possibly even less than fully human.

How this father – let us call him Mr D – has coped, His Grace can scarcely begin to imagine. As you read, you will wonder, too. In short, Mr D was rendered homeless at a stroke by proceedings launched by his ex-wife last January. In fact, he had been the victim of abuse at her hand, and was later granted a divorce on the basis of this. He even has video footage which shows his former wife holding their son in one hand while thumping him with the other. “Hardly Baby P,” said the Judge.

Mr D has not now seen his 2-year-old little boy for more than six months, despite a court order mandating what the courts term ‘contact’. Surrounded by lies, frustrated by the injustices, silenced by the ‘Family Court’, out of sheer desperation he started the blog ‘Love From Daddy’.

Read it and weep. Just over this past week, he discovered from his son’s medical records that his little boy had spent several days in hospital in April, following a fit – and that his GP has no record of the father’s existence: he had been expunged from his son’s ‘official’ life. Mr D’s former father-in-law verbally assaulted and threatened him outside the court in March. But no action was taken against the abuser: instead, it is Mr D whose life has been torn to shreds. It is he who is now hundreds of miles from his son, deep in debt, struggling with his health and employment. His suffering continues, at the hands of secret courts, CAFCASS and their solicitors, all courtesy of the taxpayer.

His Grace has touched on crypto-Soviet ‘Family Courts’ before. They are nothing but an abuse of state power. By writing his blog and speaking out, Mr D risks prosecution, and even faces losing his son forever. Every instinct for natural justice wants to tell the whole story, yet the local authority bullies, in partnership with inept social workers and in collusion with the courts, would exploit the transgression and submit it as evidence that they and they alone are acting in the best interests of the welfare of the child.

But there is a dimension of this case which makes it of greater interest to His Grace: both Mr D and his former wife are members of The Salvation Army, who, far from showing love and compassion, appear to have exacerbated Mr D’s trauma. Scripture exhorts believers to resolve their differences amongst each other and avoid action in the secular courts. Of course, this is not always possible. But one would hardly expect the Church to make things worse.

Commissioner John Matear is leader of The Salvation Army in the UK and Ireland, and has been intimately involved with Mr D and his former wife from the outset. After many months of tireless (yet fruitless) effort to deal with the matter in camera, Mr D has decided to bring the matter of Commissioner Matear’s ‘intransigence’ into the public domain. He is fully aware of the consequences of doing so, not least to the good name and reputation of The Salvation Army.

Launching the study The Seeds of Exclusion, the Commissioner identified family breakdown as the primary cause of homelessness and other forms of social exclusion – ‘people who are lonely, marginalised, and without friends’. What is The Salvation Army for if it is not to minister to such people?

Yet in January this year, Mr D was forcibly removed from worship by the police, merely for attempting to see his son. He was later found to have committed no offence, but it was the leader of the meeting who had called the police after refusing to read the court order she claimed Mr D was breaching. Mr D drove to Bristol to seek help from Commissioner Matear’s subordinate, a Major Hill. By coincidence, that evening he also found Commissioner Matear visiting. Mr D was much encouraged by their words.

He also wrote to General Shaw Clifton, asking questions not specifically about his own predicament but about the absence of policy on this issue, including:

What are the Christian expectations of how two spouses should approach one another and their relationships with their child upon divorce?

What responsibility does the Salvation Army bear to children within its sphere of influence who are affected by the breakdown of their parents’ relationship?


General Clifton asked Commissioner Matear to reply on his behalf, in view of the former’s impending retirement. To date, these questions remain unanswered.

Instead, Mr D received censure. Within days, he was counselled not to blog, and not to return to his son’s church. Contrary to his better judgement, he was told to contact his abusive ex-wife, and (as predicted) his compliance with this earned him a non-molestation order (for the two emails and one text message he sent to her asking when he might see his little boy). He was then told to use secular legal means to resolve the dispute, despite having pointed out that this was unscriptural and that he was in any case without the financial means to do so.

Mr D wrote further letters to Commissioner Matear asking for his assistance, as each passing week without his son left him ever more sorrowful. The summation of Commissioner Matear’s only substantive response expressed the view that the mother’s refusal to comply with the court order for contact between father and son is ‘not a pastoral management matter’ for the Christian denomination to which both parents and the child belong. The Commissioner avoided altogether the question of whether Mr D’s ex-wife should remain a uniformed member of the Army, despite her violence, her abuse and lies. And despite refusing all mediation and repeatedly using court processes to make it impossible for anyone to contact her directly.

In addition to Mr D’s unanswered questions, His Grace ponders how The Salvation Army, which in a recent document said that ‘Biblical values must be upheld by the Church even when they are not upheld by the State’, has come to the conclusion that a child’s right to a meaningful relationship with his or her parents is ‘not a pastoral matter’, but one for the secular law alone.

How can the matter of a Christian Salvationist mother abusing her Christian Salvationist husband and preventing her own son from knowing his father not be a matter of pastoral concern?

‘Love from Daddy’ documents the disturbing details of a process by which a young father has, with no small degree of creativity, sought to expose the impact of family breakdown, as highlighted by his own son’s plight. As a consequence, Mr D has been threatened with a ‘super-injunction’. He despondently concludes that Commissioner Matear has ‘chosen expediency over principle’. Undeterred, Mr D has decided to bring matters into the open; to expose them to the disinfectant of a little daylight.

It is evident from the correspondence that Commissioner Matear and others have sought to avoid answering difficult questions (for a question is indeed difficult if one does not have a comfortable answer). Mr D has shown himself patient, tenacious and at all times reasonable.

But what impresses His Grace further is that, far from wallowing in self-pity (which would be an eminently understandable and completely excusable response to such personal trauma), Mr D has joined with like-minded Christian friends to establish a service to assist fathers who find themselves victims of the crypto-fascist ‘Family Courts’ which purport to have the best interests of the child at the forefront of their minds.

Father’s Outreach is a service open to all. Their ethos is unapologetically Christian – they seek to assist anyone and everyone ‘regardless of background, age, sex, creed or colour and regardless of means’. They explain:
We have looked hard to see what practical support is available to parents and their families who find themselves in this desperately sad predicament, and we found none. We asked our Church what its policy was – it had none. We looked to other denominations, convinced that we would find someone offering some sort of outreach – we found none – no organised support at all.

We decided that “none” simply wasn’t a good enough Christian answer to such a widespread problem, and that if no-one was trying to reach out to meet these needs, someone definitely should be.
Today is Father’s Day. His Grace encourages his readers and communicants to reflect on this sad story, and to remember those fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers who are routinely deprived of access to the children they adore. And pray also for Mr D, who fears either reprisals from the courts or excommunication from The Salvation Army for bringing all this into the light.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

BBC exposes the inefficacy of the ‘morning-after’ pill. Where’s the uproar?

Funny, isn’t it? The BBC screens a documentary about ‘assisted suicide’ in which a man is shown drinking poison and dying on a comfy Dignitas sofa in snowy Switzerland, and most of the Church unites with the right-wing press in a furore of condemnation. The left-leaning media are largely content that another taboo has been broken, advocating that ‘assisted suicide’ is a bit like abortion and should be available to anyone over the age of consent.

Yet when the BBC screens a documentary about the inefficacy of the ‘morning-after’ pill, in which scientific evidence establishes that its widespread availability is actually exacerbating the problem of teenage pregnancy, there is silence from both the right and the left.

And the Church.

The programme was ‘Week In Week Out’ (still available on iPlayer).

The ‘morning-after’ pill acts to disrupt ovulation or fertilisation to prevent pregnancy. It is now freely available from pharmacies everywhere in Wales to anyone requesting this emergency ‘contraception’. Pharmacists are permitted to supply the pill to girls even as young as 13, without either parental knowledge or consent, in complete confidence. The producers of the programme set out to investigate whether this policy was helping or hindering the objective of reducing unwanted teenage pregnancies (and so abortions).

They interviewed a 15-year-old who is five months pregnant, who said: “I think handing out pills over the counter is just encouraging teenagers to have sex.”

You hear a GP express concern that pharmacists are supplanting family doctors, and being asked to assess the physical and mental health of young girls with the aid and guidance of a crass ‘tick-box’ questionnaire:


Dr Andrew Dearden of the BMA explained: “Doctors and GPs are trained to look at the whole person, not just one aspect or one part of care but the broadest aspect of their health.”

Pharmacists are concerned with the single issue of dispensing one pill.

Another GP, Dr Caroline Scherf, says that even after taking the morning after pill ‘there is still a very high chance they end up pregnant’.

We hear from the BMA that ‘there is no good evidence that it reduces teenage pregnancy rates’.

Professor David Paton of Nottingham University confirmed this, saying: “Contrary to what people were hoping, the introduction of the morning-after pill for young people didn’t have any effect in terms of reducing teenage pregnancies.”


And two-dozen studies in other countries say pretty much the same thing.

Further, Professor Paton said there is actually 12 per cent relative increase in STIs amongst under-16s in those areas where the morning-after pill is freely available from pharmacies.

So, the pharmacy scheme actually increases STIs by encouraging irresponsibility and riskier behaviour. This, of course, comes as no surprise to those who are concerned with the separation of sex and sexuality from the Christian moral framework. And yet state sex education largely detaches the physical act from the context of intimacy and love, from commitment and relationship.

The Welsh Assembly says in its ‘Sexual Health Action Plan’ that high rates of teenage pregnancy are a public health priority. The pharmacy scheme will cost Welsh taxpayers around £300,000 per annum, yet the BBC has established that it will have little or no effect on the rates of teenage pregnancy and so will not reduce the number of later-term abortions.

Health Minister Lesley Griffiths AM was asked whether she thought the pharmacy scheme was still a good way of reducing teenage pregnancies and invited to appear on the programme.

The request was declined.

Bizarrely, a spokesman said on her behalf that the scheme was an important part of the comprehensive sexual health service but it was ‘not part of our strategy to reduce teenage conceptions’.


Right.

If the ‘morning-after’ pill is not about lowering the rate of teenage pregnancy and abortion, what is it for?

This documentary was not only interesting; it was an excellent piece of investigative journalism on evidence-based policy. It is, in media terms, ‘a story’, every bit as newsworthy as Terry Pratchett’s descent into darkness.

So where is the uproar?

And why have those who were jumping over themselves to condemn the BBC for ‘Choosing to Die’ not been just as quick to praise the Corporation for this exposé?

Was it for lack of Sir Cliff as presenter?

Or is there something more to it?
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