The Sexual Revolution – a grave danger to society

 

We live in a time of sexual revolution but we seem to be largely unaware of its very serious implications. The main impact will be the undermining of (heterosexual) marriage and the family which the Bible teaches is fundamental to human society. Gender theory supports people (including children) choosing to identify as male, female, both or neither, whatever their biological gender. There are moves to undermine the idea of fidelity in marriage. Same sex marriage will undermine the complementarity of male and female which has undergirded the family. It implies that children do not need both a father and a mother. And all this is in addition to longer term problems such as the emotional effect (particularly on children) of widespread divorce.

 

One question is: what effect will this have on children in the long term? Pope Francis said recently that gender theory is part of “a global war out to destroy marriage.” This threat to marriage and the family has been around for 100 years but has accelerated remarkably in the last 20 years or so.

 

The Marxist attack on marriage and the family

 

The pope’s comment is appropriate to the aims of the neo-Marxist Frankfurt School, now the Institute for Social Research, which emerged from the Russian Revolution. It became clear to Lenin after World War I that there would not be a communist revolution in the West and so a different approach was required. He encouraged the undermining of the family as a means of undermining capitalist societies. Lenin is credited with saying: “Destroy the family and you destroy society.” Whether or not this is an actual quotation, it does sum up Lenin’s opinion that undermining the family would undermine Western culture and pave the way for alternative views of society. 

 

The Marxists saw the family as supporting capitalism and encouraging children to accept the authority of their parents unquestioningly. It promoted the idea of private property and so could be open to the pressure to “Keep up with the Joneses,” becoming even more capitalist. It facilitated passing on private property to descendants rather than sharing it with the wider community. Engels wrote in favour of the care and education of children being “a public affair”. That way children could be educated in communism rather than in religion and traditional family structure.

 

He also spoke in favour of “the gradual growth of unconstrained sexual intercourse and with it a more tolerant public opinion in regard to a maiden’s honour and a woman’s shame.” Instead of private relationships everyone should belong to everyone. So premarital and extramarital sex and adultery would cease to have the same meaning. In 1919 sex education for school children was introduced in Hungary, with the clear aim of undermining the traditional family and morality by destroying children’s innocence. The first Director of the Frankfurt School, Georg Lukacs, promoted sex education for young children (encouraging sexual experimentation), pornography, free love, easier divorce and access to contraception. Now all those things are widely accepted in our society.

 

Homosexuality was first decriminalized in the Soviet Union in 1922. No-fault divorce was introduced for the first time in the Soviet Union in 1918 and abortion was decriminalized for the first time by Lenin, in 1920.

 

Marxists clearly intended that sexual anarchy and social disorder would lead to demands for ‘strong’ government and the loss of democratic freedom.

 

What other factors are behind the modern sexual revolution?

 

There are, no doubt, many individuals who support gay liberation who have no ulterior motives. They simply want to see homosexuals treated with respect, like heterosexuals. I believe that homosexuals, as people, should be treated with the same respect as heterosexuals. But we would be very naïve to believe this is the whole story. The modern sexual revolution is bigger than both gay liberation and Marxism. As Christians we should recognise a demonic strategy which will do enormous damage to society and will open the way to oppressive political rule. The relevance of this to biblical prophecies about the End Times is clear.

 

It is instructive to examine the Gay Liberation Front Manifesto published in 1971 and revised in 1978.[i] It is very similar to the Marxist aim of undermining the family and, in the Marxist case, subsequently society, preparing the way for political oppression.

 

It states: “The oppression of gay people starts in the most basic unit of society, the family, consisting of the man in charge, a slave as his wife, and their children on whom they force themselves as the ideal models. The very form of the family works against homosexuality.” It criticises schools which, at that time, reflected the pro-family, anti-homosexual values of society. It also criticises the church “whose archaic and irrational teachings support the family and marriage as the only permitted condition for sex.” It adds “The press, radio, television and advertising are used as reinforcements against us, and make possible the control of people’s thoughts on an unprecedented scale. Entering everyone’s home, affecting everyone’s life, the media controllers, all representatives of the rich, male-controlled world, can exaggerate or suppress whatever information suits them.”

 

The Manifesto then goes on to say: “Gay liberation does not just mean reforms. It means a revolutionary change in our whole society.” It describes society (in the 1970s) as sexist and built around the patriarchal family “in which one’s biological sex determines almost all of what one does and how one does it … we will not be freed … so long as each succeeding generation is brought up in the same old sexist way in the Patriarchal family.”

 

It finally states its aim: “The long-term goal of Gay Liberation, which inevitably brings us into conflict with the institutionalised sexism of this society, is to rid society of the gender-role system which is at the root of our oppression. This can only be achieved by eliminating the social pressures on men and women to conform to narrowly defined gender roles. It is particularly important that children and young people be encouraged to develop their own talents and interests and to express their own individuality rather than act out stereotyped parts alien to their nature.”

 

Current events

Sex education

One of the most disturbing factors is sex education in schools. Children as young as 4 are to be given compulsory sex education in school about safe and healthy relationships. There are moves to require all pupils to “learn the importance of respect, tolerance and commitment in all types of healthy relationships.” This covers any kind of sexual relationship so long as there is no coercion. Tory MPs are pushing for all schools, including primary schools, to be compelled to endorse same sex marriage.

 

Children as young as 5 have been alleged to have carried out sexual offences at school. The youngest victims were 5 years old. The number of allegations of sex crimes in schools rose from 719 in 2011-12 to 1955 in 2014-5.

 

The Victoria Derbyshire programme on BBC TV reported that since 2015 three pre-school children have been referred to the Gender Identity Development Service at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. They are among 167 children under 10. The Tavistock Clinic is a gender identity clinic for under 18s. In 2009 there were 96 referrals (40 girls and 56 boys). In 2014 there were 697 and in 2015 1398 (913 girls and 485 boys). Consultant Clinical Psychologist Dr Bernadette Wren commented: “It’s not really for us to approve or disapprove. … in the end, we maybe have to see through this social revolution and see how it transpires.” In 2016 a Church of England primary school in Hartfield, Sussex held a ‘transgender day’ event to “empower lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans young people.” The head commented: “As part of the national curriculum, we spend time talking to the children about British values of tolerance, respect and celebrating differences.”  Schools have begun to introduce “gender neutral” uniform rules.

Other examples

Over 50% of teachers have become aware of incidents of children sexting (sending sexually explicit messages) at school, some of them as young as 7.

 

Nearly all Europeans accept premarital sex. Countries vary as to the percentage believing that adultery is morally wrong: US 84%, Greece 79%, UK 76%, Spain & Italy 64%, Germany 60%, France 47%.

 

In Italy the Senate and it Judiciary Committee have voted to remove the word “fidelity” from marriage contracts as faithfulness in marriage is seen as “outdated and obsolete.”

 

A recent survey by Grazia and Onepoll found that a quarter of heterosexual women have had sexual experience with another woman. The press commented: “young women are increasingly having more fluid attitudes towards gender and sexuality … women are increasingly breaking away from traditional attitudes about gender, sexuality, marriage and family life.”

 

Conclusion

 

It may take a generation before the very serious effects of the sexual revolution are recognised by society. But it is very instructive to look back at how things have changed in the last 20 years or so. Some early 20th century attitudes to sexual morality, namely that sexual intercourse should be confined to heterosexual marriage, are now are seen as antediluvian. The media have, of course, been a major factor – effectively brainwashing the population into a radically different approach to sexuality.
The sexual revolution is not the most important challenge facing us. The fact that most people ignore or marginalise God is more important. But the sexual revolution is a catalyst guaranteed to transform society in a way contrary to the teaching of God’s Word and the church.
The only hope for our society is another Revival on a level with that which happened in the time of the Wesleys.

 

OTHER ISSUES

 

Abortion

 

British MPs have voted by 172 to 142 in favour of totally decriminalising abortion up to 24 weeks. They were backed by the Royal College of Midwives and the British Pregnancy Advisory service. Cathy Warwick, head of the Royal College of Midwives stated that abortion was never wrong but is a mother’s choice. In 2015 Fiona Bruce MP tried to make sex-selective abortion illegal but MPs rejected that by 292 to 201 votes.

 

The Global Life Campaign has researched over 100 nations, territories and regions up to 2015. They discovered that one billion babies have been aborted since the Soviet Union legalised abortion in 1920. It says that “current worldwide reported abortions are about 12.5 million per year”. One factor is the availability of on-line abortion pills.

 

The Evangelical Alliance commented: “Decriminalisation grants the unborn protection only in so far as it’s the property of its mother. Now, women holding the power of life or death over their children is framed as a victory for equality.”

 

Euthanasia

 

There have been moves to legalise euthanasia in the UK. It already is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg. The number of Dutch people killed by medical euthanasia has more than doubled in the 10 years since it was legalised, rising 13% to 4,188 in 2016.

 

Dr. Robert G Twycross, emeritus Clinical Reader in Palliative Medicine at the University of Oxford commented: “Dutch journalist Gerbert van Loenen shows in his book ‘Do You Call This a Life? Blurred Boundaries in the Netherlands’ Right-to-Die Laws’ that, although euthanasia activism begins with the wish to help suffering people of sound mind to achieve control in ending their torment, it never stops there. In both the Netherlands and neighbouring Belgium, once the barrier of legislation is passed, medically assisted dying takes on a dynamic of its own and extends beyond the original intent, despite earlier explicit assurances that this would not happen. As a disillusioned former member of a Dutch regional euthanasia review board has said: ‘Don’t go there!’”

 

Racism

 

Events such as Brexit and the rise of leaders like Donald Trump have raised the issue of national independence and control of immigration. Sadly, though, this has also encouraged racism. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance recorded a sharp rise in Islamophobic, anti-semitic and xenophobic assaults in 2016 including in Britain. It condemned David Cameron for describing asylum seekers hoping to reach the UK as a “swarm.” Some of the British media, especially tabloid newspapers were condemned for “offensive, discriminatory and provocative terminology.” An article in The Sun likened refugees to “cockroaches.”

 

In the US Rick Tyler, standing as a candidate for Congress, designed a billboard stating “Make America white again.” He wanted America to be like it was (according to him) in the 1960s: “It was an America where you didn’t have to lock your doors. You didn’t have to worry about carjacking and home invasions. You didn’t have to worry about Muslim sleeper cells down the street. You didn’t have to worry about Islamic mosques radicalising people. It was an America that was far superior to the America that we live in today, and – not coincidentally – it was an America whose demographic was 85 per cent plus Caucasian.”

 

Lack of concern for Poverty and Human Rights

 

When the Archbishop of Canterbury last Christmas asked people to pray for the poor, hungry and homeless, Nigel Farage responded: “Merry Christmas! Ignore all negative messages from the Archbishop of Canterbury and have a great day!”

 

UK government to cut sickness and disability benefits were condemned by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission which said the cuts will “exacerbate, rather than reduce, existing inequalities” as well as disproportionately affecting disabled people.

 

The UK has come in for criticism for its positive relationship with countries like Saudi Arabia which have a poor human rights record. S Arabia bombed various hospitals run by Médecins Sans Frontières in Yemen. They also destroyed schools. The UN criticised S Arabia for contributing to a humanitarian disaster in Yemen. A few days after the EU voted for an arms trade embargo on S Arabia, David Cameron praised British companies that have traded with that country. The UK government says it raises human rights issues with countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain privately but that means it is not possible to assess if that approach is adequate. In 2015 the most senior Foreign Office civil servant told MPs that human rights was “not one of our top priorities” and that the “prosperity agenda is further up the list.”

 

 

Christians need to wake up to the radical and very damaging changes taking place in our society and to pray for the Lord to bring a powerful revival of the Christian faith.

 

[i] http://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/halsall/pwh/glf-london.asp

We are living through a time of significant political change. I have in the past written about globalisation – its benefits and dangers. But now we are in the Trump-Brexit era which seems to be moving away from globalisation. How are we to understand what is going on relative to biblical predictions about the End Times? Does it mean that world trends are no longer moving in a direction which could ultimately facilitate the rise of the Antichrist as a global leader?

 

We are seeing how easy it is for extremists to gain power

 

In fact, the current reaction against globalisation shows how easy it is for extremists to come to power. I am aware that many US Evangelicals support Donald Trump. One of the main reasons is that, unlike Hilary Clinton, Trump takes a conservative line on abortion. Abortion is a big deal in the US but isn’t in the UK. I myself am conservative over abortion and many years ago mounted a local campaign against liberal views of abortion. But we need to realise that there are other very important moral issues as well as abortion and similar matters of personal morality. Trump may be conservative over abortion but many of us think that in other ways he is an extremist:

  • He is very self-promoting
  • He rubbishes anyone who disagrees with him (including the press)
  • He regards any news he disagrees with as “fake news.”
  • He says people who protest against him are being paid to do so
  • He claims that he alone represents the people against “the elite”
  • He thrives on divisiveness and claims his opponents are un-American.
  • He bullies, threatens and holds grudges
  • He acts hastily on important issues such as global warming and other international threats (e.g. N Korea, use of chemical weapons in Syria).

The Pope recently reminded people of what happened in Germany in 1933 and warned: “A people that was immersed in a crisis that looked for its identity until this charismatic leader came and promised to give their identity back, and he gave them a distorted identity, and we all know what happened.” This shows how a charismatic, extremist can gain power and go on to become a dictator.

Mark Malloch-Brown, former UN deputy general secretary, expressed deep concern about “the growing cult of the strong man.” He said: “In a range of countries there are very strong leaders, not always that respectful of the rules of the game.” He instanced the current leaders of China, India, Turkey together with Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. They are a very powerful group on the G20 which is a major factor in globalisation. Malloch-Brown said that “democracy is being replaced by a generation of Caesars.”

 

Paul Mason, writing in the Guardian, said: “Putin has, at the cost of diplomatic isolation and the suppression of democratic rights, restored growth, order and national pride. Now all over the world there are mini-Putins.”

 

Tony Blair stated: “In a world of uncertainty, people want strength in their leaders. It’s our job to make sure that that does not bleed across into authoritarianism.”

A recent survey for The Independent discovered a fear of global fascism amongst British people. Contributory factors were the appointment of Trump, Brexit and the danger of far-right wing leaders coming to power in Europe. 53% of Britons said global fascism is growing. 46% said it was growing in Britain and 48% that it is growing in Europe.

Globalisation, one trend relevant to the eventual rise of Antichrist as a global leader, may be partly in reverse in some places. But the trend towards the emergence of extreme world leaders, another trend relevant to the eventual rise of Antichrist, is obvious.

 

Trump has a policy of rubbishing people who disagree with him. He does this with the media who, for all their faults, are crucial to freedom of speech and democracy. He is effectively supporting those who reject free speech and human rights. Human Rights Watch warned about the emergence of leaders who magnify their own authority. They “directly challenge the laws and institutions that promote dignity, tolerance, and equality.” They are “seeking to overturn the concept of human rights protections.”

 

Until recently it was assumed that the political extremes – left or right – would not be able to take over. That assumption has been shattered recently. Extremists can come to power and take over and that is just as relevant to the eventual rise of Antichrist as globalisation.

 

Appreciation of the benefits of globalisation will return

 

Globalisation has brought about increasing interdependency and interaction between nations. It seems that nations are returning to protectionism and restrictions on overseas workers and refugees. Some think the apparent reaction against globalisation is merely a reaction against the inequalities caused by multinationalism which will ultimately lead to a fairer globalisation. Many feel that globalisation has to re-orientate in order to cope with inequalities and global warming.

 

Stephen Hawking argued for the importance of globalisation: “For me, the really concerning aspect of this is that now, more than at any time in our history, our species needs to work together. We face awesome environmental challenges: climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease, acidification of the oceans.”

 

In any case we live in an electronic global village. That cannot be reversed. It is a world dominated by the internet and social media. One very important factor in the move towards globalisation is technological change. Goods can easily be ordered across national boundaries if they are more suitable to the consumer. Politicians have little control over this.

 

Roberto Azevêdo, Director General of the World Trade Organisation stated recently that tit-for-tat protectionism in the Great Depression of the 1930s led to world trade shrinking by two-thirds in three years. He added that if this were to happen today it “would be a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions.”

 

Globalisation promotes peace

 

Many people are already beginning to see the dangers in the reaction to globalisation. Take Donald Trump, for example. He has spoken of a nuclear arms race and has made aggressive statements about how America will deal with N Korea (a very dangerous nuclear power). He has also been provocative towards China including through his irresponsible tweets. However globalisation has been a movement towards word peace. The United Nations, NATO and the European Union which Trump tends to treat with contempt, have been powerful forces for peace. It is likely therefore that eventually people will react against the views propounded by Trump in favour of a fairer globalisation.

 

Boris Johnson commented: “We should never forget the old truism that when goods and services no longer cross borders then troops and tanks do instead. By rebelling against globalisation we endanger as system that has been associated with 70 years of post-war peace and prosperity and that has allowed billions to lift themselves out of penury by toil and enterprise.”

 

However Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference, said that the world is on the brink of a ‘post-Western age’ with European and American influence declining allowing other states, including Russia, to shape a new global order.  He asked: “Will this new era again be marked by greater tensions and, possibly, even outright conflict between the world’s major powers, not least between China and the US? Is this a post-order world in which the elements of the liberal international order are fading away because no one is there to protect them? The world is about to find out.”

 

Globalisation promotes free speech and human rights

 

We have noted that Trump is effectively supporting those who reject free speech and this is true of other extremists who have come to power. There will be a growing reaction against this and an appreciation of the support for free speech and human rights which globalisation provides.

 

The dangers of Surveillance

 

Since November 2016 the UK has had what is being called the most extreme surveillance laws ever passed in a democracy. Like the CIA, MI5 will be able to spy on citizens through their smart TVs, cars and cell phones. Silkie Carlo, policy officer at Liberty, said: “Under the guise of counter-terrorism, the British state has achieved totalitarian-style surveillance powers – the most intrusive system of any democracy in history. It now has the ability to indiscriminately hack, intercept, record, and monitor the communications and internet use of the entire population.”

 

Jim Killock, executive director of Open Rights Group, said: “The UK now has a surveillance law that is more suited to a dictatorship than a democracy.” Lord Strasburger commented: “We do have to worry about a UK Donald Trump. If we do end up with one, and that is not impossible, we have created the tools for repression.

 

GCHQ has warned the leaders of Britain’s political parties of the threat Russian hacking poses to democracy. They said: “This is not just about the network security of political parties’ own systems. Attacks against our democratic processes go beyond this and can include attacks on parliament, constituency offices, think tanks and pressure groups and individuals’ email accounts.”

 

It seems clear that globalisation will continue. But there is also the worrying emergence of extremist, authoritarian leaders and of very pervasive surveillance. All of these trends have relevance to the biblical predictions of the End Times about the ultimate rise of Antichrist etc.

 

The NT predicts that the “last days” will be characterised by what Jesus called an “increase of wickedness” including selfishness, materialism, arrogance, rebellion, resentment, slander, self-indulgence, violence and treachery. So we should be alert to a decline in standards in society.

Reduced trust

Only 30% of British citizens believe “most people can be trusted” and 70% say you “need to be very careful” about trusting strangers, according to a recent World Values Survey. Trust has declined remarkably in the UK over the years. In the 1950s almost 60% believed strangers could be trusted and in the 1980s the trust level was 40%. The UK lags behind Germany (44%) Australia (57%) Norway (73%) and Sweden (65%).

Priority of Mammon

David Halpern, a senior government adviser, has warned the government that this decline in trust could be very damaging. This concern for society sounds encouraging until it becomes clear that Halpern is worried about the damage to prosperity and economic growth. He said: “Social trust seems to be a powerful predictor of economic growth and a lack of trust can stunt national economic growth rates. This really is super important.” So, Mammon wins again.

Armando Iannucci, writing in The Guardian, said “Politics was once about beliefs and society. Now it’s a worship of money.” He continued: “For the first 70 years or so of the 20th century, politics debated the power and limits of the state: the manifestos of the parties reflected how much or how little each party felt the government should involve itself in the lives of the individual. Everyone accepted there was such a thing as society, and we were given regular chances to define it. Politics was about passion, and imagination, and foresight. Now it’s just accountancy … Education became all about getting us ready for jobs … Health became a mysterious and un-debated obsession to turn our hospitals into market economies.”

In July 2014 the Committee on Standards in Public Life said that many MPs show little interest in the principles drawn up in 1995 after sleaze scandals when John Major was prime minister. It recommended that MPs take an induction course on the seven principles of selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.

Reduced importance for Human Rights

Human rights are no longer a top priority for the British government according to Sir Simon McDonald, Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Office. He said that “the need to concentrate on Europe, Eastern Europe and Russia has supplanted it to an extent.”

The Foreign Affairs Select Committee responded: “This is particularly disappointing after the progress made under the previous Foreign Secretaries, including William Hague who promised in 2011 that there would be “no downgrading of human rights”, as “it is not in our character as a nation to have a foreign policy without a conscience, and neither is it in our interests”. We wholeheartedly share the concerns of NGOs such as Human Rights Watch, whose UK director, David Mepham, commented: “This unwillingness to fully champion rights and fundamental freedoms runs counter to the best traditions in this country’s history and weakens the UK’s global standing and influence.”

Allan Hogarth, head of policy and government affairs at Amnesty International, commented: “When much of the Middle East is in flames and a refugee crisis is engulfing Europe, Sir Simon’s comments are as astonishing as they are alarming.”

Association with oppressive regimes

It is interesting that McDonald’s comments came on day 4 of the visit to the UK by Xi Jinping, the president of China.

It has come to light that Britain made a secret deal with Saudi Arabia to ensure that both countries were elected to the UN Human Rights Council. Yet Saudi Arabia has a bad human rights record. It has allowed over 100 beheadings in recent months. Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, commented: “Based on the evidence, we remain deeply concerned that the UK may have contracted to elect the world’s most misogynistic regime as a world judge of human rights.”

Jon Snow interviewed David Cameron on Channel 4 about this deal with Saudi Arabia but Cameron tried to avoid the question. Eventually he said: “We have a relationship with Saudi Arabia and if you want to know why I’ll tell you why. It is because we receive from them important intelligence and security information that keeps us safe.”

We have also been supplying arms to Saudi Arabia which it is using in a very destructive war in Yemen. A recent editorial in The Independent said: “Britain’s policy towards Saudi Arabia is a disgrace. It makes a mockery of our claims to have an ethical approach to bilateral relations with other countries, and it betrays a lickspittle way of dealing with autocratic regimes, which should be a source of embarrassment to people of any political persuasion.” The paper allows that the Saudi regime may be the lesser of two evils because of who might replace them. But it adds that does not mean we should give it “our patronising pat on the head.” Rather we should be holding it to account.

Cuts in welfare payments and inequality

Back in February 2014 the Bishops issued a statement criticising Government welfare reforms: “We must, as a society, face up to the fact that over half of people using food banks have been put in that situation by cut backs to and failures in the benefit system, whether it be payment delays or punitive sanctions … We often hear talk of hard choices. Surely few can be harder than that faced by the tens of thousands of older people who must ‘heat or eat’ each winter…”

In January 2016 a government Briefing Paper outlined that long-term unemployed people will either be required to attend the job centre every day for three months (which is ludicrous for those who don’t live near a job centre) or 30 hours voluntary work a week for six months. Those who don’t comply will face sanctions – losing their Job Seeker Allowance for four weeks in the first instance and for thirteen weeks in the second instance.

A report published by the Church of Scotland, the Church in Wales, the Methodist Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, and the United Reformed church, as well as Church Action on Poverty said the government is more concerned
with cutting benefits than helping people back to work, resulting in greater poverty and reliance on foodbanks. Over one million unemployed were subject to sanctions in 2014 – benefits being stopped for a few weeks up to three years. Barry Morgan, the Archbishop of Wales, said “The findings of this report are disturbing. It exposes a system that is harsh in the extreme, penalising the most vulnerable of claimants by the withdrawal of benefits for weeks at a time.” Niall Cooper, Director of Church Action on Poverty commented: “Most people in this country would be shocked if they knew that far from providing a safety net, the benefit sanctions policy is currently making thousands of people destitute. This policy must be reviewed urgently.”

In July 2015 the Chancellor wanted to cut tax credits linked to a national living wage, claiming 90% of families would be better off. The Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies said it was “arithmetically impossible” for the increase in minimum wage to compensate for the loss in tax credits. The proposal was debated in the House of Lords and Baroness Hollis of Heigham said: “We can be supportive of the Government and give them what they did not ask for – financial privilege – or we can be supportive instead of those three million families facing letters at Christmas telling them that on average they will lose up to around £1,300 a year, a letter that will take away 10 per cent of their income on average. That is our choice.” The House of Lords defeated the proposal.

The danger is that in seeking to curb abuse of the benefits system (or simply to save money) genuinely needy people will be penalised. The government should ensure these people are catered for even if it risks others being able to abuse the system.

Inadequate response to the refugee situation

At the beginning of 2016 28 aid agencies and charities wrote to the prime minister: “Last year’s announcement that the UK will resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees over five years was a welcome first step, but given the numbers of people searching for safety across the globe, this response is clearly inadequate: it is too slow, too low and too narrow. The UK can and should be doing much more to ensure that refugees are not compelled to take life-threatening journeys or forced into smugglers’ hands.”

The letter demands safe and legal ways for refugees to reach the EU and travel across it, noting that in 2015 3,770 people died trying to reach Europe via the Mediterranean. It added that refugees should have “access to fair and thorough procedures to determine eligibility for international protection.”

It welcomed UK aid to Syria, Greece and the Balkans and agreed that tackling the root causes of the refugee crisis remains a priority. But it continues: “However, in the absence of peace, people will continue to flee. We must provide them with safe, well-managed escape routes and refuge.”

The letter concluded: “Over 64 years ago, soon after the horrors of the second world war, European governments adopted the refugee convention, an instrument of international law which British lawyers helped to draft. As a nation, we made a promise: that never again would refugees be left out in the cold to fend for themselves; that this country would protect them; that here, they would find safe haven.”

At the same time 123 economic experts, including former diplomats and Whitehall officials, wrote to David Cameron saying: “The costs in human wellbeing of the refugee crisis … are so extremely high that it is morally unacceptable for the UK not to play a fuller part in taking in refugees.” One of them, Jonathan Portes, a former chief economist at the Cabinet Office, said: “Integrating refugees into our society and labour market will be, as it has been in the past, challenging. But we have done it before – with enormous benefits, both economic and social, to the UK – and there is absolutely no reason we cannot do it again.”

Conclusion

So in Britain we live in a society where trust has declined significantly, money has become a god, human rights have been somewhat devalued, oppressive regimes have been inappropriately supported, support for the poor has been significantly undermined and care for refugees has been seriously reduced.

 

Is there a sinister conspiracy to establish a repressive world government or is this simply the view of paranoid extremists?

Dr Seth Baum, Executive Director of the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute, wrote that many people do not appreciate that “Global government might begin benevolent, but it could turn sour, even becoming the oppressive disaster that the conspiracy theorists fear. And if it does, there would be no other government out there to keep it in check.” He added: “It’s worth noting that there have been several major oppressive governments throughout world history, resulting in some of the biggest disasters ever. Fortunately, a historical trend has been that other, more open societies have eventually out-competed them, leading to the oppression declining. But if that oppressive government is a global government, then there is no chance for another society to out-compete it.”

The steady development of globalisation

Globalisation is an inevitable process, a lot of which has already happened. Some people may not appreciate that there is already a huge amount of international co-operation and control. Much of it is for positive motives and has the potential to improve the lives of human beings. But, as Seth Baum says, well-intentioned and helpful developments can go wrong. There are various contributory factors to globalisation some of which I’ll mention briefly:

POSITIVE TRENDS

Economic Cooperation

One of the biggest factors driving the movement towards globalisation is economic. There has been an increasing exchange of products, services, capital and labour across national borders which has led to closer integration of economies throughout the world. This is linked with a large fall in transport costs over time. Also modern communications facilitate global trade and an international work force, and enables companies to split their work between different countries. The great increase in speed of travel and transport assists this trend. These developments require international laws to govern economic activity. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) founded in 1945, is composed of “188 countries working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world.”

Peacekeeping

Another factor which has brought nations together in global co-operation is the experience of the world wars. Both the United Nation and the European Union have grown out of the aftermath of war as an attempt to promote and maintain peace. Dag Hammarskjöld, UN Secretary General, said the UN “was created not to lead mankind to heaven but to save humanity from hell.” In addition to providing peacekeeping forces around the world, the UN set up the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 1957, to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons.

Upholding Human Rights

The disturbing oppression and inequalities in many countries has led to attempts to bring nations together to promote human rights and welfare across the world in the 20th and 21st centuries.
• The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948 in Paris.
• The International Labour Organisation (ILO), set up in 1919, was inspired by the idea that social justice was crucial to world order and peace.
• The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, set up in 1946, contributes to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through education, science, and culture to further universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights.
• UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women was set up in 2010.

Overcoming Hunger, Ill-Health and Poverty

The need to overcome the huge challenge of world poverty has also led to global co-operation which has drawn nations together.
• The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, set up in 1945, leads international efforts to defeat hunger.
• The UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, was created 1946 to provide food, clothing and healthcare to European children who faced famine and disease. It now works in more than 190 countries with families, local communities, business partners and governments, to help protect children in danger.
• The World Health Organization (WHO), established in 1948, is concerned with international public health
• The World Food Programme, which was set up in 1961, delivers food and other relief supplies to about 80 million people in more than 80 countries every year.
• The UN Population Fund, UNFPA, set up in 1969, aims to ensure every young person has their potential fulfilled, every pregnancy is wanted and every childbirth is safe.
• The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), set up in 1977, is dedicated to eradicating rural poverty in developing countries.

Caring for Refugees

The increasing problem of people fleeing war and oppressive regimes has also brought nations together to provide for them.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), was founded in 1950 to help displaced Europeans. Globalisation encourages people to move. In 1970 there were 70 million international migrants. Now there are over 200 million.

Professor Alexander Betts is director of the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford believes that refugees and displacement are likely to become a defining issue of the 21st century. This is because an increasing number of states are very weak and so are unable or unwilling to ensure the most fundamental human rights of citizens. The UN Security Council has not dealt well with this increase in migration and there will need to be a more effective international co-operation on the issue.

It is interesting that in September 2015 for the first time, at a meeting of EU Interior Ministers, a majority decision was made on the sensitive issue of refugee quotas which was binding on all EU countries. Previously such a decision would have been left to individual states to make. This was based on the new mechanism whereby 55% of EU countries representing 65% of the EU population can decide for all 28 members of the EU. This was a significant step forward in European solidarity and a corresponding weakening of national sovereignty.

Combatting Climate Change

One of the biggest challenges facing the world is, of course, global warming and this requires much more global co-operation. In 1988 The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was set up to assess scientific information relevant to the impact of human-induced climate change and options for adaptation and mitigation. It is essential that the nations of the world work together to combat this problem.

In August 2015 President Obama launched his Clean Power Plan which sets achievable standards to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030. His action encourages the possibility of a realistic international agreement at the UN Climate Conference in Paris in December 2015. It is possible that such an agreement could limit global warming to a maximum of 2oC.

Obama predicted what would happen if world leaders don’t take action on climate change: “Submerged countries. Abandoned cities. Fields no longer growing. Indigenous peoples who can’t carry out traditions that stretch back millennia. Entire industries of people who can’t practice their livelihoods. Desperate refugees seeking the sanctuary of nations not their own. Political disruptions that could trigger multiple conflicts around the globe.” He added: “Climate change is already disrupting our agriculture and ecosystems, our water and food supplies, our energy, our infrastructure, human health, human safety—now. Today.”

Sustainable Development Goals

In July 2015 24 Heads of State and Government met with other politicians in Addis Ababa to discuss ending poverty in the world and combatting climate change. They put forward 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General said the agreement “encompasses a universal, transformative and integrated agenda that heralds an historic turning point for our world.” The UN General Assembly endorsed the Addis Ababa agreement and Ban Ki-moon commented “We launch a new era of cooperation and global partnership.” Then at the end of September 2015 the 193 countries of the UN ratified the Goals. Ban Ki-moon commented: “They are a to-do list for people and planet, and a blueprint for success. To achieve these new global goals, we will need your high-level political commitment. We will need a renewed global partnership.”

The 17 goals including ending poverty and hunger, ensuring people have healthy lives and access to water, energy and education, achieving gender equality, promoting economic growth and employment for all, tackling climate change, pollution and promoting sustainable use of ecosystems, etc. They also include “promoting the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensuring equal access to justice for all.” In addition it involves “promoting a universal, rules-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system under the World Trade Organization.”
Another aspect of the Addis Ababa conference was that developing countries are demanding a global body on tax co-operation. Currently global tax standards are decided privately by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which any see as the “rich countries’ club.” Developing countries lose more money through international tax dodging than they receive in aid. They want this to be stopped.
Achieving all this will require much greater international co-operation between governments and nations. The pressure is on and this will move the world more in the direction of world government.

Others

In addition to the numerous international bodies mentioned above, the following also encourage globalisation:
• The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), set up in 1947 to encourage the planning and development of international air transport to ensure safe and orderly growth.
• The International Maritime Organization (IMO), set up in 1948 to regulate shipping.
• The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), originally founded in 1865, as the International Telegraph Union, is now responsible for issues that concern information and communication technologies.

As can be seen, global co-operation has led to many very positive developments.

NEGATIVE TRENDS

One of the ways in which world government could “turn sour” is by it seriously limiting human rights and freedom, despite the organisations set up to promote human rights. There is already disturbing evidence of such a trend. The reason may be international crime, cyber war and the spread of Islamic terrorism. But counter measures carry serious dangers. One aspect of an oppressive world government would be a powerful surveillance system.

The dangers of surveillance

David Anderson QC produced a report in June 2015 in which he said: “Modern communications networks can be used by the unscrupulous for purposes ranging from cyber-attack, terrorism and espionage to fraud, kidnap and child sexual exploitation. A successful response to these threats depends on entrusting public bodies with the powers they need to identify and follow suspects in a borderless online world … But trust requires verification. Each intrusive power must be shown to be necessary, clearly spelled out in law, limited in accordance with human rights standards and subject to demanding and visible safeguards.” He recommended replacing the current legislation on surveillance. He also proposed safeguards against snooping on journalists, lawyers and other groups. He rejected the idea that the threat from terrorism is “unprecedented” and questioned whether the intelligence services need the power laid out in the Government’s proposed “snooper’s charter” to search through people’s web browser histories to see what they have been looking at online.

He also suggested that control over the intelligence services be transferred from politicians to judges, which does not seem to have gone down well with the government. Sir David Omand, the ex-head of GCHQ (Government Communications HQ), commented that it would be “unconscionable for a judge to authorise a very sensitive intelligence operation where the political risk, if it went wrong, fell on the home secretary, or overseas the foreign secretary, who would know nothing about it and wouldn’t have approved it.”

However he has agreed with demands from GCHQ that bulk data gathering should continue. Although the security authorities claim it is an anonymous exercise in tracking, it is clear from the US that personal information can be extracted from it.

In February 2015 GCHQ was found guilty of illegal behaviour in the period leading to December 2014 when it allowed American security authorities to access private personal information about UK residents. However the government strongly defended GCHQ and said this judgment would not affect its operations.

Tony Porter, the UK government’s Surveillance Camera Commissioner, said he was very concerned about the “burgeoning use of body-worn videos” by police, university security staff, housing and environmental health officers – and even supermarket workers. He added: “If people are going round with surveillance equipment attached to them, there should be a genuinely good and compelling reason for that. It changes the nature of society and raises moral and ethical issues … about what sort of society we want to live in … I’ve heard that supermarkets are issuing staff with body-worn videos. For what purpose? There is nothing immediately obvious to me.”

The Commons Home Affairs Select Committee has criticised the level of secrecy surrounding the use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), saying it allows the police to “engage in acts which would be unacceptable in a democracy.” Keith Vaz, the committee chairman, said: “Using RIPA to access telephone records of journalists is wrong and this practice must cease. The inevitable consequence is that this deters whistleblowers from coming forward.”

The Intelligence Services Committee (ISC) report into the murder of Lee Rigby confirms the existence of the Tempora programme – which taps undersea cables off the Cornish coast in order to collect the communications data of every UK internet user.

Whilst avoiding a paranoid reaction to the security services, it is important to recognise that modern surveillance, although claimed to be about combatting terrorism, is disturbing. It is easy for it to be misused and to be open to facilitating political oppression.

Another factor which can encourage oppressive political action is terrorism and there is growing evidence of this trend today.

Counter-radicalisation strategy

One of the most disturbing recent developments is the establishment of the UK governments Counter-Radicalisation Strategy. There is widespread concern that this could lead to censorship. One of the problems is that “radicalisation” has not been defined. Also “British Values” is a term which lacks clarity. Roger Mosey, former editor of the Today programme on Radio 4, commented: “There are difficulties sometimes in deciding what is extremism and what is not; hardline religious conservatism is one thing, inciting terrorist violence another. I’m not sure politicians are the best to judge which is which.”

Sajid Javid, when he was UK Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, told David Cameron that he couldn’t support the Home Secretary’s plan to vet TV programmes which might contain extremist material before they were screened. He added: “It should be noted that other countries with a pre-transmission regulatory regime are not known for their compliance with rights relating to freedom of expression and government may not wish to be associated with such regimes.”

Sir Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police supports the UK government’s new counter-terrorism measures. But he commented: “If these issues [defining extremism] are left to securocrats [police officers with power to influence government] then there is a danger of a drift to a police state. …There is a danger of us being turned into a thought police. This securocrat says we do not want to be in the space of policing thought or police defining what is extremism.”

There is a real danger that views such as that homosexual practice is sinful or Jesus is the only way to God (and thus other religions are false) would be deemed extremism.

Growing restrictions on human rights is a serious issue in many parts of the world.

Limitation of human rights

James Savage, Human Rights Defenders Programme Manager for Amnesty International, commented on the fact that, in the last three years over 60 countries have drafted or passed laws that curtail human rights groups and 96 countries have inhibited them from operating at full capacity. He said: “This global wave of restrictions has a rapidity and breadth to its spread we’ve not seen before, that arguably represents a seismic shift and closing down of human rights space not seen in a generation. There are new pieces of legislation almost every week – on foreign funding, restrictions in registration or association, anti-protest laws, gagging laws. And, unquestionably, this is going to intensify in the coming two to three years. You can visibly watch the space shrinking.”

Contributory factors are the shifting of political influence away from western countries which tend to fund such groups, reaction against pro-democracy uprisings in former communist states and the Middle East and counter terrorist actions which, intentionally or otherwise, adversely affect human rights groups.

As is often the case, the truth lies in the middle. Some people dismiss the danger of oppressive world government as the stuff of fiction. Others oppose genuinely positive developments to promote human welfare on a global level because they read everything as sinister. Both of these approaches are unhelpful. A more balanced view is that globalisation has many positive aspects but there is a real need to be alert to unhelpful and sinister developments. The New Testament envisages an eventual oppressive world global regime. But that does not mean that Christians should oppose the positive trends which benefit

 

 

This article contains updates to my main paper “Discrimination against British Christian” which is on our Christian Teaching Resources website at

http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/DiscriminationAgainstBritishChristians.pdf

UPDATE 1 May 30th 2012

The EHRC Human Rights Review 2012

 

It was not until the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) that legislation recognised a general legal right to religious freedom. This allows religious organisations to discriminate over employment and provision of services in specific circumstances. For example, a synagogue can have separate seating for men and women at a reception following a religious service; the Catholic Church can require that a Catholic priest be an unmarried man; and a Muslim faith school can require for a successful applicant for a headship which includes a religious role to, be a Muslim.

 

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) produced its Human Rights Review 2012 entitled “How fair is Britain?” and included comment on Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights “The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

 

Article 9:2 states that “Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

 

This immediately raises important questions. Who defines the term “morals”? Many Christians would claim that in disapproving of homosexual practice they are protecting morals. Others would strongly disagree.

 

Even more important is when there is a clash of rights and freedoms, who decides which rights and freedoms take precedence? This issue is a main cause of concern to Christians who see their religious rights and freedoms being curtailed because of the rights and freedoms of those who disagree with them.

 

The EHRC Review refers to these issues: “Courts are setting too high a threshold for establishing ‘interference’ with the right to manifest a religion or belief, and are therefore not properly addressing whether limitations on Article 9 rights are justifiable. Indirect discrimination provisions in domestic law covering protection for individual beliefs may not be consistent with Article 9.” It quotes Lord Nicholls comments in the Williamson case (2005): “Religious and other beliefs and convictions are part of the humanity of every individual. They are an integral part of his personality and individuality. In a civilised society individuals respect each other’s beliefs.”

 

The Review accepts that manifestation of religion “can occur through worship, teaching and proselytism, observation by wearing symbols or special clothes, or by eating or avoiding certain foods.”  But it points out that the right to manifest a belief is a qualified, “for example, by uniform policies at work or school, or requirements to work at certain times or carry out certain tasks.”

 

It quoted the British Social Attitudes Survey 2009 which stated that just 2% of religious people in Britain said that they had experienced discrimination or harassment because of their religion or beliefs in the previous 12 months.

 

The Review acknowledges that “the recent lack of success of some claimants who bring cases under Article 9 or the Equality Act (or its predecessor legislation) has prompted some religious groups to argue that the right to manifest religion or belief is treated by the law as a ‘lesser right’ than others. They argue that religious discrimination claims are too readily trumped by the aim of preventing discrimination on other grounds.” But it comments: “This view does not appear to be widely held, however, among the representatives of different religious groups” and that some secular groups believe religious groups enjoy more protection than they do.

 

The Review recorded that “The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief found in 2008 that the UK government had ‘balanced approaches in responding to difficult situations with regard to freedom of religion or belief and the contentious issues involved’ and welcomed the case-by-case approach which allowed each complaint to be judged according to particular circumstances.”

 

The EHRC believes that British courts have taken the appropriate approach in cases balancing competing interests and states: “The Commission believes that an employer may legitimately refuse to accommodate an individual’s religious beliefs where such accommodation would involve discrimination on the basis of other protected characteristics.” However it goes on to state: “The Commission believes that domestic courts are setting too high a threshold for the preliminary question whether there has been an interference with the right to manifest a religion or belief and that, as a result, they are too often failing to consider the question of justification.”

 

The Review records a new approach in the European Court of Human Rights: “That Court has become more ready to accept claims of interference with applicants’ rights to manifest belief, and to focus on the question of justification. This is an approach the Equality and Human Rights Commission welcomes.”

 

The EHRC also refers to indirect discrimination where a rule or practice applicable to everyone has a disproportionate adverse effect on a particular group of people, such as people sharing a specific religious belief. It comments: “The European Court of Human Rights has, until recently, tended to take the view that a practice amounted to the ‘manifestation’ of a religion or belief only if required by the particular religion or philosophical belief. In recent judgments, however, the Court has found that Article 9 protects religious practices not prescribed by a religion, thus suggesting that personal rather than group belief is protected.”

 

Finally, the Commission says that British courts “should comply with the obligation imposed by the Human Rights Act 1998 to interpret equality legislation compatibly with the Convention. The Convention should be followed to ensure that the requirement to demonstrate group disadvantage does not overwhelm an individual right to manifest a belief. The question of justification would still remain for the courts to determine.”

 

This is relevant to a cases like Nadia Eweida, the British Airways employee who was asked to cover up a necklace which included a cross, and Shirley Chaplin, the nurse who was banned from working on hospital wards after she refused to remove a cross from her neck, because wearing a cross is a personal preference, not something required by Christianity.

BBC Director: Christianity treated with less sensitivity

 

Mark Thompson, Director of the BBC, stated in February 2012 that other faiths tend to receive more sensitive treatment by the BBC because they have “very close identity with ethnic minorities.” This seems a valid policy, within reason. However, the BBC does seem to go beyond the line at times and to treat Christianity with contempt. Fair criticism is acceptable but extensive ridicule is not. For example it is rather wearisome that in TV drama clergy are all too often portrayed as hypocrites, weirdos or criminals.

 

He stated that he was a “practising Catholic” and added: “One of the mistakes secularists make is not to understand the character of what blasphemy feels like to someone who is a realist in their religious belief.”

Maleiha Malik, Professor of Law, on Religious Freedom

 

Maleiha Malik is Professor of Law at King’s College, London. In the Westminster faith Debates held in April, she pleads for an approach to religious freedom based on tolerance rather than rights. She said:

 

“I want to suggest that current framings of the issue in relation to the right to religious freedom, or in terms of equality and non-discrimination, have led us into an impasse. The debate collapses into a clash of rights or a clash of equalities – ‘my right to religious freedom or equality versus your right to equality on the grounds of sexual orientation’. My view is that the principle of tolerance does more useful work.

 

“The speech/conduct distinction also becomes crucial. Those with strong religious beliefs about women, gays and lesbians can hold that view or express that view; BUT they cannot act on their belief in ways that constitute discriminatory harassment (via speech) or discriminatory acts (via conduct).”

 

Professor Malik points out that the law already allows religious people “significant exemptions to discriminate against gays and lesbians. As a society, we’ve reached an agreement about the balance between the rights of the religious and equality for women, gays and lesbians enshrined in our recent legislation. If the religious want to rebalance this, then they should join with their fellow citizens for reform of the Equality Act 2010.”

 

She believes the Ladele judgment (theformer registrar, disciplined by Islington Council for refusing to conduct same-sex civil partnership ceremonies) was correct because “it would be a significant step backward if, having won the fight for the right to same-sex civil partnerships, gay and lesbian couples could be shunned by the very people charged by us as a society with solemnizing.” She added: “There should be no accommodation for the religious where the exemption is from a key ‘constitutional’/human rights or equality value. Individuals cannot expect to directly influence the provision of public services to the general public to conform with their personal religious where that accommodation constitutes a breach of the constitutional/human right of another citizen.”

 

However, we repeat the argument outlined above in the main paper: The law helpfully already allows religious organisations to discriminate when they appoint staff whose work clearly requires them to follow a particular religion. Also, churches and similar religious bodies have been given the option of not celebrating civil relationships (the main issue being homosexual civil relationships). It follows that the law also could and should allow registrars the option of not conducting same-sex civil partnership ceremonies (the clients being dealt with by other colleagues happy to do so).

Christian radio station loses legal battle over advert

 

Premier Radio wanted to broadcast an advert asking Christians to report their experiences of marginalisation in the workplace but the courts have supported the Radio Advertising Clearance Centre (RACC) refusing to approve the advert. It is claimed that the advert had a political aim and so was contrary to broadcasting prohibitions on political advertising.

 

Peter Kerridge of Premier Radio claimed that the decision was a direct threat to freedom of speech and is “wholly reminiscent of a totalitarian state.”

Two different views of equality

 

It is obvious that a big issue facing British Christians today is the relationship between Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights about the right to freedom of religious practice and Article 14 about the prohibition of discrimination. Megan Pearson, a doctoral researcher at the London School of Economics specialising in the clash between articles 9 and 14, refers to the clash of two different world views. Pearson says that the modern western mindset is dominated by the Enlightenment concept of the individual; a non-gender-specific, autonomous body with personal rights and freedoms. “But the Christian view is that we are not individuals. We are persons in relationships and as you try to build stable community bodies there is a differentiation of roles.”  Men and women are equal but different and that difference is important to the functioning of our society.

 

Pearson claims that for the secular modern world justice is justice for the individual (and equality the way to achieve that), but for the Christian it is communal and is achieved by fulfilling the needs of others. He suggests that any interference with an individual’s rights should be proportionate to the interests of society. This could be interpreted as balancing justice for the individual against justice for the community.

An unlikely alliance

 

The National Secular Society and the Christian Institute, with others, have formed ‘Reform Section 5’ which is calling on the Home Secretary to amend the Public Order Act, which outlaws ‘insulting words or behaviour’. Section 5 of the Act states:

Harassment, alarm or distress.

1. A person is guilty of an offence if he-
(a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or
(b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.

 

They argue that the word ‘insulting’ is unclear, and allows for controversial arrests. So, for example, Dale McAlpine, a Christian street preacher was arrested simply for saying homosexual practice is a sin and a student was arrested for holding a placard saying “Scientology is a cult”. Christians (and others) could easily be arrested for making reasonable critical comments about other views or behaviour. Keith Porteous of the National Secular Society was surely correct when he said: “Freedom only to say what others find acceptable is no freedom at all.”

Conclusion

 

In the main paper I concluded:

 

  • That recent high profile cases of Christians being penalised for wearing Christian symbols (including in hospitals where people of other faiths are allowed to do the equivalent), for sensitively praying (as a health professional) with or sharing their faith with patients, for refusing (even as professionals) certain involvement with homosexuals should not have happened.

 

  • That the new legislation on equality needs to be reassessed so that religious freedom is not undermined.

 

  • Both judges and employers sadly have accepted the propaganda that Britain is no longer a Christian country in terms of public opinion.

 

  • That some people in the pro-gay lobby are using the gay issue not just to seek respect and equality for homosexuals but to use the issue (quite effectively) as a Trojan horse to marginalize orthodox Christians and the church. It is proving very effective.

 

  • That Christianity is being marginalised in judicial proceedings, employment, as well as in parts of the media.

 

Finally, I wrote: “Are British Christians being “persecuted”? Well …. no, not yet. But some are being discriminated against and oppressed, including by well-meaning but misled people, and the future is likely to be even more difficult for them.”

 

This update shows that:

 

  • The Equality and Human Rights Commission is critiquing the courts’ approach to religious freedom, particularly to manifest a religion or belief, and particularly the rights of the individual in this respect. It clearly thinks the courts have sometimes got this wrong. But the EHRC (and some legal experts) still upholds some of the judgments which I believe are not justified.

 

  • The BBC accepts it discriminates against Christianity because it is not associated with an ethnic minority.

 

  • One of the problems is modern western individualism with its over-emphasis on the rights of the individual (a non-gender-specific, autonomous body with personal rights and freedoms) as opposed to the Christian view which values the individual but also emphasizes community where people are equal but different and that difference is important to the functioning of our society.

 

  • Both Christian and secular groups are working together to remove the very unhelpful use of the word “insulting” in section 5 of the Public Order Act which has been used to curb proper freedom of expression.

 

UPDATE 2 March 10th 2015

 

Oppression of Christian schools

For example, because of an incident of extreme religious views being taught in a British school there is now an emphasis on schools encouraging knowledge of other religions and tolerance – what are called “British values.” This is a good thing but it has led to most unhelpful results. A Christian school has been told it must invite a Muslim imam to take collective worship. The government seems unaware that many Christians would be willing to accept an imam coming to talk about Islam and answer questions but would have conscientious objections to their children being obliged to be led in Muslim worship. The right of a Christian school not to have Muslim worship must be protected (just as a Muslim school must have the right to refuse to have Christian worship). Schools are being required to “promote” other religions. If this means to learn about them, that is acceptable. But if it means a Christian school has to promote another faith as equally true to Christianity, that is a gross infringement of religious freedom.

Oppression of Christian organisations and individuals

A recent survey by the Evangelical Alliance found that 53% of British Christians believed they thought that they could get into trouble for saying what they believe in a work or professional context.