Christianity row stretches back to BC

by
29 September 2011

by a staff reporter

REPORTS that all mentions of Christmas have been removed from Thomas the Tank Engine stories, a Bible cannot be displayed in a café, and the terms AD and BC have been retired by the BBC, have led to re­newed complaints from campaigning groups this week that Christianity is being sidelined in the UK.

Reports that “Before Common Era” was to be used instead of “Before Christ”, and “Common Era” instead of “Anno Domini”, emerged after the BBC religion website said that it had adopted BCE and CE to avoid offending non-Christians. The BBC, however, has denied that the terms had been replaced throughout the Cor­poration (Press).

In a statement, it said: “Whilst the BBC uses BC and AD like most people as standard terminology, it is also possible for individuals to use different terminology if they wish to, particularly as it is now commonly used in historical research.”

It was also reported this week that the makers of the Thomas the Tank Engine DVDs, HIT Entertainment, had banned the mention of Christ­mas. One new DVD mentions “winter holidays” instead, and “trees with decorations” instead of Christ­mas trees.

HIT Entertainment responded, saying that the DVD had not been a seasonal launch, and that it would continue to make Christmas DVDs.

Allegations that Christians in the UK are persecuted in the workplace moved into the courts this week. The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, and a former Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, called on the Prime Minister to safeguard the rights of Christians in the workplace.

They have written to the Euro­pean Court of Human Rights, which is to hear the cases of Shirley Chaplin, a nurse who refused to take off a cross she had worn for nearly 30 years, and Gary McFarlane, a Relate counsellor, who refused to give sex therapy to same-sex couples.

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Lord Carey, in his submission to the European Court, said: “In a country where Christians can be sacked for manifesting their faith, are vilified by state bodies, are in fear of reprisal or even arrest for expressing their views on sexual ethics, some­thing is very wrong.”

The group Christian Concern has organised a “postcard to the Prime Minister” campaign, urging David Cameron to safeguard the freedom of conscience of Christians.

In another case backed by Chris­tian Concern, the General Medical Council has decided to pur­sue its case against Dr Richard Scott, a GP from Kent accused of upset­ting a patient by discussing religion with him (News, 12 August), even though the com­plainant failed to turn up at the GMC hearing.

“I am astounded that the GMC are continuing to pursue this allegation on the basis of hearsay evidence from a witness that will not turn up,” Dr Scott said last week. “This case should have been struck out, but the GMC appears determined to pursue this.”

Another campaign group, the Christian Institute, is supporting a café owner who was forced to stop displaying biblical texts on a video screen in the café after a complaint was made. Police ordered the owners of the Salt and Light coffee-house, in Blackpool, to turn off the video screen because it was displaying “insulting” words.

The owner, Jamie Murray, said that officers had told him that displaying offensive or insulting words is a breach of Section 5 of the Public Order Act.

The Institute’s solicitor, Sam Webster, said: “It ought to go without saying that reading the Bible out loud in a public place, or displaying Bible texts in a Christian café, is not of itself a criminal offence. I am alarmed that I even have to point this out.”


Yesterday the Christian Institute reported that police visited the Mr Murray on Tuesday and "admitted they got the law wrong, and said sorry for the manner of their investigation", but that they "denied banning the display of the Bible texts in the café."

Mr Murray "accepted the police's apology, as far as it goes, and he forgives them. But there are some issues that the police have not acknowledged or apologised for, and some important details remain in dispute."

Lancashire Police told the BBC: "It appears that the officer has misinterpreted the Public Order Act and we have apologised to the cafe owner for any distress we may have caused. The constabulary said it respected all religious views but said, "we have no issues with the professionalism or courtesy shown by the officer".


Yesterday the Christian Institute reported that police visited the Mr Murray on Tuesday and "admitted they got the law wrong, and said sorry for the manner of their investigation", but that they "denied banning the display of the Bible texts in the café."

Mr Murray "accepted the police's apology, as far as it goes, and he forgives them. But there are some issues that the police have not acknowledged or apologised for, and some important details remain in dispute."

Lancashire Police told the BBC: "It appears that the officer has misinterpreted the Public Order Act and we have apologised to the cafe owner for any distress we may have caused. The constabulary said it respected all religious views but said, "we have no issues with the professionalism or courtesy shown by the officer".

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