Secular Right | Reality & Reason

TAG | UK

Feb/14

13

Spaghetti Monster Monstered

Sphaghetti MonsterHuffington Post UK:

A poster which replaced the image of God from the Sistine Chapel with a picture of the Flying Spaghetti Monster has been removed after with a row with a London University.

The South Bank University Atheism society created the graphics for their freshers’ fair stall last week, but returning to the pre-prepared stall on the University campus for the first day of the fair, they allege the posters were removed by union representatives.

Cloe Ansari, president of the Atheist society, alleges she was told initially that the Michelangelo Sistine chapel ceiling was offensive in itself, because it included a “naked man”. But she claims she was later told, having offered to blur the image, that the issue was that ‘The Creation of Adam’ is a religious painting.

Pause to consider the absurdity of the fact that Michelangelo’s depiction of Adam could be considered “offensive”.

And then there’s the whole business about religion.

Ansari claims the stall was removed entirely the following day and says she has lodged an official complaint, though a union representative told HuffPost UK that any such complaint had yet to be seen by officers.

“This incident is just one of a catalogue of attempts to censor our society,” Ansari said in a statement. “I never expected to face such blatant censorship and fragile sensibilities at university, I thought this would be an institution where I could challenge beliefs and in turn be challenged.

Good grief, Cloe, where have you been living all these yours? I thought atheists were meant to see the world as it is….

In any event, the university has now apologized.

· · ·

Jan/14

30

Melancholy, Long, Withdrawing

surrenderMore on the Maajid Nawaz affair, and specifically, a letter from Britain’s National Secular Society on the next step in Britain’s retreat from the open society:

We are writing in response to a package presented by news correspondent Katie Razzall, on Tuesday 28 January 2014, which looked at the controversy surrounding Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate, Maajid Nawaz, and his recent tweeting of a Jesus & Mo cartoon.

We were surprised and extremely disappointed to see that Channel 4 News took the decision to cover up the image of Mohammed when showing the Jesus & Mo cartoon, and we are thus keen to elicit the rationale behind that particular editorial decision.

During the report, it was noted that this decision was taken so as not to cause offence to some viewers; however we would like to point out that by your making this decision you have effectively taken a side in a debate where a Muslim man has suffered violent death threats after he explicitly said he did not find the cartoons offensive. You have taken the side of the reactionaries – the side of people who bully and violently threaten Muslims, such as Mr Nawaz, online.

By redacting the picture of ‘Mo’, you have contributed to a climate of censorship brought on by the unreasonable and reactionary views of some religious extremists. Rather than defending free expression, one of the most precious pillars of our liberal democratic society, you have chosen instead to listen to extremists and patronise British Muslims by assuming they will take offence at an irreverent and satirical cartoon. By taking the decision you did, not only did you betray the fundamental journalistic principle of free speech, but you have become complicit in a trend that seeks to insidiously stereotype all Muslim people as reacting in one uniform way (generally presented as overly sensitive and potentially violent).

Given that your editorial decision seems to be have been weighted by a concern with offence, we might also note that you ended up with a report that was, in fact, very offensive to many; offensive to those who take seriously and cherish our basic freedom to speak and question, and offensive to many Muslims, whose voices you do not hear because you insist on placating the reactionary voices of people claiming to represent what it is to be an ‘authentic Muslim’…

Quite.

· · · · ·

Jan/14

26

‘A Modern Bedlam’

Mohammed_receiving_revelation_from_the_angel_GabrielCross-posted in the Corner.

Writing in the Guardian, Nick Cohen, with more grim news about the state of multiculturalist Britain:

Extremists are menacing the career and life of a Liberal Democrat politician and respectable society hardly considers these authentically scandalous threats to be a scandal at all. The scandal, in short, is that there is no scandal.

The reasons for the attacks on Maajid Nawaz are so bland, it makes me yearn to live in a grown-up country where I could shrug them off. But we don’t live in a grown-up country and I had better explain. The BBC asked the executive director of the Quilliam Foundation, an anti-extremist thinktank, on to a discussion show. Two atheist members of the audience wore T-shirts showing Jesus saying: “Hey” and Muhammad saying: “How ya doing?” I beg you to keep the innocuous nature of the cartoon at the front of your mind as we descend into a modern Bedlam.

The BBC decided that extreme Wahhabi and Salafi Muslims, who would ban all images of Muhammad, represented all Muslims. It ordered its producers not to show the offending T-shirts.

A few days ago Theotory blogger Cranmer weighed in on just this point:

Setting aside the irrefutable historic fact that Shia Muslims have a centuries-old tradition of depicting Mohammed, and this sort of strict censorship being principally a Sunni assertion of belief (including the malignant Wahhabi-Salafi strain), it is surely not for the state broadcaster to take a dogmatic view of the deeply-held sensitivities of one religious denomination, or to impose a moral view of religious blasphemy when Parliament has abolished the concept.

Quite.

Back to Cohen:

Nawaz left the studio in some disgust. He tweeted the cartoon of Jesus saying: “Hey” and Muhammad saying: “How ya doing?” and added: “This is not offensive & I’m sure God is greater than to feel threatened by it.” God may not have felt threatened, but his supporters did. A Liberal Democrat activist called Muhammad Shafiq took it upon himself to organise a national and international campaign against Nawaz. At the time we went to press, about 20,000 people had signed Shafiq’s petition to Nick Clegg, saying that the tweet had caused an “extreme amount of insult, hurt and anguish”. The Lib Dems must stop Nawaz standing as their candidate in Hampstead and Kilburn at the next general election, they demanded. Nawaz told his critics he had merely said that he did not think the BBC should censor a mild cartoon. He then went to the core of what is wrong with extremist religion and Britain’s thoughtless multiculturalism which, in the name of “diversity”, spatchcock people into ethnic and religious blocks that deny their individuality. If you want to ban inoffensive images of the prophet, Nawaz said, then I am sorry, I am not that type of literalist Muslim.

In other words, neither “community leaders” nor multicultural bureaucrats could talk of “the Muslim community” whose taboos must be observed. There were many “Muslim communities” and ex-Muslims, too, and they should be free to argue without fear.

As for the “Liberal Democrat” activist objecting to Nawaz:

…Shafiq is not your standard Liberal Democrat. He is in charge of the Ramadhan Foundation, which has hosted speakers whose attitudes towards gay people and Jews are anything but liberal.

The keeper (allegedly) of Britain’s liberal flame (and David Cameron’s partner in coalition government) has, it seems, ‘evolved’, and it will be interesting to see how the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg responds. To their credit, Nawaz’s local party branch, at least, is standing behind him.

· · · · ·

Dec/13

23

Sparks at Marks

Butchers closes after161 yearsAdapted from a post at Ricochet:

Theotory blogger (and martyred Archbishop!) Cranmer’s response to the decision (discussed here earlier) by retailer M&S to accomodate members of staff who, for religious reasons, do not want to handle pork, alcohol is too good not to share here.

Here, by the way, is what M&S has to say for itself:

“We recognise that some of our employees practise religions that restrict the food or drink they can handle, or that mean they cannot work at certain times. M&S promotes an environment free from discrimination and so, where specific requests are made, we will always make reasonable adjustments to accommodate them, whilst ensuring high levels of customer service.”

Over to Cranmer:

An environment free from discrimination? Have they considered that their customers don’t wish to be discriminated against and made to feel morally deficient or ‘unclean’? How is inconveniencing customers by forcing them to queue at non-Muslim checkouts consistent with “high levels of customer service”?

The main problem with this is that it plays to a certain Muslim stereotype: it affirms an utterly myopic interpretation of sharia law and so perpetuates prejudice against all Muslims. The Qur’an exhorts Muslims not to eat pork products or drink alcohol: it does not say they may not handle glass bottles or pass a plastic packet of bacon over a scanner.

But, no matter. Some M&S equality aficionado has determined the orthodox tenets of each religion, and is prepared to bend over backwards to accommodate them: they have confirmed – in true anti-discrimination style – that Jewish employees are also permitted to decline to serve customers alcohol and pork, notwithstanding that no Jewish employee has ever refused to do this in the store’s 129-year history.

But why stop at alcohol and pork?

Are they also permitted to decline to scan a packet of prawns? May they refuse to sell garments made of wool and cotton? Or meat mixed with dairy? Is a Muslim employee permitted to decline to sell you a bikini or a lipstick? And what about M&S finance? Is a Muslim employee who objects to charging interest on debt going to be permitted to administer an interest-free credit card?

And why restrict this to the point of sale? Don’t these products require handling throughout the logistical chain? Are Muslim (and Jewish) employees going to be exempt from placing orders for certain products? Are they going to be exempt from handling certain boxes in the warehouse?

Are Christians going to be permitted to decline to handle halal meat, since it has been “offered to idols” (1Cor 8)? Or has the M&S equality aficionado decreed that this is not a fundamental requirement of the faith? If so, on what theological basis?

As far as His Grace is aware, M&S don’t sell condoms. But if they did, would a Roman Catholic employee be permitted to decline to serve the customer, thereby compounding their embarrassment?

This is not “reasonable accommodation”: it is not the same as permitting holy days off or the wearing of certain religious symbols over a uniform. It is manifestly unreasonable when customers are inconvenienced by i) having to queue at a non-sharia checkout, or ii) waiting for a member of staff to arrive who is prepared to serve you.

Oh yes, it seems that the Church of England thinks the whole thing is fine. #sigh, as they say over in Twitterland.

· · ·

WallsDeciding quite where and how a nation should draw the line between its citizens’ right to practice their religions and its own right to protect itself from spiraling down into balkanization has never been an easy thing to determine and in an age of multiculturalism it is becoming more difficult still.

Over then to the UK: writing in the Daily Telegraph, Matthew d’Ancona laments guidance given by Universities UK on the arrangements to be put in place when external speakers are visiting a campus and, specifically, this:

“[a wish to] accommodate the wishes or beliefs of those opposed to [gender] segregation should not result in a religious group being prevented from having a debate in accordance with its belief system. Ultimately, if imposing an unsegregated seating area in addition to the segregated areas contravenes the genuinely held religious beliefs of the group hosting the event, or those of the speaker, the institution should be mindful to ensure that the freedom of speech of the religious group or speaker is not curtailed unlawfully.”

D’Ancona’s response:

[T]his is a test case about much more than fringe events on provincial campuses. It is about the very basis of a pluralist society and what philosophers call “value incommensurability” – the clash between principles, and the dilemmas that such conflicts pose. As a ferocious opponent of theocratic creep, Hitchens argued that secular society was becoming far too emollient and unwilling to defend Enlightenment values against attack. Diplomatic immunity, equality before the law, the right of the novelist to free expression: all are now weighed against the risk of upsetting the theological apple cart.

The segregation row has forced us to confront the friction between religious sensitivities and core aspects of our common citizenship. The heart of the matter is the word “freedom” and its abuse. The original guidance claimed that forbidding segregation by gender on campus might infringe “the freedom of speech of the religious group or speaker”. This is babble, but it is dangerous babble. It implies that upsetting the religious sensibilities of an individual or congregation – and it is possible to take offence at anything – is a form of censorship.

I heard a similar argument made during the gay marriage debate: that same-sex weddings would somehow infringe “religious freedoms”, even though they were to be held exclusively in civil settings. In the segregation row, the hurt feelings of a believer or group of believers are weighed against the entire principle of gender equality – as if core principles are upheld only on the probationary basis that they do not upset the faithful. This amazing proposition reverses the polarities of the 20th century and replaces the totalitarian state with the totalitarian individual – the person who claims that absolutely anything that offends him is an assault on his “religious freedom” and has to be stopped. And let us be frank: because, collectively, we have grown fearful of religious extremism, we, too, often nod respectfully when we should be fighting back.

Well, yes.

And right on cue, there’s this, also from the Daily Telegraph:

At M&S [a British retailer], Muslim staff who do not wish to handle alcohol or pork have been told they can politely request that customers choose another till at which to pay.

At one of its stores in central London last week, customers waiting with goods that included pork or alcohol were told by a Muslim checkout worker to wait until another till became available. The assistant was extremely apologetic at having to ask customers to wait.

One customer, who declined to be named, said: “I had one bottle of champagne, and the lady, who was wearing a headscarf, was very apologetic but said she could not serve me. She told me to wait until another member of staff was available.

“I was taken aback. I was a bit surprised. I’ve never come across that before.

Well, get used to it. Best guess is that there will be more of this nonsense to come.

Writing in the same newspaper, Damian Thompson hits back:

I’m sorry, but if you cannot “handle” bacon and champagne and dozens of other products – even though your co-religionists have been doing so for decades – then don’t work in a secular supermarket. And I’d say the same to a Christian from a teetotal sect who refused to process the sale of alcohol.

When Islam and political correctness join forces, as they do so often, questioning their demands is portrayed as racist. Actually, if you really want to damage relations between communities, then ordering harassed shoppers to change queues (which are long enough already in M&S, God knows) is a good way to go about it.

Another chain, Sainsbury’s, has said that it has no plans to follow M&S’s lemming lead.

Thompson applauds:

Good for Sainsbury’s. Accommodating employees’ religious beliefs and customers’ requirements can be tricky; but there are times when common sense tells you that a particular demand is over the top and counterproductive. Give in to it, and not only will unfounded accusations of racism fly around, but genuine racists will jump in to sour relations between shoppers and (typically) young female Muslim checkout staff, some of whom may already be under pressure from the religious police in their own community.

Note that in our report the Muslim lady says apologetically that she “could not” serve the customer buying champagne. Is that because it offends her conscience – or because she’s been told that, as a Muslim, she is no longer allowed to do this part of her job?

That last point is important. By doing what it has done, M&S has lent a helping hand to the fundamentalist enforcers.

I won’t be shopping there next time I’m in Blighty.

Update

The Jewish Chronicle reports:

Marks & Spencer has confirmed that Jewish employees do not have to serve pork products at tills to its customers, if it goes against their religious beliefs. The chain confirmed that, in the same way a Muslim member of staff could refuse to handle pork and alcohol, a Jewish employee could decline to sell pork sausages, bacon rashers and sea-food.

A M&S spokesperson said: “We recognise that some if our employees practise religions that restrict food or drink they can handle, or mean they cannot work at certain times.

“M&S promotes an environment free from discrimination and so, where specific requests are made, we always make reasonable adjustments to accommodate them, whilst ensuring high levels of customer service.”

As I said, balkanization.

And what about,, say, secular vegetarians compelled to sell the remnants of slaughtered livestock? Do their feelings count for nothing? Or does M&S only respect deeply-held religious belief.

Discrimination!

· · ·

Nov/13

27

On the Persecution of Christians by . . .

homsCross-posted on the Corner:

Cranmer picks up on a curious exchange in Britain’s House of Lords between a UKIP peer (Lord Pearson) and a Conservative minister (Baroness Warsi). The whole thing is well worth a read, but this section, in particular, caught my attention. The discussion between the two has gone on for a while and Lord Pearson is, as Cranmer noted, getting a little vexed:

An exasperated Lord Pearson intervened:

‘With respect, that does not answer the question. The question I put to the noble Baroness was about the persecution of Christians . . . Is it or is it not mostly the work of the jihadists? That was the question I put to her.”

And so she [replied]:

“It was mostly the work of extremists who do not follow any faith, as far as I am concerned.”

So, those who burn down churches, blow people up or cut their heads off while quoting the Qur’an, declaiming “Allahu Akbar” and invoking the name of Mohammed are not Muslims at all: they are really followers of no faith: they are secularists or humanist atheists; buddies of Professor Dawkins. This is the socio-religio-political depth of understanding of the UK’s first ever Minister for Faith and Communities. She says it is her job “to ensure that freedom of religion and belief remains at the top of the Government’s agenda both at home and internationally”. But while doing that, there can be no scrutiny of the virulent salafi-wahhabi strain of Sunni Islam, for, to her, that is not Islam at all. And even to mention the possibility that it might be invites allegations of bigotry. These ‘extremists’ are simply not true Muslims and are completely ignorant of the real Islam.

And yet.. and yet..

At a Muslim Peace Conference in Norway (yes, a peace conference in Europe), when asked if the Muslims in attendance agreed that adulterous women ought to be stoned, the speaker praises Allah that all the men’s hands were raised. His Grace says “men’s hands”, for there appears to be no gender diversity at this gathering. Unless, of course, the women were in the basement. When asked if they believed in the strict separation of men and women, all hands again were raised (except the bloke on the front line, whom the speaker ignores). This video is not of a group of ‘extremists’, but ordinary believers in a run-of-the-mill expression of moderate Islam….

These ordinary, everyday moderate Muslims want sharia law in their country; not secular democracy and human rights. The moderate and enlightened speaker mocks the media portrayal of their beliefs as ‘extreme’. One wonders, if they had been asked, whether all hands would have been raised to affirm the death penalty for apostasy. Surely, if stoning women for adultery is considered just, then hanging for apostasy or blasphemy is a fortiori the will of Allah. And it is a very small step indeed from that belief to burning down the odd church and beheading the occasional kafir.

But these are not Muslims. They do not follow any faith.

As far as Baroness Warsi is concerned.

· · ·

Oct/13

6

For the Children (Not)

IVFMuscular dystrophy is an inalienable human right (or something).

The Daily Telegraph reports:

A group of 34 European politicians, including eight British MPs and peers, has signed a declaration attacking plans which will make the UK the first country in the world to permit the new IVF technique. Under legislation being drawn up by ministers the treatment will be offered to a handful of parents at high risk of having children with conditions such as muscular dystrophy, as early as next year.

The therapy can dramatically reduce the risk of children inheriting disorders of the heart, brain and muscle which are caused by faults in the mother’s mitochondria, structures which supply power to cells. But it has proved controversial because it involves substituting a small fraction of the mother’s damaged DNA with that of a healthy female donor.

Because the swap takes place at the “germ line”, the third party’s DNA would not only be passed on to the child, but also to any future generations down the female line. The therapy was recommended to government by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority earlier this year after a public consultation revealed general support. Doctors developing the treatment have emphasised that the DNA in question lies outside the nucleus of the cell and will have no bearing on the child’s personality or appearance.

But a declaration made by members of the Council of Europe, a human rights and ethics organisation made up of politicians from across Europe [it’s rather more than that], strongly condemned the decision to permit the technique.The declaration proposed by Jim Dobbin, a British Labour MP, which compared the technique to a “eugenic practice”, was signed by 34 members of the human rights organisation’s 318-strong parliamentary assembly.

It said: “The undersigned members of the Parliamentary Assembly affirm that the creation of children with genetic material from more than two progenitor persons, as is being proposed by the United Kingdom Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, is incompatible with human dignity and international law”.

Superstition, nothing more. Well, on reflection, monumental arrogance too.

It was signed by five other Labour MPs and peers as well as Edward Leigh, a Conservative MP, and the Earl of Dundee, a hereditary peer along with politicians from twelve other nations. The declaration, in effect a statement of opinion by the signatories, does not reflect the view of the whole Council but could now become the subject of a full debate or report.

That Leigh, supposedly a conservative, believes that this is a matter for some international and unaccountable body rather than something to be decided by Britons for themselves only makes matters worse.

· · ·

Oct/13

5

Teed Off

Jesus and MoCross-posted on Ricochet.

The Tab reports:

[The London School of Economics] has sparked a free speech row after banning atheist students from wearing t-shirts which depicted Jesus and the Prophet Mohammed. Two members of the uni’s atheist society were threatened with expulsion from Freshers’ Fair unless they removed or their t-shirts

Student Union officers and security guards surrounded Abishek Phadnis and Chris Moos and forced them to remove their t-shirts because they were “in danger of eroding good campus relations and disrupting efforts to run a Fresher’s Fair.”

When they finally agreed to cover up their t-shirts, staff instructed security to follow them round the event. The atheist students, were manning a stall as representatives of the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society. They say they were approached by Community and Welfare Officer Anneessa Mahmood who removed material from their stall without explanation.

A number of SU representatives allegedly then told the group to remove t-shirts they were wearing containing pictures from the satirical ‘Jesus and Mo’ cartoon. According to the Phadnis and Moos, when the group asked the officials which rules they had broken, they were told that the SU did not need to provide a reason at that time.

Phadnis and Moos said: “We refused to take off our t-shirts or leave without appropriate explanation, we were told that LSE security would be called to physically remove us from the building”.

After resisting expulsion from the event, without being informed as to which rules they were in breach of, they say they were then approached by the Head of Security and a member of LSE’s Legal and Compliance team who informed them that the T-shirt could be considered ‘harassment’ towards other students.

I suppose it’s pointless to note that there is no right not to be offended.

Yes it is:

…five security guards [allegedly] then positioned themselves around the stall and insisted that the group wear jackets or coats to cover up their t-shirts. According to the students, after they agreed to cover up the cartoon, “the head of LSE security told us that as he believed that we might open the jackets again when he was going to leave, two security guards were going to stay in the room to monitor our behaviour” and that the group were subsequently followed around for the rest of the event by security. The Student Union denies restricting freedom of expression and say the t-shirts “were clearly designed to depict Mohammed and Jesus in a provocative manner” and that action was taken after they “received a number of complaints from other students”.

Because God forbid (if it’s not indelicate to put it that way) that any university should ever have room for anything that could be construed as “provocative”.

Atheist and professor Richard Dawkins has spoken in support of the students, tweeting that “Everything probably offends somebody, to be on the safe side, LSE Student Union, better ban everything.”

He later added: “I’m ‘offended’ by backwards baseball caps, chewing gum, niqabs, ‘basically’ and ‘awesome’. Quick, LSE Student Union, ban them all.

Dawkins also described the student union’s censorship squad as “sanctimonious little prigs”.

Too kind, I reckon.

·

Aug/13

17

Rubbish Tories

British RecyclingCross-posted on the Corner:

If recycling is, as the saying goes, the liberal equivalent of prayer, what does this make the rubbish bins of Britain?

Over at the Daily Telegraph, Brendan O’Neill gives an update:

You would think the solution to the blighting of Britain’s residential streets with more and more household bins was pretty straightforward – stop forcing people to sort their rubbish into myriad different bins in the name of “saving the planet”. Instead, let them cram all their waste into one bin, like we did for decades, before some bloke in a donkey jacket and flat cap turns up to whisk it all away, no questions asked. Right? Apparently not. Eric Pickles’ [he’s the Conservative Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government] preferred solution to the “bin blight” is to institute new planning guidance that will force developers to create a special bin-storage bit to all the new homes they build. In short, he plans to counter local councils’ petty meddling in people’s daily habits by launching some petty meddling of his own into the work of building firms. So much for Tory promises to shrink Big Government.

Pickles has a point when he says there is a “ghastly gauntlet” of bins and recycling boxes on Britain’s streets. “Ugly bin clutter” is ruining residential streets, he says, with “the proliferation of multiple bins [creating] a blot on the landscape”. Yet rather than address the source of this bin invasion – which is local authorities’ embracing of environmentalist dogma and their enforcing of the entirely pointless ritual of recycling on to households across the land – Pickles prefers to take the easier route of forcing developers to build shelters to accommodate all these unnecessary, annoying, eye-sore bins. This provides a keen insight into the New Conservatives’ political cowardice: don’t ask awkward questions of modern-day eco-pieties and instead create a whole new layer of infrastructure to negate their worst consequences.

At this point, I shall rudely interrupt Mr. O’Neill to note recent reports showing that Conservative Party membership figures are reaching new lows, down from some 250,000 when David Cameron (an example for the GOP, we were told at the time) became leader to below 100,000 today (perhaps as low as around seventy thousand: there are different ways to slice the data).

But back to O’Neill:

The bin situation is spiralling out of control. Gone are the days when you could unthinkingly chuck everything from a banana skin to a plastic bottle into one binbag and not have to worry about what would become of it all. Now, in some parts of Britain, people have up to seven different bins to separate their waste between. In the past you’d walk down a suburban street and admire the best-kept gardens or fanciest net curtains; now you finding yourself marvelling at how many differently hued bins are plonked outside every home and wondering how waste disposal and collection came to be such complicated endeavours.

Well, the cowardice of the Tory Party is one of the reasons for this mess, but it is a cowardice that is not confined to “eco-pieties” (many of which the Cameron Conservatives have, incidentally, actively embraced), but also in its dealings with the EU, often the key regulator in this area.

O’Neill:

Personal recycling is a complete waste of time too, in environmental, “planet-saving” terms, given that household waste is a pretty small proportion of overall waste in Britain. Enforced recycling of household tat is less a practical stab at rescuing Mother Earth from climate change and more a punishment of families for being wasteful, a ritual designed to remind us of our greed and overall dirtiness by making us muck through everything we chuck away.

Sounds like a religious ritual to me, maybe more of an act of penance than a prayer, but religious nonetheless.

·

Aug/13

17

Pastoral Care

Snake handlersThe BBC reports:

Some young HIV patients are giving up their medicine after being told by Pentecostal Church pastors to rely on faith in God instead, doctors warn.

Medical staff told the BBC a minority of pastors in England were endangering young church members by putting them under pressure to stop medication. Healing is central to Pentecostalism, a radical belief in the power of prayer and miracles. But one pastor denied people would ever be told to stop taking their medicine….

Pentecostal pastor Stevo Atanasio, from the East London Christian Church, said that among his congregation, blind people had recovered sight, deaf people had heard again, and what were considered terminal illnesses had been cured.

“We don’t say to people ‘don’t take your medication don’t go to the doctor’. I mean we never say that,” he said.

Pentecostalism is booming. The number of Pentecostal churches in London, for example, has doubled since 2005. The overall number of incidents of HIV patients being told to give up medicine is thought to consist of a minority of churches and a small group of people. But the Rev Israel Olofinjana, who is a former Pentecostal pastor and now a Baptist minister, said he had seen it happening.

“I’ve heard languages like that – ‘put your trust in God, don’t put your trust in medicine’.”

He said many of these churches served migrants with an exalted view of the authority of pastors.

“Within the context of African churches, if you’re coming from a culture where the pastor is like your fathers or mothers, like your community keepers, the word of your pastor becomes very important,” he explained.

“It becomes very significant… there is a minority who say ‘because God can heal absolutely… what’s the need for medicine?’.”

Dr Steve Welch, who is chairman of the Children’s HIV Association, said it found it difficult to engage with the faith leaders of churches where healing was an integral part of the worship.

Ah multiculturalism, working out well as usual, I see.

· · · ·

Older posts >>

Theme Design by devolux.nh2.me