Persecution does not necessarily hit the headlines. Most of it goes on “under the radar”. The large-scale violence of the Great Persecution under Diocletian was abnormal. Tertullian lived in a world where the proconsul did not, as a rule, orchestrate attacks on Christians. Rather the Roman state put in place the legal framework which denormalised Christians and encouraged individuals or groups to engage in harassment or denunciation of them. Christians were second-class citizens, whom a disgruntled individual could always denounce.
The last government of the UK set out to create a similar climate here in the UK. It did so by passing laws at the behest of militant anti-Christian gay groups. The laws were designed by the latter to permit the latter to drag Christians before the courts. It also arranged for “education” of judges, magistrates and the police, in “diversity and equality”, to ensure that these would be afraid to obstruct such cases in case they were also accused. This was not accidental; on the contrary one government minister openly boasted that the proposed law on “inciting religious hatred” — thankfully emasculated in the Lords — would force churches to hire lawyers.
Today via VirtueOnline I read of a case of this kind from 2009, taking place around 15 miles from my home. The Revd. Thomas Yap is the Anglican chaplain of the University of Essex at Colchester, belonging to the Diocese of Chelmsford. His account of his own case is here in a submission on the OSCE website (clicking the link downloads the PDF). Unfortunately I was unable to find any confirmation of the narrative from any other source, so we must treat it with care. But it seems worth giving all the same, since it is particularly local to me. It isn’t something happening to people far away in some strange land.
I work as a fully authorised University Christian Chaplain at a British University in the United Kingdom. In this year 2009, following requests from Christian users of the Chaplaincy, I provided books and multi‐media materials on the issue of same‐sex attractions as an extension of my Christian ministry. All books and materials were housed within the Chaplaincy library area and included titles such as “Coming out of Homosexuality” by Lori Rentzel, “Setting Love in Order” by Mario Bergner, “Out of Egypt: Beyond Lesbianism” by Jeannette Howard and “You don’t have to be Gay” by Jeff Konrad. There were no specific publicity or fanfare about the provision of the books except within the Chaplaincy membership nor were they displayed outside the Chaplaincy area.
Within a week, the Equality and Diversity Unit of the University contacted me in person and demanded that all such materials be removed because they were deemed as harassment following one complaint. I was accused of putting out “offensive display; offensive in the eyes of the complainant”.
In addition, I was threatened that any speech or teaching that I gave within the University about unwanted same‐sex attractions will be deemed as harassment and that I may be subjected to staff disciplinary action if I contravened harassment legislation.
Effectively, I was banned from expressing my age‐old orthodox Christian belief about life transformation from unwanted same‐sex attractions. Also, I was intimidated from offering pastoral care through using Christian books relating to changing of unwanted same‐sex attractions. Lastly, my hands are tied from making professional referrals to reparative therapy from unwanted same‐sex attractions for those who seek them.
The case is still “On File” and I may be subject to further investigation by the Equality and Diversity Unit pending any further complaint.
The VirtueOnline article derives from a submission to the same conference by an American, a certain Rev. Mario Bergner, who adds that Mr Yap hired “a barrister” — surely a solicitor?
Now I cannot say whether this story is true, although Mr Yap is certainly a respectable clergyman in the Church of England. But I have seen too many of these stories over the last year or two to be very comfortable in dismissing it. Unless I am much mistaken, this sort of thing is happening.
Rev. Bergner quotes another example and then makes the following request.
Participating States of the OSCE should draft legislation to safeguard the free speech of Christian academicians and clerics so that they may teach the sexual morality of their faith traditions without being subject to false accusations of hate speech so they may empower Christian believers to practice the sexual morality of their Christian conscience.
Christian clerics and academicians are being discriminated against, treated in an intolerant manner and falsely accused of harassment for articulating the moral worldview of their faith traditions when specifically applied to homosexuality.
We might agree or disagree with the proposal, but this states a general issue with all these stories quite well. It seems as if anyone choosing to teach what Christians have taught for 2,000 years risks all these things, not because of a personal view, but merely for being faithful to the world’s largest religion and its teaching.
But the issue is not simply one of Christians being targeted. Indeed it hardly matters what the “hot button” issue is. It hardly matters who is the victim, who the bully, which side is making use of informers, and so on. Those will be determined, not by right or wrong, but purely by who has power. Today it is gays. Yesterday it was hardly possible to say anything negative about Jews, but today they are going down the wind, and Moslems are higher up the food chain, and anyone who defends Israel is starting to risk the same dreary and hateful process documented above. What matters is that it is possible to do this. Naturally every special interest group seeks to acquire similar power over those it dislikes.
We need to start being aware of this process, of the steady encroachment on freedoms we have taken for granted. How we fight these I do not know. But we can at least publicise these cases. Bureaucrats hate to have their petty bullying exposed to view.
UPDATE: I have revised this post somewhat to avoid stating as fact what I only hear from one source.