Yesterday the Sunday Telegraph published an interview with Trevor Phillips, the black Ghanaian-born former newsreader placed in charge of the UK Equalities and Human Rights Commission. There was also a headline article on p.1 and 2 ‘Moslems are integrating better than Christians’, which summarised the interview.
A web version of the article is here, but is significantly different from the paper version. The interview itself, entitled “I’ll defend faith, says equality chief” is here, although the picture, which showed Phillips laughing his head off, has been replaced with a more sober image.
The articles contained a number of interesting statements made by Phillips.
“churches and faith groups have to fall into line with the views of wider society to keep their charitable status”
“Churches, mosques, temples, religious organisations of all kinds now have to some extent protection under the law but they also have to obey the law including anti-discrimination law because they are charities, because they offer a public service“
Catholic care was a clearer and simpler case. You’re offering a public service and you’re a charity and there are rules about how charities behave. You have to play by the rules. We can’t have a set of rules that apply to one group of people simply because they happen to think it’s right.
The rules to which Phillips refers were drawn up a few years ago, when the regulation of charities was changed to facilitate an attack on the privately run public schools. They differ in many respects from those previously in force. Charitable status exempts bodies from the crushing UK taxation.
Phillips is not part of the Charities Commission, but this seems to be a clear statement of the intentions of the establishment. They state that, unless Christians endorse unnatural vice — which is the point at issue — their charities will be deregistered, and Christians will not be permitted to provide any kind of public service, except by paying a tax that charities endorsing sodomy will not be subject to. No school, no soup kitchen, no adoption agency, no hospice — none of these aims, all charitable, will be permitted to have charitable status, and all will be taxed as if undertaken for profit.
None of this rules out further action on “equality” grounds by Mr Phillips’ organisation, of course. Phillips and his team have already prosecuted commercial businesses and private individuals who are not charities. This is a further stage, intended to target further Christian groups such as the Salvation Army.
Phillips makes clear that mosques need not fear: “Muslim communities in this country are doing their damnedest to try to come to terms with their neighbours to try to integrate and they’re doing their best…”
There is a great deal in the article about respect for faith-based beliefs, which at first sight is at odds with the draconian stratements above. But if read carefully, it explains itself.
“there is certainly a feeling amongst some people of belief that they are under siege”
Our business is defending the believer. The law we’re here to implement recognises that religious identity is an essential part of this society. It’s an essential element of being a fulfilled human being.
I understand why a lot of people in faith groups feel a bit under siege.
There are a lot of Christian activist voices who appear bent on stressing the kind of persecution…
There are some Christian organisations who basically want to have a fight
All the mentions of Christians are negative. “People of faith” means Moslems.
The article also signals that the establishment intends to attack the black churches. These have hitherto been protected to some degree by the unwillingness of the establishment to be seen to attack black institutions. There has, all the same, been some sniping at them as primitive and backward. However:
I come from that kind of community. We like our faith strong and pretty undiluted. If you come from an Afro-Caribbean Christian background the attitudes to homosexuality are unambiguous, they are undiluted, they are nasty and in some cases homicidal.
In the mouth of a state official, in charge of a body often seen as inquisitorial, this language has a sinister sound.
There is also an attack on the Christian groups that fund the defence of those attacked by his (tax-funded) organisation.
There are some Christian organisations who basically want to have a fight and therefore they’re constantly defining the ground in such a way that anyone who doesn’t agree wholly agree with them about everything is essentially a messenger from Satan. “I think for a lot of Christian activists, they want to have a fight and they choose sexual orientation as the ground to fight it on. I think that whole argument isn’t about the rights of Christians. It’s about politics. It’s about a group of people who really want to have weight and influence and they’ve chosen that particular ground.
The Christian B&B owners who were denounced by gay activist informers were dragged into court by Phillips, and the prosecution funded by the state. Clearly the Christian Legal Centre and the Christian Institute are doing the right thing; the accusation is projection, I think.
At one point the article is not clear. This is when Philips addresses atheism.
The establishment has encouraged the rise of atheism, in order to attack the Christians. It is an old trick to deprive some group of their rights by creating a counter-movement and then claiming to be “mediating” between them. The group you are attacking must therefore either abandon some of what it has always had, or else be seen to be refusing to compromise.
But it sounds as if the establishment is not entirely satisfied with the performance of its puppets. There are more comments from Philips in the other article, supposedly summarising the first:
[Philips] warned it had become “fashionable” to attack and mock religion, singling out atheist polemicist Richard Dawkins for his views
This suggests to me that they have recognised that Dawkins’ hysterical accusations have become counter-productive. Dawkins himself has received quite a bit less publicity in the last couple of years, and is perhaps something of an embarassment.
But this may merely be an excuse for his own organisation to “protect” “believers” — a power play.
Finally some words that Philips must have sniggered silently while uttering:
- “It seems right that the reach of anti-discriminatory law should stop at the door of the church or mosque. At the moment the law says it [appointing openly gay bishops] is a matter for the Church of England. It’s probably right. “
The game was given away, immediately above the article on p.2, in another article, which explained all: “Church clears the way for gay bishops”. The same day the BBC was giving the same story:
Legal advice is due to be published as early as Monday saying homosexual clergy in civil partnerships can become bishops.
The move is in response to the Equality Act, which protects from discrimination on the grounds of sexuality.
(My italics). The appointments in the Church of England have always been controlled by the establishment. Evidently Phillips knew that other establishment stooges would be responsible for dealing with that.
It’s all strikingly reminiscent of the religious policies of the old Soviet Union. On the one hand Christian charitable bodies were forbidden; on the other priests were appointed by the KGB, and those who refused to conform to church policies set by the state were demonised. I was rereading a book by Michael Bordeaux of Keston College this evening, describing the appalling persecution of Russian Baptists in the 1960’s.
The choice before Christians is clear. The state has made endorsement of sodomy a shibboleth, deliberately, knowing that it is offensive to most people and condemned by the bible. Endorse it, they say, or face the consequences.
In times past similar demands were made, of sacrificing to the genius of Caesar, or bowing the knee to Baal. Neither, perhaps, seemed very shocking to contemporaries. “Why can’t they just conform and not cause trouble?” people asked. The rest of the time they jeered at Christians as “breaking the law”. The Christians replied that they must obey God, rather than man.
It seems those times are here again. Some will conform, and will thereby apostasise. Others will suffer loss. Many will try to keep their heads down, while informers roam around seeking whom they may denounce.
The situation is not nearly so bad here as it was in Russia, and let us hope that it does not become so. Rather it resembles the harassment arranged by Julian the Apostate — what Gregory Nazianzen called a “soft persecution”, designed to destroy the churches by harassment. But the intent is clear.
Let us pray for those who are determined to persecute the church here. And let us pray for the confessors, those who suffer harassment and persecution because they will not betray Christ.