Well, that was a day that I intended to spend with Mithras! But a member of staff decided to turn up at 1pm, rather than at 9am, and that put paid to that.
Via eChurch blog I learned of an update on the story of the Exclusive Brethren, whose charitable status was removed by the Charities Commission on grounds that seemed to involve turning itself into a regulator of “approved” and “unapproved” Christian groups. Law and Religion UK have the story:
Anthony Collins Solicitors LLP has now issued a briefing on the latest developments in the controversy which repays reading in full. It reports the outcome of a meeting on 11 December between the Commission’s Chief Legal Adviser, the Commission’s Head of Policy, two representatives of the Evangelical Alliance and Phil Watts (a Senior Associate in the charities team at Anthony Collins) at which the following clarifications and assurances were obtained:
- that under the current law the provision of services of public worship which are genuinely open to anyone to attend is in itself sufficient to satisfy the public benefit requirement even if, in practice, the numbers attending such services are small;
- that there is no difficulty in restricting access to the sacrament of Holy Communion in accordance with denominational requirements: difficulties only arise if restrictions are imposed upon access to the worship services of which the sacrament forms a part;
- that the Commission will not involve itself in matters of doctrine except where the outworking of particular doctrinal beliefs impacts upon the public benefit of the organisation: in practice, the Commission understands this to mean situations where the outworking of particular doctrines may give rise to detriment or harm, in which case this must be weighed against the positive public benefit in order to determine whether or not, on balance, charitable status is appropriate; and
- the Commission’s decision-making process is likely to become more streamlined, increasing the likelihood of appeals concerning decisions of the Commission having to be made to the First-tier Tribunal.
The Tribunal’s latest directions hearing was on 3 December.
In the House of Commons, Peter Bone, Conservative MP for Wellingborough, successfully presented a Ten Minute Rule Motion on 19 December that “leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Charities Act 2011 to treat all religious institutions as charities; and for connected purposes”. The motion was approved by 166 to 7. However, his bill is highly unlikely to make any further progress…
I think that the action of the Evangelical Alliance was very appropriate, as they represent considerable numbers of small independent congregations, each at risk of being targeted in exactly the same way as the Exclusive Brethren (who are not EA members, but, as far as I can make out, are more like the British equivalent of US groups like the Amish or Mennonites).
Peter Bone MP’s action was also a good thing, indicating a very proper desire that the Charities Act should not be used as a pretext for attacks on Christians. The Charities Commission now seems to be moving back from the extreme position that it had adopted, and this can only be welcome.
It is an old maxim that an unpopular ruler may make himself secure by operating a policy of divide-and-rule; by stirring up resentments between different sections of the population, making each afraid of encroachment by others, and therefore ever on the look-out for such encroachments. In our unhappy society, our ruling class creates ever more privileges for this group and that group, and sets one against another. In the process we find bigotry spreading its wings, that once would have been dismissed out of hand. We learn of just such a story via eChurch blog is at the UK Human Rights blog. A Catholic school is proposed for Richmond. Some atheist group or other, boiling with hate at the thought that Catholic parents might send Catholic children to receive a Catholic education, rather than have them indoctrinated in the values of our masters, has objected and demanded a judicial review. In times gone past, in a free country, they would have been sent about their bigoted business; for what business is it of theirs? Our rulers, however, would much rather interfere, and make sure the Catholics know that they are only permitted to exist by our masters’ good pleasure. Such is the way of serfdom.
Another eChurch blog story highlights that the mobile phone companies in the UK are censoring the internet. In this case, churches associated with the New Wine movement are being blocked because … yes … they must be about alcohol! I hadn’t realised that our masters had introduced prohibition, tho. The Open Rights Group has the story.
About this time last year we wrote about a church that had been blocked by O2’s mobile Internet filters. Following this, we set up www.blocked.org.uk, a site which allows people to report ‘over-blocking’ on their mobile networks.
With somewhat uncanny timing, this morning someone used blocked.org.uk to tell us about another church (St. Mark’s in Southampton) that is blocked – this time on Vodafone. We have confirmed that it is also blocked by Orange. The site is blocked on O2’s highest blocking setting, but not on their ‘default safety’ service.
Using O2’s very handy ‘URL checker‘, we have established that they classify the site as ‘alcohol’. It is likely that this is the category that has led to its blocking on other networks, but this is not confirmed.
These stories may seem funny; but they aren’t actually funny at all. I have long known that US right-wing political site Five Feet of Fury is blocked by O2.
Oh, how I long, sometimes, for the days before all these censors! How I long for the simpler days before all these people determined that they would stop other people doing this, saying that, looking at this. Censorship is entirely defensible on moral grounds, by appealing to the Law of Moses, to the Ten Commandments, to the Natural Law. But no-one is doing that. Instead we are drifting into a censorship of whatever those in power do not want seen, heard, said.