Monday, 19 January 2009

On the Dark Side of Christian Voice

I used to regard the British group Christian Voice, whose National Director is Stephen Green, as noisy, misguided, nuisance litigants, happy to provide the lazy Mainstream Media with daft quotes or even a hare-brained formal complaint or legal claim.

They were the Mary Whitehouses of our generation.

In a way, I enjoyed following their stupid and counter-productive antics.

The private blasphemy prosecution which they brought in respect of Jerry Springer: the Opera was so misconceived that the Court re-defined the offence so that it was almost impossible for any prosecution ever to be brought again. The abolition of blasphemy a few months later was a mere formality.

(The English High Court's judgment is set out in full here. It is well worth reading.)

Christian Voice has also made backfiring complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority. The current complaint, about the Atheist Bus Campaign, is on the basis that the statement that there probably is no God cannot be substantiated. Only a moment's thought would make one realise that, if upheld by the ASA, this would prevent religious advertising too.

To adapt Voltaire, if Christian Voice didn't exist, militant atheists would want to invent them.

However, I did not mind Christian Voice that much. Like Mary Whitehouse, I thought, they just used existing laws and entitlements. If there was a problem, the real issue was that these laws and entitlements were available for such exploitation. I did not regard the motivation of Christian Voice as being of any significance.

But then, prompted by their latest antics, I examined their website and found an astonishing document entitled Britain in Sin - see here.

I have never read a document by any British pressure group which is so completely contemptuous of the rule of law, and of civil liberties and human rights.

The document purports to set against each of the Ten Commandments the legislation (and sometimes government policy) which, in their view, is contrary to that Commandment.

(Needless to say, as with any fundamentalist "Christians", there is no mention here of the actual ethical teachings recorded for their supposed founder, Jesus of Nazareth. No cheeks are turned, and every stone cast is the first one.)

To capture the sheer and stark affront to legality and democracy contained in this document, it should read in full. But a flavour can be gained by the following.

"Thou shalt have no other gods before me" seemingly means that the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the European Convention on Human Rights should all be disregarded. This is not because of any practical difficulties, but because they are examples of the "Enlightenment" and thereby break the First Commandment.

And so it goes on. Some of the examples are bizarre. The Fraudulent Mediums Act breaches the prohibition on false idols as it "legalises necromancy"; as does the Sunningdale Agreement on Anglo-Irish affairs, but here no reason is even given.

The entire social security and housing systems, and all state education, are a breach of the commandment to "Honour thy father and mother"; as is the postwar fiscal policy of budget deficiting, apparently because Keynes was "a promiscuous homosexual" who "hated thrift, saving and financial prudence".

Bizarrely, the 1931 suspension of the Gold Standard is even held to have broken the Commandment of "Thou shalt not steal".

And this is before one even gets to their disdain of all the Jenkins-type liberal reforms, such as of divorce and homosexuality law.

The document, however, is that of a cowardly group. It strongly states that one should follow God's law, and passionately details how the local law is contrary to such an imperative. But the practical implication of this stance is ducked in this document.

The practical implication is, of course, that the local laws are illegitimate and should not be obeyed. And news reports show that is the implication that Christian Voice do draw.

It explains the conduct of Christian Voice in some of their, in my view, unlawful attempts to curtail free speech in their demonstrations, for a recent example see here.

Indeed, as Mr Green is reported as saying when blasphemy was abolished:

"Christians will now have to take matters into their own hands when Christ is insulted on stage and on screen".

So not only are Christian Voice contemptuous of the rule of law, and of human rights and civil liberties, their actions and public statements reveal this contempt.

This dark side of Christian Voice should be borne in mind when we read of their latest idiocy.

It certainly throws into context their cynical uses and abuses of law and the legal system.


DavidMWW said...

Great post. People - especially journalists - tend to overlook the political ambitions of certain xian fundamentalist groups (there are some who express those ambitions more forthrightly than CV).

It is also interesting to note that Green's position as the media's favourite go-to fundie is wholly undeserved - the result of a combination of chance and coat-tail-riding.

Before the BBC broadcast of Jerry Springer: The Opera hardly anyone had heard of Christian Voice. The email campaign that preceded the broadcast - generating around 55,000 complaints - was orchestrated by London's Premier Christian Radio. They set up a web page which generated form emails at the click of a button, and were thus responsible for a large proportion of those complaints (as the subsequent Ofcom report revealed). Another large chunk was generated by an anonymous email circular beginning "The Sikhs did it with Behzti" - an email that Green has admitted he had nothing to do with.

The only reason Green was associated with this protest was because he put the names and addresses of BBC producers up on his website, which led to threats being made (or at least, the threats were made after the addresses appeared on the website, whether they prompted those threats is another question). This was the big news story which catapulted Christian Voice into the limelight, and associated him with the 55,000 complaints - giving the false impression that they were a large, influential organisation.

Premier Christian Radio are understandably bitter about this, and there is no love lost between them and Christian Voice as a result.

Green has been riding this bit of luck since then.

Robin Levett said...


Christian Voice has been getting airtime on Ed Brayton's "Dispatches from the Culture Wars" blog to which this post was pretty appposite; you may be getting transatlatic hits...

Robin Levett