Documentary Looks At UK Christian Right

We’ve heard God’s complaint this morning. His complaint is abortion, immorality, adultery, homosexuality. The issues that are leading our nation to hell. We do not want to be part of a church that sits back, afraid to speak, afraid to take action, afraid to be anti-gay. We speak to you Satan, we command you to lift your hands off God’s people right now. And Satan, you fall at the name of Jesus, now, today, Amen.

So speaks the prayer leader at small women’s prayer group in a private house in Sussex, in the south-east of England. The invocation appears in In God’s Name, a new British documentary about the Christian Right in Britain, directed by David Modell and broadcast on Monday night as part of the Dispatches strand.

The programme covered a lot of ground in less than an hour, taking in anti-gay protests, Creationist education, anti-Muslim rhetoric, and the anti-abortion lobbying efforts of the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship, which enjoys financial support and other assistance from the USA Alliance Defense Fund. The media- and politically-savvy LCF was profiled alongside some rather more homespun efforts, particularly the constant round of ineffectual public protests that make up Stephen Green’s Christian Voice organisation.

An early part of the documentary dealt with protests in Parliament Square a few months ago against the 2007 Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations, which conservative Christians claimed would force them to act against their consciences. Many of the banners carried the CCTV logo of the now-defunct Christian Congress for Traditional Values; no mention was made of the fact that the CCTV’s leader, the neo-Pentecostal Bishop Michael Reid, just recently fled to Arizona from Essex after admitting an affair with his director of music.

One protestor expressed himself with a typical British coarseness which sounds a bit odd if you’re more used to the American Christian right:

If you look at the human genitalia, they’re not for digging the garden, or painting the wall, are they? They’re for making babies. And the bottom line is, I’ve got twenty grandchildren, and I don’t want the boys being told that it’s OK to get shit on penises, ‘cos that’s what it’s about.

The scene then moved to Bristol, and the Carmel Christian Centre. Carmel is a Word of Faith “Prosperity Gospel” church, although this was not explored in the programme, which instead focused the church’s Carmel Christian School (officially, and weirdly, written as carmel: christian school). Here, children are taught to be grateful not to be living in Old Testament times, when people were punished by God by being turned into pillars of salt, and the American science textbook expounds Young Earth Creationism. A description of the 1969 moon landing includes the detail that:

When scientists eagerly studied the moon soil and moon rocks, they found that the moon appeared to be about 6,000 to 10,000 years old.

The school’s headmaster, David Owens, was happy to accept the “fundamentalist” label, but reluctant to admit on camera that he actually believed this, instead mumbling about not being a scientific expert and there being more than one theory. He was, though, pleased with the political climate:

We’re Ofsted [the UK schools inspectorate] inspected, we’re government registered. We believe it’s the time for us – a time when people like Tony Blair opened the door in this whole debate of faith schools.

Schools such as this have been the focus of some controversy, as I noted here.

The most significant activist, however, was shown to be Andrea Williams, Public Policy Director of the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship. We saw Williams organise an anti-abortion rally next to Parliament, where her efforts to present a dignified protest were slightly thwarted by a man ranting about repentance and heckling against counter-protestors from none other than the eccentric self-styled nun Sister Ruth Augustus, who has an amazing talent for popping up in newspapers and on TV (I blogged her here). Williams also worked hard to shift away some BNP members left over from a previous protest in the same space.

Williams enjoys some political connections, and she was shown meeting Lord Tebbit and liaising with Nadine Dorries MP. Dorries is well-known for her strong anti-abortion views, and her push for the legal limit to be reduced to twenty weeks is currently under political consideration (Dorries’ reliance on emotive images has come under critical scrutiny, particularly her use of a photo which she claims shows a fetus grasping a surgeon’s hand while the mother underwent an operation). Related to this is a campaign to “defend the embryo”, as Parliament debates hybrid embryo research (as of writing Parliament has just a few hours ago rejected a ban). Protestors – again near Parliament – donned animal masks, as if the research were going to be undertaken by Dr Moreau.

With the help of Jeffrey Ventrella of the Alliance Defense Fund, Williams has also fought a few legal battles on behalf of Christians: two cases mentioned were that of Andrew McClintock, a magistrate who says he was forced to resign due to his opposition to gay adoption, and Lydia Playford, the schoolgirl who fought for the right to wear a “Silver Ring Thing” “purity” ring at school. Williams is also keen to warn Christians about the dangers of Islam, and one LCF event gave a platform to Sam Solomon, a former Muslim who teaches that Muslims are brainwashed to hate, and that the situation in Nigeria shows that hospitable Muslim neighbours are likely to become killers. However, Williams was reluctant to say much herself about Islam besides her view that it was a “false religion”, and she also only very reluctantly admitted to believing the world to be about 4,000 years old.

Throughout the programme, comic relief was provided by Stephen Green, who first gained media attention protesting against performances of Jerry Springer: The Opera. Green and his small group of followers hand out leaflets at gay pride events, and sing hymns and pray at a site in east London which has been earmarked as the location for the controversial “mega-mosque”. Green believes that Allah is Satan, and that Islam will lead to civil war in the UK. He comes across as rather unbalanced: one minute he is chatting and joking with the documentary-maker, the next moment he becomes aggressive, forcing away the camera and complaining about “persecution”. In one particularly bathetic moment in Brighton, just as he offers up a prayer a seagull leaves a prominent dropping on the front of his shirt; Green is not amused, and he demands that the documentary-maker not make fun of him – perhaps the fact that certain internet scoffers insist on nicknaming him “Stephen ‘Dog Shit’ Green” after he compared Jerry Springer to treading in dog excrement meant that this touched a raw nerve.

The documentary claimed that the fundamentalist movement has two million followers in the UK, which seemed to me rather exaggerated. Most British evangelicals do not wish to be associated with the US “religious right” or with “fundamentalism”, and the movement as a whole is better represented by the likes of moderate leaders such as Steve Chalke or Jeff Lucas. Green in particular looked like a figure from another age, his followers holding placards with Biblical slogans that were designed decades ago and doubtless baffle most people who see them. However, we also saw Williams speaking to a roomful of Elim Pentecostal leaders, urging them to become more involved in politics. The LCF has been around since 1852, and she has clearly steered it into an aggressive direction; might she not convert some other Christian groups?

UPDATE: The programme is on YouTube in five parts, here, here, here, here and here.

UPDATE 2: carmel: christian school is profiled in the Bristol Evening Post.

27 Responses

  1. Excellent and very useful write up of the programme.

  2. Dear Richard

    Your have a Phd. Where is it from and in what subject?

    Regards Gary

  3. Why, if I may ask?

  4. There’s absolutely no chance of these people getting any political leverage in this country whatsoever, so one has to wonder what Channel 4 was hoping to achieve with this film.

    Mr Modell repeatedly stated that their views were “offensive”, without explaining why. At one point he seemed to be implying that Andrea Williams thought that Islam was Satanic, having apparently confused her views with those of Stephen Green. Her actual position, that Islam is a “false religion”, is almost certainly one that Mr Modell himself shares (unless he is actually a secret Muslim with a hidden agenda and did not see fit to make the viewer aware of this). Given that he was clearly intent on making a documentary geared towards the thesis that Christianity is a false religion it’s hard to see where the “offence” might lie.

    So he managed to get footage of a tiny number of anti-abortion protesters. Some of them were a bit noisy, though not nearly as noisy as the pro-abortion protesters who were a good deal younger and who vastly outnumbered them. So where does the real political muscle of the future lie? And why not make a documentary full of crude people making foul-mouthed remarks about Christianity? Just googling “Nadine Dorries” would give Mr Modell plenty of material.

  5. […] Williams of Christian Concern for our Nation on a number of issues (I blogged Williams a week ago here) – Unity at Ministry of Truth has dubbed him as “God’s own Max Clifford”. Williams, […]

  6. […] meanwhile, is a specialist in “religious liberty” issues, and he works closely with the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship and the US Alliance Defense […]

  7. […] links with the US Christian Right’s Alliance Defense Fund, and which I blogged on here. He also represented Emily Mapfuwa in her failed case against the Baltic Centre for Contemporary […]

  8. […] claimed that all Muslims are “hateful” and “practice deception“. You also receive assistance and financial support from the Alliance Defence Fund, who campaign against gay adoption […]

  9. […] (who gives anti-Muslim presentations to the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship, as I blogged here) and a ministry called “Maranatha” are the other supposed targets. The author then […]

  10. […] a Muslim book he’s been using as evidence of a Islamic conspiracy; Solomon provides alarmist briefings for the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship worthy of Walid Shoebat. Possibly related posts: […]

  11. […] blogged on Christian Concern for our Nation here. The “Jezebel Spirit” is supposedly a demonically-prompted attitude of rebellion […]

  12. […] present was Andrea Minichiello Williams of the Christian Legal Centre, whom I blogged on here; Caroline Petrie, a nurse who was famously suspended after offering to pray over a patient; […]

  13. […] Team” after Meeting Held by US-Based “College of Prayer International”Documentary Looks At UK Christian Right « Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion on Anti-Gay Nun Grounded on ShetlandJames on BNP Rev Robert West “Doubts” […]

  14. […] links with Ventrella and the ADF were noted in a 2008 Channel 4 documentary which I blogged here. Ventrella’s background is discussed on this Americans United page: Jeffery J. Ventrella, the […]

  15. […] CCFON’s links to the ADF, were first noted in a 2008 Channel 4 documentary, which I blogged here. I also blogged on recent the meeting at Exeter College here. It is fair to say that the CCFON […]

  16. […] lying, and shamelessly. Lying to the voters, and – if she’s sincere in her supposed religious faith – before […]

  17. […] with Christian Right lobby groups such as CCTV, and the church has hosted the anti-Islam speaker Sam Solomon. I actually visited his church once, in early 2003; I recall he prophesied an easy victory in […]

  18. […] I’ve blogged on Stephen Green before, although MediaWatchWatch has the most extensive background. He is something of an ineffectual and clownish character, and he featured in the 2008 Dispatches documentary on the UK Christian Right. I blogged on this at the time. […]

  19. […] as observed on television. In 2008 I wrote a blog entry about a documentary in which he featured; I noted that He comes across as rather unbalanced: one minute he is chatting and joking with the […]

  20. […] blogged on the Channel 4 documentary here; Christian Concern (at that time called “Christian Concern for Our Nation”) in turn has […]

  21. […] Rabbi Jonathan Hausman, and Sam Solomon, author of The Mosque Exposed (I blogged on Solomon here – he’s based in the UK and has close links with Christian Concern); in Tennessee, Wilders […]

  22. […] YouTube video is an upload of a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary which I discussed here. Mensch is not mentioned in the press release, but presumably she is being targeted for supporting […]

  23. […] Concern is hostile to Islam, in particular promoting Sam Solomon‘s polemics; however, an alliance with the highly politicised and conspiracy-mongering US […]

  24. […] Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship was formerly represented by Andrea Minichiello Williams, who today heads the Christian right lobby-group Christian Concern; last year, Leach took part in a […]

  25. […] threat to the church” (in 2009 Wrigley took part in a meeting on the subject with Sam Solomon and Patrick […]

  26. […] Christians’ religious freedom in the UK (without going as far as Carroll’s claims) is Christian Concern. Paul Diamond, who is “Standing Counsel” to Christian Concern’s associated […]

  27. […] Concern is probably the nearest thing in the UK to an American-style “Christian Right”  lobby group; it has links with the Alliance Defense Fund, and last year it co-hosted a conference in London […]

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