Baroness Cox Highlights “Persecution of Christians in the United Kingdom”

ASSIST News Service reports from the House of Commons:

A consultation entitled “The Persecution of Christians in the United Kingdom” was held in the Attlee room of the House of Commons on June 3, 2009. It was hosted by Dominic Grieve QC, Conservative Member of Parliament for Beaconsfield, along with Baroness Caroline Cox, a former speaker of the House of Lords.

Cox appears to have defined “persecution” rather broadly:

Speaking to the participants Baroness Cox said that Christian students in Britain had a spiritual vacuum. “They do not know the names of the gospels and the disciples of Jesus,” she regretted.

She said the Christian students feel uncomfortable when they are asked about the “crusades” by their Muslim peers.

Baroness Cox added that she was of the view the Christian students would not be ashamed while discussing crusades if they are apprised of “400 years of Islamic aggression.”

She called for an end to giving concessions to Muslims in Britain. Terming the Cross as “our heritage” Cox categorically condemned incidents involving forced removal of crosses and pictures of Christ.

Criticizing the establishment of Sharia courts in Britain she said: “They are operating in the country without any particular public debate or discussion on the issue.” She alleged that mosques where polygamous marriages have been performed are not even registered in Britain…She came down hard on the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowans Williams for acquiescing to the Muslims’ demand of setting up Sharia courts in Britain.

So, “persecution” includes the fact that Christian students are apparently too lazy to consult their own holy book, and that they’re not spoonfed a triumphalist take on the Crusades (part of a revisionist trend which I blogged here). And stories of enforced secularisation are also somehow the fault of Muslims. Even the Shariah issue is botched: rather than there being no “particular public debate or discussion on the issue”, there was a firestorm of controversy. But how is that “persecution” of Christians, however else such courts may be undesirable? (Shariah courts have gained some power by using a clause in the 1996 Arbitration Act, which allows for private  third-party arrangements in civil disputes; the Act was not created with Muslims or any other religious group specifically in mind)

Also 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; Kwabena Peat, a teacher who was suspended after opining to the organisers of a training day on gay equality that homosexuals risked the “wrath” of God; and Ashar Mall and Nobel Samuel, a couple of evangelists to Muslims who have been subjected to threats and violence.

This does not seem to me to be a very impressive affair – a hotch-podge of grievances that mixes together criminal acts by extremist Muslims with instances of what appear to be overzealous applications of anti-discrimination laws, with some general and irrelevant tut-tutting about secularisation thrown in for good measure. Doubtless this is good for stirring up resentment, but to what end? It’s generally agreed that people should be free to follow their religious consciences (an ongoing concern in Britain for centuries), but also that people should not be subjected to religiously-inspired harrassment or discrimination (regarded as particularly desirable since the extensive socio-cultural changes of the 1960s). Getting the balance right is apparently proving difficult, but Cox seems less interested in making a serious contribution to how we can do it better than in using the problem to whip up anti-Muslim feeling (she has links to Geert Wilders).

This “consultation” has come in the wake of a call from the Archbishop of York for Christians to “wake up” and oppose instances of anti-Christian discrimination, and a call from Julian Brazier MP for a debate in Parliament. The Telegraph recently reported that:

The first poll of Britain’s churchgoers, carried out for The Sunday Telegraph, found that thousands of them believe they are being turned down for promotion because of their faith.

One in five said that they had faced opposition at work because of their beliefs…

Employers have been given new advice in a campaign, funded by the Government’s equality watchdog, that says people who evangelise in the workplace are “highly likely” to be accused of harassment.

The guidelines have been drawn up by the British Humanist Association (BHA), an atheist group, with the help of a £35,000 grant from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), a taxpayer-funded body.

The BHA responded to this article here.