Christian Bookshop Row over “Anti-Catholic” Claim

From the religious news desk of the Daily Express:

AN UNHOLY row has broken out after the Protestant owner of a Christian bookshop refused to sell a bible to a woman – because she is CATHOLIC.

Muriel Swan, 61, was told she should “get the Pope to open a few bookshops for her” after she was turned away from The Mustard Seed Christian Bookshop.

She went to the shop to look for a gift for her eight-year-old grandson Cameron for his first Holy Communion.

But she was left cross when, she claims, staff told her they didn’t stock Catholic literature and goods – despite advertising themselves as a Christian bookshop.

…Defiant owner Chris Stala defended her store and said Muriel should “get the Pope to open a few bookshops for her”.

The story has trickled up to the national media from the Nottingham Post, which has posted a short video of Swan making her complaint outside the shop. According to Swan, the shop’s owner specifically stated that the Mustard Seed is “anti-Catholic”. However, Post also carries Stala’s response:

“We are not anti-Catholic in anyway. I am a Christian and she is too but we are part of different sects. You would not get Jehovah’s Witnesses coming here either.

…”She should get the Pope to open a few bookshops for her because he has plenty of money.”

The Express appears to have introduced a couple of distortions into the story. First, the shop did not “refuse to sell a Bible” to Swan: clearly, Swan was looking for a Catholic Bible, and probably one with a special decorative features relating to First Communion. In other words, she asked for a particular edition of the Bible that the shop did not stock. The Times, in what appears to be a further exaggeration, has headlined its own article “‘No Catholics’ in Christian bookshop”, and stated that “A woman has claimed that the Protestant owner of a Christian bookshop refused to serve her because she was a Catholic.”

Second, the Express seems undecided as to whether Swan was indeed told to “get the Pope to open a few bookshops”, or if this was a comment Stala made to the media afterwards; but the earlier Nottingham Post story makes it clear that the comment came later. However, for some reason the Express has edited out the “because he has plenty of money” part of her quote, which appears to be a jibe and is suggestive of a hostile perspective on Catholicism.

Journalistic interest in the “unholy row” (one of the most annoying clichés in journalism) does not appear to have extended to anyone actually entering the shop to browse the shelves (I haven’t been able to read the full Times article, but it seems to be derivative). It would have been fairly easy to determine if the shop has an anti-Catholic perspective; in particular, such shops tend to have a section on “cults”, and any anti-Catholic polemic will probably be found there.

The Express also quotes Swan as saying

“I’ve since found out although they are a Protestant shop but they also stock Jewish things too.”

That is not as odd as it may sound. First, there are at least two Messianic congregations in the Nottingham area; Messianic Jews accept Jesus as the Messiah and are accepted as Christians, but their style of worship retains elements of their Jewish heritage. Second, there is a trend by which some evangelicals appropriate Jewish cultural items, as an expression of philo-Semitism and in the belief that it brings their devotional practices closer to the religious world of Jesus.