In the CS Lewis’ Screwtape Letter, a senior demon writes to his junior that:
Any small coterie bound together by some interest that other men dislike tends to develop inside itself a hothouse mutual admiration and toward the outer world a great deal of pride and hatred.
Even when the little group exists originally for the enemies own purposes this remains true. We want the church to be small not only that fewer men may know the enemy but also that acquire the uneasy intensity and defensive self-righteousness of a secret society or clique.
The church itself is of course heavily defended and we have never yet quite succeeded in giving her all the characteristics of a faction.
This now seems prophetic. Screwtape would be delighted to see the Christians who’ve become convinced they are victims of Christianophobia.
In one of the first posts on this blog I discussed how a majority of Christians believed themselves to belong to the most discriminated against community in Britain, even though statistics on hate crimes indicated otherwise.
We saw this week a particularly striking example. Premier Radio, a Christian broadcaster, was challenging a ban on airing an advert that read:
Surveys have shown that over 60% of active Christians consider that Christians are being increasingly marginalised in the workplace. We are concerned to get the most accurate data to inform the public debate. We will then use this data to help make a fairer society. Please visit CCPmagazines.co.uk and report your experiences.
Various lower courts had ruled this fell foul of the ban on political adverts on TV and Radio. Premier appealed claiming that the purpose of the advert was to not to promote a political objective but gather information. The Court of Appeal rejected this because there was an implicit political message within the advert. At no point was it suggested that a non-Christian group in an analogous position would have been treated differently. In fact, the case law on this point was developed in a case involving an animal rights group. However, in their press release relating to the judgement they still labelled this “an attack on freedom of speech for Christians.”
This is just the latest example of how the court cases tangled in the controversy over Christianophobia don’t bear out the idea that the law discriminates against Christians.
- The courts are quite prepared to uphold the religious rights of Christians. For example, finding for a BA employee banned from wearing a cross because it contradicted the airline’s brand image and a man demoted for voicing opposition to equal marriage on his personal facebook page.
- When they don’t there’s a clear rational for not doing so. For example, a nurse isn’t allowed to wear a crucifix lest it come into contact with open wounds and a civil registrar has to perform civil partnerships despite her religious objections because a council was entitled to expect its employees to treat customers equally.
- It’s a canard that Christians are treated differently from other faiths and especially Muslims. Courts have allowed employers to ban the wearing of veils in the workplace.
- Discrimination law already gives religious organisations including Christian ones more latitude than secular ones.
What we are hearing in the cry against imagined ‘Christianophobia’ is not a horror of discrimination but a demand for it. It assumes that Christian’s beliefs are legal ‘trump cards.’ So that rather than balancing their rights with other considerations, they should be preeminent. This reached its bizarre apogee with a former Archbishop of Canterbury – albeit George Carey – demanding special courts to deal with religiously sensitive cases.
Why I found this dispiriting – and guess Screwtape would be delighted – is that this is not what the Church should be about. Surely its a distraction from its proper role of proclaiming the gospel and fighting for justice. It also seems that demanding special favours for its members will sap its moral authority.