Sunday, 31 October 2010

Fulcrum: Framing the Anglican Covenant: Trick or Treat? A Response to Inclusive Church and Modern Church

The propaganda on the Anglican covenant produced by Inclusive Church (IC) and Modern Church (previously MCU) and published in the church press reveals a most frightening development in contemporary Anglicanism. Two of the Church of England groups most associated with an appeal to reason have demonstrated themselves to be incapable of reasoned argument. They have also revealed themselves so hermeneutically challenged when faced with a relatively simple and short text whose contemporary context is well known that, did I not know some of the groups’ leaders, I would conclude they were deliberately misrepresenting the situation and framing false charges just in order to rally their troops and engender fear in those relatively uninformed of the covenant’s background and content.

The advertisement’s distorted account of the covenant brought to mind Mrs Thatcher’s perception of Europe as described in Geoffrey Howe’s famous resignation speech - a “nightmare image...conjured up by my right hon. Friend, who seems sometimes to look out upon a continent that is positively teeming with ill-intentioned people, scheming, in her words, to "extinguish democracy"”.

We are presented with a vision of the covenant as an oppressive mechanism which will be used against us by such dangerous elements as “neo-Puritans” and “Anglicans in other parts of the world”. It has allegedly “been kept so quiet” because it will “impose restrictions on any future church developments which another province opposes”, “make the Church of England subject to an outside power for the first time since Henry VIII” and “subordinate” General Synod to “new centralised authorities” in order to “make Anglicanism more dogmatic” instead of “Classic Anglican theology’s balance of scripture, reason and tradition”.

Every one of these claims and every answer to the seven questions IC & MCU ask is flawed, at best incomplete, often simply erroneous. Read more

Police given advice on arresting witches and pagans

It is Hallowe'en and the witching hour is drawing nearer, but don't be alarmed – police officers are on the case, having been issued with official guidance on how to deal with witches.

The advice is contained in a 300-page "diversity handbook" which gives officers a range of "dos and don'ts" when approaching followers of a range of religions and other beliefs, from atheism to Zoroastrianism.

Instructions include avoid touching a witch's "Book of Shadows", which contains their spells, or handling their ceremonial dagger.

The online handbook also advises officers not to jump to conclusions if they encounter a situation where a blindfolded, naked person is tied by their hands – they could merely have stumbled upon a pagan ritual, where such activities are normal practice. Read more

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Investigation reveals thousands of bogus church weddings may have taken place

Thousands of bogus weddings may have taken place in Anglican ceremonies throughout the country, an investigation by The Sunday Telegraph has uncovered.

One vicar said he had been instructed by the Church to conduct marriages even after he warned officials that he believed they were bogus.

A senior Government source accused Church officials of failing to take sufficient steps to stop bogus marriages, which can grant foreigners the right to stay in Britain and claim benefits.

The investigation found that the issuing of marriage licences, required for foreigners to marry in church, has almost trebled in five years. Church figures show that the number of common licences issued rose from 1,650 in 2004 to 4,632 last year. Read more

Chelmsford Cleric accuses Church leaders of ignoring his warnings over sham marriages

Waiting for the bride at the altar, Fr Tim Codling began to realise that something wasn't quite right when he saw her at the back of the church pulling her wedding dress out of a black bin-liner.

In full view of everyone present, she proceeded to change into the dress. It became clear it was twice her size as she walked down the aisle, struggling not to trip over it and with the sleeves hanging down to her knees.

As she stood next to the groom, there was not only an obvious lack of affection, but more alarmingly a complete lack of recognition.

"It was as if they'd never met each other before," says Fr Codling, rector of St John the Baptist in Tilbury, Essex.

"Looking back now, I realise that they probably hadn't."

The wedding was one of dozens of marriages at his church that he believes were part of a scam designed to allow immigrants to gain British citizenship. Read more

Pagans celebrate Halloween as part of the country’s newest religion

In a riverside meadow in the Dorset town of Weymouth, a witch is using a broom to sweep a sacred circle in the grass.

The rest of the coven stand, some in hooded gowns, in a circle around an iron cauldron where a fire is burning.

They've met to celebrate Samhain, pronounced "sah-wen": the turning of the year from light into dark.

Many think of Halloween as a time of ghouls and ghosts, and for some retailers it has become the third most lucrative event of the year.

It is the time of year when some churches remember the souls of the departed.

For the witches of Weymouth it is one of their most important religious festivals, a time when they believe the barriers between the physical and spiritual worlds are at their thinnest.

They invite the spirits of north, south, east and west into the circle, and cut apples to share with the spirits of people who have died. Read more

Is Halloween Evil?

[...] Sure it is, if it involves the glorification (or, worse, the trivialization) of things satanic, and playing nasty pranks on neighbours who simply forgot to pick up a bag of sweets earlier in the day. Beyond that, a community dress-up involving opening our doors to each other and giving sweets to kids in fancy dress is a lovely idea. It might even build friendships in a society hungry for community.

For my part, I am sad that Halloween no longer has much to do with honouring the faithful departed and learning from their example. But that shouldn’t stop believers from making it so. The Anglican Book of Common Prayer of 1662 has the perfect Halloween prayer: “And we also bless thy holy Name for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear; beseeching thee to give us grace so to follow their good examples, that with them we may be partakers of thy heavenly kingdom.”

One last thing. I’m not sure that Christmas in the wider Australian context is any more pleasing to the Almighty? If there are grades of sins, I reckon the Aussie worship at the shopping mall in the build up to Christmas and the consequent neglect of the poor until we’ve paid off the credit card are much more ‘satanic’ than allowing our kids to dress up as goblins. And what is a goblin, anyway? Read more

Haunted houses: Got ghosts? A little daily exorcise should help

[Ed: Note at the bottom in the list of "What to do if you think you've got ghosts", Ask the vicar Most dioceses have a designated house-cleanser (oh, all right, exorcist). If yours hasn’t, contact the Church of England (020 7898 1000)]

The scene is a dark basement in an 18th-century town house, built on the site of an ancient monastery, within the walls of Berwick-upon-Tweed.

A couple is busy doing routine DIY tasks, when suddenly they put down their tools. A cacophony of banging is coming from upstairs. And that’s strange, because there’s no one else living in the house.

“At first, we thought the noise must be coming from next door,” says Cate McKeon. “Then we realised it was coming from our kitchen.

“So we ran upstairs, and when we got to the kitchen, we found the cupboard doors, about a dozen of them, all standing open at right angles. Yet they had been closed when we went down to the basement. It was inexplicable.” Read more

Muslim man told Skype divorce joke stands

The ruling, made in an online fatwa by the Darul Uloom Deobandi seminary in northern India, regarded as one of Islam's leading authorities on religious law said that the woman would have to first marry another man before she could remarry her first husband.

The man, from Qatar, wrote to the seminary following his Skype joke to seek clarification.

"Jokingly typed 'talak, talak, talak' (I divorce thee, I divorce thee, I divorce thee) to my wife on Skype chat. I don't understand Islam very much and did not know about how talaq works. We love each other very much and want to be together but right now [we are] caught in this thing. Want to know a way out," he wrote.

His hopes of a "way out" were dashed when the seminary issued a fatwa confirming his wife must first remarry another man, consummate the marriage, and then divorce him before she could be allowed to remarry her first husband. Read more

Friday, 29 October 2010

Chelmsford Diocesan Evangelical Association meeting, Saturday 30th October 2010

Science, psychology and same-sex attraction: what does the research actually say?

Meadgate Church, Meadgate Avenue, Great Baddow, Chelmsford, CM2 7LJ

Saturday 30 October: 10.00 to 1.00
Coffee from 9.30, please bring a packed lunch. Non-members: £3.00.

Glynn Harrison is emeritus professor of psychiatry at Bristol University. 'Evidence' from scientific studies is quoted in debates about human sexuality. We will look at how it is used and misused on all sides of the debate and ask how insights from biology and psychology can be integrated within an orthodox Christian framework for the ordering of human sexual desire.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Who won the General Synod elections and what hope for women bishops?

[...] There are still a large number of issues to be thought about and resolved. We still need a more thorough debate on theology, and indeed on Reform’s claims that the opposition is from scriptural grounds. (Other evangelicals strongly disagree.) But to decide so far ahead of time how you will vote on a measure which has not been presented in a final form, suggests an incapacity or unpreparedness to listen and debate. For if minds are already made up along party lines, even on issues we have not yet discussed, then what is the point of Synod? All we would need to do is to assemble the tribes and count the numbers.

In fact, in my own twenty–three years as a member of General Synod, this is not what happens. The real work goes on in the interaction of those who disagree, in the exposure of people to views and outlooks which are different from their own. It is in the readiness to hear the Bible through the presentations of others that understanding is developed. It is in the listening and weighing up of the argument where decisions are best made. It is in the openness with which we concede that none of us has the whole truth, for that belongs to God alone, that humility and generosity begin to flourish. Read more

Monday, 25 October 2010

Facing the axe: Diocese that has twice as many Muslim worshippers as Anglicans

A historic Church of England diocese where Muslim worshippers outnumber Anglican churchgoers by two to one is set to be scrapped.

According to sources, the Dioceses Commission is drawing up proposals to axe the cash-strapped Diocese of Bradford in Yorkshire and merge it with neighbouring Ripon and Leeds.

Some are pressing for both dioceses to be subsumed into the adjoining Diocese of York, to create a ‘superdiocese’ under Archbishop of York John Sentamu, the Church’s second-most powerful leader.

The first major shake-up of dioceses for almost 100 years could also see senior ­bishops replaced by lower-paid juniors, and ­millions of pounds shaved off central administration costs.

Read more

An ungodly row: Dawkins sues his disciple

Josh Timonen was one of a small coterie of young protégés around Richard Dawkins, sharing his boss's zealous atheism. But now he and the evolutionary theorist have fallen out spectacularly. Professor Dawkins's charity has accused Mr Timonen of embezzling hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The two atheists had become close in recent years, with Dawkins, the best-selling author and Emeritus Professor of Biology at Oxford University, even dedicating his latest book, The Greatest Show on Earth, to him. But Mr Timonen and the Dawkins foundation are now preparing for a legal wrangle.

The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, has filed four lawsuits in a Californian court alleging that Mr Timonen, who ran its online operation in America, stole $375,000 (£239,000) over three years. It is claiming $950,000 in damages, while Mr Dawkins is suing him for $14,000 owed to him personally. Mr Timonen strongly denies the allegations. Read more

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Archbishop of Canterbury moves to flush out Anglicans plotting to defect to Rome

In a surprise announcement, Dr Rowan Williams said he wanted to establish a new joint group of Roman Catholic and Church of England figures to oversee the conversion process.

The proposed group would be designed to enable smooth and less painful transition for those who want to leave the Church of England to become Roman Catholics in protest at the ordination of women bishops.

It would also bring into the open the negotiations between disaffected Anglicans and the Vatican which have been taking place in secret for months.

Dr Williams’s suggestion came in his first public remarks since a parish in Kent and a London bishop announced their intention to accept the Pope’s offer to convert to Roman Catholicism. Read more

Archbishop Rowan Williams: "Despite challenges, Anglican Communion life is strong"

The mutual life of the Anglican Communion is “quite strong and perhaps getting stronger” according to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.

In an interview with The Hindu newspaper, Dr Williams indicated that the state of the Communion was not as black as some have painted it. He called it “a very mixed picture.” Read more

Geert Wilders hate speech trial collapses in Netherlands

The hate speech trial of the controversial far-right Dutch leader, Geert Wilders, collapsed in disarray at the last minute today when the panel of judges in the case were deemed to be biased. A retrial was ordered.

Wilders, who is enjoying soaring support at home and propping up a new minority anti-immigration government established last week, has been in the dock since earlier this month on five charges of inciting racial and religious hatred for his robust denunciations of Islam as fascist and demanding the Qur'an be banned.

During the trial he has been lionised as a modern-day Galileo as well as branded a "little Hitler". Today was the final scheduled day of the trial, with the verdict from the panel of three judges at Amsterdam district court due next week.

But in the past 48 hours it emerged that one of the appeal court judges who ordered Wilders to stand trial had dinner in May with a potential witness, a Dutch expert on Islam, and that the judge had sought to convince the professor of Arabic studies why Wilders had to be prosecuted. Read more

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Google must name YouTube cyber bullies

A US court has ordered Google to reveal the identities of anonymous YouTube users who posted unauthorised videos of a business consultant with offensive comments about her.

The company, which owns YouTube, has two weeks to provide Carla Franklin with the users' identities and contact information.

Franklin said she hoped her case would help others with similar problems. "The internet cannot become a safe haven for harassers and stalkers," she said in an email after Tuesday's ruling.

Google declined to comment, saying it did not discuss individual cases to protect users' privacy. Read more

Hardliners call for deaths of Surrey Muslims

Islamic extremists have started openly calling for the destruction of a controversial Muslim sect in a major escalation of sectarian conflict within British Islam, an investigation by The Independent has revealed.

Members of the Ahmadiyya Community have seen a significant upsurge in threats and intimidation over the past four months, sparked by an extremist attack on two of their largest mosques in Pakistan earlier this year.

Hardline Islamists in Britain have been distributing leaflets calling for the murder of AhmadiMuslims in Kingston-upon-Thames whilst mosques have been vandalised in Newham and Crawley. Preachers in south London have also been orchestrating a boycott of Ahmadi businesses and Ofcom has had to reprimand an Islamic satellite channel for repeatedly calling the sect "Wajib-ul Qatal" - an Arabic phrase used to describe those who digress from mainstream Islam that translates as "liable for death". Read more

Somali schoolboy tells of how Islamists cut off his leg and hand

He has learned to button his shirt using only his left hand, to roll his sleeve with his teeth, to balance on his right foot in the shower. He cannot forgive, though he is desperate to forget. But at night his dreams betray him.

This is how it happened, Abdulle told the Guardian. He was a prisoner in an insurgents' house in Mogadishu, lying on his side, one hand chained to his ankles. He was 17, with fluff on his cheeks and unspeakable fear in his heart. Three other young men were with him – Jalylani, Ali, Abduqadir.

A guard, from the Islamist group al-Shabaab, which is trying to overthrow the Somali government, gripped his shoulder. "Ismael Khalif Abdulle, come with me." Read more

Penguins are not gay, they are just lonely

The homosexual behaviour of male king penguins has already been noted in zoos.

Now in a new study, scientists have found the evidence of male pairs in the wild. The research found that more than a quarter of the colony in Antarctica were in same sex partners, mostly two males.

In the past, it was claimed that penguins could not discern between the sexes because they looked alike. Male pairs in zoos in the US and Germany have hatched and reared ‘adopted’ chicks.

However the new study by the Centre for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology in Montpellier, France found that the penguins are only pairing up with other males because they are “lonely”. Read more

Will the cuts change the role of women?

[...] So, one of the consequences of the shrinking state outlined today may be that women stay at home rearing children and building the "Big Society" instead of going out to work. Whether that is a good thing, a bad thing or a "fair" thing will be hotly debated. Read more

Monday, 18 October 2010

How radical Islam seduced the academics

[...] Vice-chancellors and their staff do not engage in robust debate with extremists and try to show vulnerable students the moral and intellectual virtues of liberalism because they are frightened. By far the most revealing comment on Abdulmutallab did not come from Philippe Sands or Malcolm Grant but from UCL's professor of English, John Sutherland.

He described how a friend of his, "an eminent scientist", strolled in to take a look at an art exhibition organised by the UCL Islamic Society. "'Was he a believer?' asked an obviously Muslim student. 'No,' replied my friend, 'he didn't believe in any god, as it happened.' 'Then,' the young man confidently informed him, 'we shall have to execute you.' My friend laughed it off after lodging a mild complaint. It could, of course, have been Abdulmutallab who made the threat."

I am willing to bet that the laughter of the eminent scientist was of the tinny and nervous variety. I will wager further that equally tinny and nervous laughs are being heard on campuses across Britain. Read more

Army chief demands Channel 4 cancels Prince Harry kidnapping documentary

[...] The programme includes scenes showing the Prince, played by actor Sebastian Reid, being held behind enemy lines while negotiations are carried out to free him.

At one point he is shown having an unloaded gun pointed in his face before one of his captors pulls the trigger and he is also made to appear in Taliban and al-Qaida propaganda.

A Channel 4 spokesman said that the broadcaster intended to go ahead with the film, which is scheduled to be shown this Thursday at 9pm, despite Sir Jock’s protests.

“We have written to Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup replying to his concerns. The film is rooted in expert testimony and is a serious journalistic examination of a current issue. It treats the subject matter sensitively,” said the spokesman.

“It is a legitimate subject for documentary to explore the risks that Prince Harry faces as a high value target, and to seek to understand the full nature of the dangers to a royal in the modern theatre of war as well as the political implications of a high profile kidnap.” Read more

Church of England parish sings battle hymns as it plans move to Rome

In the church of St Peter on the East Cliff in Folkestone, Kent, this morning, the sermon was of battles. It was the Trafalgar Day service – marking the 205th anniversary of Nelson's victory this Thursday – so, with many old sailors in the congregation, Camperdown was mentioned and Lepanto, the Glorious First of June and other long-gone actions at sea.

But it was another battle, in a different sort of see, that was clearly uppermost in the mind of the priest, Father Stephen Bould: his parish may be the first to defect wholesale from the Church of England to Rome following Pope Benedict XVI's offer of a safe harbour for Anglicans disaffected by their church's decision to allow women priests to become bishops.

Bould told his ageing flock: "It is a battle we are fighting now. Let's fight it with flair, imagination and spirit."

The high-Anglican Victorian church on the cliffs above the port has become the scene of the latest twist in the Church of England's agonizingly drawn-out wrestle over women's ministry, 16 years after its first female ordinations. Read more

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Church of England is fascist and vindictive, says bishop defecting to Rome

The Rt Rev John Broadhurst, the Bishop of Fulham, accused the Church of England of breaking promises to make provisions for opponents of women's ordination.

He warned that the Pope's invitation to disaffected Anglicans to join the Catholic Church would appeal to traditionalists dismayed at their treatment.

His comments came as a parish in the Archbishop of Canterbury's own diocese became the first in the country to announce that it would defect to Rome, with one parishioner declaring: "The Pope's offer was the answer to our prayers."

St Peter's Church in Folkestone, Kent, has decided to join the Ordinariate, a system designed by the Vatican to allow Anglicans to convert while maintaining parts of their heritage.

Bishop Broadhurst, who announced his decision to resign on Friday, predicted that many more would leave the Church of England in the months ahead. Read more

Anglicans' regret over bishop's conversion to Rome

A traditionalist Anglican group has voiced regret after an Anglo-Catholic bishop said he would convert to Rome.

The Bishop of Fulham, John Broadhurst, has become the fourth Anglican bishop to make the announcement.

He intends joining the Roman Catholic Church because of his opposition to the way the Church of England plans to introduce women bishops.

Meanwhile, a Kent Anglican congregation has become the first to take up the Pope's offer to convert to Catholicism. Read more

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

The left has to start asserting its own values

(And Christians might carry on doing the same - ed).

[...] Common Cause proposes a simple remedy: that we stop seeking to bury our values and instead explain and champion them. Progressive campaigners, it suggests, should help to foster an understanding of the psychology that informs political change and show how it has been manipulated. They should also come together to challenge forces – particularly the advertising industry – that make us insecure and selfish.

Ed Miliband appears to understand this need. He told the Labour conference that he "wants to change our society so that it values community and family, not just work" and "wants to change our foreign policy so that it's always based on values, not just alliances … We must shed old thinking and stand up for those who believe there is more to life than the bottom line". But there's a paradox here, which means that we cannot rely on politicians to drive these changes. Those who succeed in politics are, by definition, people who prioritise extrinsic values. Their ambition must supplant peace of mind, family life, friendship – even brotherly love.

So we must lead this shift ourselves. People with strong intrinsic values must cease to be embarrassed by them. We should argue for the policies we want not on the grounds of expediency but on the grounds that they are empathetic and kind; and against others on the grounds that they are selfish and cruel. In asserting our values we become the change we want to see. Read more

In Holland, Free Speech on Trial , By AYAAN HIRSI ALI

(Originally from the Wall Street Journal)

Imagine if a leader within the tea party movement were able to persuade its members to establish a third political party. Imagine he succeeded—overwhelmingly—and that as their leader he stood a real chance of winning the presidency. Then imagine that in anticipation of his electoral victory, the Democrats and Republicans quickly modified an existing antidiscrimination law so that he could be convicted for statements he made on the campaign trail.

All of this seems impossible in a 21st-century liberal democracy. But it is exactly what is happening in Holland to Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders.

Read more

Monday, 11 October 2010

Bishop of Chelmsford: Together we will be a transforming presence and make Christ known.

The Right Reverend Stephen Cottrell has been legally confirmed as the new Bishop of Chelmsford.
Bishop Stephen has said: “The Archbishop of Canterbury has asked me to be loyal and faithful in seeking to lead God's church in this diocese, and ensure that, together, we are a transforming presence in every community, and that we make Christ known. I look forward to beginning this ministry with you and ask for your prayers.” Read more

Gender pay gap progress 'grinding to a halt'

[...] Total household wealth of the top 10% in society was almost 100 times higher than for the poorest 10%, while one in five people lived in a household with less than 60% of average income.

The report also suggested that men and women from the highest social class could expect to live for up to seven years longer than those from lower socio-economic groups; and black Caribbean and Pakistani babies were twice as likely to die in the first year of life as Bangladeshi and white babies.

The report also said that conviction rates for rape were "stubbornly low", that obesity was on the rise, and that two-thirds of gay, lesbian and transsexual secondary students said they had been bullied.

Mr Phillips said: "This review holds up the mirror to fairness in Britain. It is the most complete picture of its kind ever compiled.

"It shows that we are a people who have moved light years in our attitudes to all kinds of human difference, and in our desire to be a truly fair society, but that we are still a country where our achievements haven't yet caught up with our aspirations."

He said that 21st Century Britain faced "the danger of a society divided by the barriers of inequality and injustice". Read more

The left should recognise that equality is undesirable

(Ed: I managed both to agree and disagree with this article, so thought it worth posting.)

In the early days of New Labour it is said a media adviser whispered into an ambitious minister's ear after an interview: "We don't say equality, we say fairness." The former reeked of socialism – all taxes, empowerment schemes and regulation. The latter was as inoffensive as a scented candle. Everyone can agree to be fair – which is the problem.

A fairness boom is under way. Two parties used the word in their election slogans. In their conference speeches Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and David Cameron all promised to pursue fairness. In his new book Will Hutton argues we should do the same. Tomorrow the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) publishes a 700-page report entitled How Fair Is Britain?, which turns out to be only partly about fairness – in the sense of discrimination – but about inequalities of outcome too.

The fashionable flag under which to fly this autumn, however, is the F-word. And it's too unspecific. Cuts aren't fair. Student fees aren't fair. Benefits aren't fair. Welfare scroungers aren't fair. Cancer isn't fair. Britain isn't fair. We're being asked to judge our society on a vague and catch-all value, and we fail. It simply isn't fair. Read more

Saturday, 9 October 2010

George Soros warns China of global 'currency war'

Mr Soros, the hedge fund manager best known as the man who broke the Bank of England” after he made a billion betting against the value of Sterling on Black Wednesday in 1992, said the China had created a “lopsided currency” system.

He criticised China for deliberately keeping the yuan - its currency - low in order to keep exports cheap, which is hurting US competitors.

Mr Soros told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that China had a “huge advantage” over international competitors because it can control the value of its currency.

He said China could also influence the value of other world currencies because they have a “chronic trade surplus”, which means the Chinese have a lot of foreign currencies. “They control not only their own currency but actually the entire global currency system,” he said.

Writing in the Financial Times, Mr Soros added: “Whether it realizes it or not, China has emerged as a leader of the world. If it fails to live up to the responsibilities of leadership, the global currency system is liable to break down and take the global economy with it.” Read more

Thursday, 7 October 2010

First female priest to serve Christ Church in Warley and St Mary's in Great Warley

THE first female priest to be appointed to a historic parish is ready and waiting to convert any sceptics sitting among her congregation.

The Rev Ellen Goldsmith has been licensed by the Bishop of Bradwell to be the first woman to serve Christ Church in Warley and St Mary's in Great Warley, but not all her flock were in favour of appointing a lady.

A close vote of St Mary's parochial church council saw them agree to a woman preacher while Christ Church had already given a green light to the principle, which to this day is opposed by some in the Church of England on "theological" grounds.

This, however, opened the door for Mrs Goldsmith to be appointed associate minister and join her husband and parish vicar, the Rev Chris Goldsmith. Read more

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Monday, 4 October 2010

Outrage as agony aunt tells TV audience 'I would suffocate a child to end its suffering'

Television pundit Virginia Ironside prompted outrage yesterday after saying she would suffocate a child to end its suffering.

Shocked BBC viewers complained after the agony aunt said she would hold a pillow over the face of a child in pain.

Minutes earlier the controversial writer said 'a loving mother' would abort an unwanted or disabled baby, and praised abortion as 'a moral and unselfish act'.

Miss Ironside said: 'If a baby's going to be born severely disabled or totally unwanted, surely an abortion is the act of a loving mother.'

She added: 'If I were the mother of a suffering child - I mean a deeply suffering child - I would be the first to want to put a pillow over its face... If it was a child I really loved, who was in agony, I think any good mother would.'

Read more

'Hate' trial for far-right politician Wilders

Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders went on trial for alleged hate speech today, even as his popularity and influence in the Netherlands are near all-time highs.

Prosecutors say Wilders incited hatred against Muslims with remarks comparing Islam to Naziism and by calling for a ban on the Koran. Wilders argues that he has a rightjavascript:void(0) to freedom of speech and his remarks were within the bounds of the law.

If convicted, he faces up to a year in prison. He could keep his seat in parliament.

On his Twitter account, Wilders said the start of his trial was a "terrible day". Read more

Saturday, 2 October 2010

As schools lose charitable status, Druids are recognised for charity tax-breaks

If it were not so laughable, you might weep with incredulity. At the very time when private schools are losing their charitable status because of Labour's overhaul of a new 'public benefit' test, minority religions like Druidry, which has just a few hundred adherents, are being officially recognised and granted tax breaks because their activities are deemed to fulfil the requirements of the Charity Commission.

How can it be that the provision of education - which is, ipso facto, a public benefit to the country - has ceased to be of public benefit unless schools spend thousands on bursaries and fee remission, while prancing around Stonehenge at the summer solstice and hugging trees whilst listening to Enya - which are, de facto, minority pursuits of benefit to no-one - are now judged to be of benefit to the wider public?

The Charity Commission for England and Wales, the quango that decides what counts as a genuine faith, has effectively just added another tick-box to the 2021 census form. And if it is not there, there will be cries of 'discrimination' as they refuse to be classified merely as 'other'. Read more

Friday, 1 October 2010

'I faked religion to find a school'

Odious, despicable, hypocrite – those are just a few of the words that have been used to describe me since the publication of my book School Daze: Searching for Decent State Education. My sins? There are two, according to my critics.

The first is that I faked being a Christian to get my children into the local Church of England primary school. My plea: guilty. I am an atheist, but for at least two years before my son reached primary-school age I went along to the local church, along with my wife. And so it came to pass that our son got the school place.

My mitigation is this: whose fault was it that we had to go to church to get our son into the local primary school? I didn't choose the selection criteria that meant that half the places were reserved for churchgoers, thus discriminating against local families who did not follow this particular brand of religion. This was not a situation of my choosing. I went to church under duress, because that was the only way to be sure of a place, even though that school was literally the other side of the road from our house. I didn't pretend to be a Christian for several years because I wanted to offend anyone, or because I thought it was fun – I promise you it wasn't. I did it because I wanted my son to attend the local state primary school. Is that too much to ask? Read more