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BBC highlights squeeze on Christian street preachers

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BBC highlights squeeze on
Christian street preachers

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

A BBC report has highlighted some of the religious liberty issues facing Christian street preachers.

Listen to the report

An extract from BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme, broadcast on 23 August 2009. Visit the BBC’s website to listen to the entire programme.

The report, featured on Radio 4’s Sunday programme this weekend, included a recording of a recent incident where a street preacher was told by police officers that it is a criminal offence to identify homosexuality as a “sin”.

They said this to Andy Robertson, an evangelist with the Open-Air Mission (OAM), even though he had never mentioned homosexuality in his preaching.

Mark Jones, an employment lawyer who specialises in religious liberty issues, told the programme: “Giving offence of itself is not against the law.

“There is no protection that I may have from somebody simply walking up to me in the street and saying something that I might disagree with or I might be offended by.”

Mr Robertson is not alone in encountering problems while preaching in public.

Earlier this month it was reported that a street preacher had been arrested after reading out Bible passages in Maidstone, Kent.

Last summer a street preacher in Birmingham was arrested after he had mentioned homosexuality while preaching about sin and its consequences.

The Christian Institute’s Mike Judge told the Radio 4 programme why more cases like this are taking place.

He said: “I think the reason for this increase has been there is a diversity and equality agenda that doesn’t seem to allow for Christians to express their faith in a way where other people may disagree with them.”

He said that sensitivity about issues such as minority faiths and sexual orientation has put police officers and local authorities “under huge pressure to be seen to be responding”.

He added that “sometimes you get over-zealous public officials who want to step in and say, ‘you can’t say that because someone might be offended’, and that over-zealousness is I think part of the problem”.

Another evangelist with the OAM was recorded for the programme as he preached in Hounslow, West London.

Tim Whitton told the reporter: “Our approach generally is just to speak but not shout, to be friendly”.

He said the aim was to make sure that “if anyone is ever offended, they’re offended by the message of the Bible, rather than by anything that we’re doing”

Receptionist takes school to court over prayer row (from www.christian.org.uk)

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Receptionist takes school
to court over prayer row

Friday, 21 August 2009

A primary school receptionist from Devon is taking legal action against her employers after they disciplined her for asking friends to pray about the school’s treatment of her daughter. 

Archive: a BBC news report (Feb 09)

Lawyers representing Jennie Cain have lodged papers with Exeter employment tribunal claiming that she has suffered religious discrimination, harassment and victimisation.

The claim is brought against the governing body of Landscore Primary School and the school’s head teacher Mr Gary Read. A claim is also brought against Devon County Council for aiding the discrimination.

Mrs Cain’s daughter Jasmine was attending the school. In January this year, then aged five, she was reprimanded by her class teacher for talking about her Christian faith to another child.

The school has said the five-year-old had frightened another child by talking about hell.

It has since come to light that the conversation between the children was never witnessed by any adult and took place around October time the previous year.

On hearing that her daughter had been reprimanded for expressing her faith, Mrs Cain sent a private email to church friends and family asking them to pray about the incident.

The email was sent from Mrs Cain’s home computer, outside work time, using her personal email account.

But the email ended up in the hands of head teacher Gary Read who launched an investigation against Mrs Cain for professional misconduct.

A panel of school governors decided to discipline Mrs Cain by issuing her a final written warning. This was reduced to a written warning on appeal.

However, the legal papers lodged with the Employment Tribunal claim that the decision to discipline Mrs Cain is part of ongoing hostility to her Christian faith by her employers.

The legal papers also claim that the governors sitting on the appeal panel had wanted to remove the warning from Mrs Cain’s record completely but were blocked from doing so by staff from Devon County Council’s Human Resources Department.

It is further claimed that school’s disciplinary procedure was not properly followed.

Mrs Cain was told to stay away from work for four months. The legal papers claim that, upon her return to work, Mrs Cain has continued to suffer religious discrimination and harassment. She also suffered victimisation on account of her taking legal action.

The Christian Institute’s Mike Judge said: “We support Jennie’s decision to take legal action.

“Her case is important because it highlights a wider problem. I am sad to say that a number of Christians, particularly those who work in the public sector, have been disciplined for expressing their faith.

“If Jennie was from a different religious background I believe her employers would have handled her situation differently.”

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Christian carer struck off after Muslim girl converts

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A Christian foster carer has been struck off because she allowed a Muslim child in her care to convert to Christianity.

The girl, in her late teens, was interested in exploring Christianity before she was placed with the foster carer.

But when the girl decided she wanted to be baptised, council officials said her carer had failed in her duty to preserve the girl’s religion and should have used her influence to prevent the baptism from going ahead.

They said the girl should stay away from church for six months, and later struck the carer off the fostering register.

The carer, who has over ten years experience looking after more than 80 children, is now challenging the local authority’s decision.

Her case is being backed by The Christian Institute’s legal defence fund. Neither the carer nor the girl can be named for legal reasons.

The carer is a practising Christian, and made it clear to the girl when she arrived that she could continue to practice her Muslim faith if she wanted to.

In assessments before the baptism, the authorities said the girl’s emotional needs were being met, and noted that the carer was showing understanding and respect for the girl’s culture.

The carer’s lawyers say there was no evidence that the change in the girl’s religion would harm her, and argue that the authorities failed to listen to the girl’s views.

The carer, an Anglican who attends a local evangelical church, said: “I did initially try to discourage her.

“I offered her alternatives. I offered to find places for her to practise her own religion. I offered to take her to friends or family. But she said to me from the word go, ‘I am interested and I want to come.’ She sort of burst in.”

The carer said that the girl’s social workers were fully aware that she was going to church and had not raised any objections.

The girl had told her auxiliary social worker of her plans to convert before she was baptised in January last year, and the social worker had appeared to give her consent.

The Christian Institute’s Mike Judge said: “All people should be free to change or modify their religious beliefs. That surely must be a core human right in any free society.

“I cannot imagine that an atheist foster carer would be struck off if a Christian child in her care stopped believing in God. This is the sort of double standard which Christians are facing in modern Britain.

“In recent months we have seen grandparents, a nurse, adoption agencies, firemen, registrars, elderly care homes – and now a foster carer – being punished because of the Christian beliefs they hold. It has to stop.”

The carer’s solicitor Nigel Priestley said: “There is no doubt that the event that provoked the council was the decision by the girl to be baptised.

“This girl was 16 and has the right to make this choice, so for the council to react in this way is totally disproportionate. Even at this late hour, we hope that the council will resolve the issue.”

A council spokesman said: ‘From the details provided, we believe that this information relates to a child who is the subject of a final care order in favour of the council. In those circumstances, we are unable to pass any comment.”

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