The Guardian’s ever-lively online Comment web page poses the question: “Are Christians persecuted in the UK?“. This one looks like it’s set to run. For what it’s worth, I don’t actually think so. However, the opening salvo from that article is as follows:
The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, has called on the silent majority of Christian Britons to stand up for their heritage, in a climate of mounting, if petty persecution. He cites the cases of Jennie Cain, suspended as a primary school receptionist after asking friends to pray for her when her five-year-old daughter was upbraided for “talking about Jesus” in school; and of Caroline Petrie, a nurse suspended for offering to pray for a patient. He also mentions a foster mother struck off because one of her charges converted from Islam to Christianity. Other cases include the Bible relegated to the top shelf of Leicester libraries, and the primary school head in Sheffield who took early retirement after a row involving separate assemblies for Muslim children.
I have only been aware of a few of the cases cited in that article. However, from what I’ve read online. So, for example, here is The Freethinker’s report on the Jennie Cain case (The truth about ‘persecuted’ Christian Jennie Cain), in which the incident doesn’t sound terribly cut and dried in favour of case of a Christian persecution. Apparently her daughter “Cain’s darling little angel had scared the s*** out of a classmate with threats of eternal damnation”, and Cain herself was suspended for firing off a wild series of accusatory emails. The case of Caroline Petrie was one that upset a number of people. The fact was that nurses find themselves in a position of power over their patients. They are apparently prohibited from making offers of religious actions like this – I suggest partly because patients might be upset, either because of what it might be meaning in terms of disease progression, or because if they make a fuss it might impact on the future relationship with the healthworker. Either way, the nurse knew, or should have known the rules and ought to have obeyed them. Again, there’s The Freethinkers take on the story: Christian nurse Petrie’s problem was a pickle of her own making. Both Cain and Petrie seem to be pushing their belief system on others who may not share it, and in so doing created their own problems.
The fostering story is interesting. As I understand it, fostering is a more temporary arrangement than adoption, and one might have thought that children would firstly be fostered in a culturally relevant environment, and secondly ought not at the age of 16 be exposed to influences that would their cultural belief. I’m not of the opinion that conversion from Islam to Christianity is necessarily a good thing, particularly if the individual child ultimately is to be returned to her family, and I don’t think the protests indicate persecution of Christians.
Julia Robinson, the Sheffield head teacher, resigned (or may have been pushed) after moving to abolish separate assemblies for muslim kids. In actual fact it seems to be that the legal requirement is for assemblies of a broadly christian nature, and any devaiation needs special permission – usually for cases where the majority of kids are islamic (or presumably some other faith). One might actually suggest that the time has come to lose all religious assemblies in schools, though I imagine the C of E and RC schools would receive suggestions they cease indoctinating kids rather poorly.
All this makes it seem as though really Christians aren’t particularly picked upon, let alone persecuted. Certainly not enought to justify the final paragraph in that piece: “No one who reads these threads can doubt the existence of anti-Christian hatred in this country.” Surely a bit strong?
As several comments on the Guardian site point out, as the established church the C of E enjoys several advantages not open to other faiths, including the Head of State, their seats in the House of Lords, access to government funding, having the opportunity to run all the best schools on a religious basis, tax breaks, compulsory acts of religious worship in various venues…I suggest the complaining Christians give it a rest, and recognise what real persecution is.