The Spectre of Radical Christian Fundamentalists In Britain

When it comes to the mainstream media in the UK, The Daily Telegraph is about as conservative as it gets. So when it comes to running an article on conservative evangelical Christians, what sort of thing can we expect from the Telegraph? I dare say it would shock American readers.

To help promote long-time Telegraph photojournalist David Modell’s contribution to the Channel 4 TV programme Dispatches, they’ve run a story about his discovery of Christian fundamentalists. You want to scare Brits? Start an article with something like:

“They think society should be built on their beliefs. They claim non-believers are damned.”

Oooooh…. It’s like something out of horror film. Christians who believe they should have an active faith-based input into politics and they think you have to be a Christian to go to heaven. But it’s worse:

“But these radical Christian groups are not in America – they are here and are aiming to change the laws of our land. . .”

So not only are they politically active “born-again types” – they’re in Britain! And I’ve reduced the font size of these quotes from the original, just so you don’t get too frightened. But it gets worse. They even have Christian schools based on this sort of curriculum. What sort of horrible indoctrination is taking place? Well, here’s what David Modell found when he visited one such school:

One little girl has to do a science test. A classroom assistant kneels next to her, takes her hand and says: “We pray, Father, that you’ll help her check all her spellings. In Jesus’s name, Amen.”

The test is multiple choice. Question five is: “God made the world in [BLANK] days.” The options are “five, six or seven”. The six-year-old carefully writes “six”. The right answer.

This scene would be surprising enough if the school were in America’s Bible Belt, but the voices around me are English, and we’re in Bristol.

Can you believe it? Prayer for help with spelling? What is the difference between this and children being trained as suicide bombers by Islamists? David Modell doesn’t think there is any. Besides, you start praying about spelling tests and who knows what you’ll be praying for next? For everyone to play safely and not get hurt during recess? For God to heal people and makes them better? They’ll start believing that God actually answers prayers, and then where will they be? And remember, the worst thing of all is that they are English.

American readers – at least my regular American readers and most non-liberal Christians in the US – will probably still wonder if I am making this up. I wish I was. The school in Bristol using Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) curriculum is a frightful thing to secularist, modernist Britain. After all, they, and schools using similar curriculum like the Alpha Omega based school from which I graduated those many years ago, are very mainstream in America. But then again, in America, the idea that Jesus saves is not radical, revolutionary, or dangerous.

David Modell is most worried because these people (remember, not stupid Americans, but actual British people) think the Bible is (shhh….) true. You know, literally true. “Not all evangelical worshippers hold such hard-line beliefs, but the fundamentalists will almost certainly describe themselves as evangelical.”

What’s worse (as if it could get any worse) not only are they teaching their children this stuff, they are getting involved in politics. Modell looks at Christian Action Research and Education (Care) – an organisation featured in the Independent, about which I commented at the end of March. What’s so scary about them?

The organisation’s published doctrinal basis is distinctly fundamentalist and among other things talks of “the divine inspiration of Holy Scripture and its consequent entire trustworthiness and supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct”. In other words, the Bible is the literal truth.

The Bible is trustworthy? Could British people actually believe such a thing? And these people are lobbying Parliament?

Where does David Modell think this is leading? He attends a seminar in Islamic fundamentalism. “But another thing strikes me while listening to [the] depiction of Islam as a dangerous fundamentalist belief: he could be describing the beliefs of the Christian fundamentalists I’ve met.” Yes, Britain will soon be a Taliban-style repressive theocracy. Like America, apparently.

The Not-So-Independent View of Christians Working in Parliament

Back in 1992 when I was a visiting law student in London, I interned with a Conservative backbencher. I got the job because of my pro-life credentials. I wrote to the sister of a family acquaintance, but since she had been elevated into the Government of the day and was not allowed unpaid interns, she referred me to another Tory MP who was very active in the pro-life movement.

Thus, I was quite interested to read in the Independent today that a Christian pro-life charity has been sponsoring interns to work at Westminster. Of course for the left-wing Independent, this is a rather dastardly thing. This is particularly bad since it is “allowing them unrestricted access to Westminster in the run-up to highly sensitive and potentially close votes on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Bill next month.” Never mind that Christian Action, Research and Education (Care) has run the internship programme for 10 years.

There is no suggestion that Care has actually done anything wrong. The only thing the Independent found to exploit is that two of the twelve members of Parliament who have Care interns failed to note them as such in the main register of members interests. It is not a lack of public record as to their sponsorship. The interns themselves have registered this. The paper even admitted, “There is no suggestion of wrongdoing on the part of any of the MPs who employ Care research assistants.”

There is not even any evidence that Care-sponsored interns are lobbying MPs about the HEF Bill or anything else. It’s just that they could.

The Independent knows that Care is an evil organisation because it campaigned against the repeal of the infamous Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988. Section 28 banned the promotion of homosexuality in schools. It also campaigned against assisted suicide in the House of Lords (or what the Independent likes to call “assisted dying”). Why didn’t the Independent mention that Tom Harris has a staffer who is Parliamentary & Campaigns Officer for the pro-euthanasia activist group Dignity in Dying? Or for that matter, that Bob Laxton employs the Chief Executive of the Birmingham Brook Advisory Centre, an organisation that promotes abortion?

And the Independent does not mention that there are members with staff who are sponsored by other organisations with political agendas – it’s just that the agendas are more fitting with the views of the Independent. For example, Michael Clapham employs someone registered as “Independent Parliamentary and Political Consultant” and lists eight organisation as clients. Natascha Engel has a staff member who is Parliamentary and Campaigns Officer for the Terrence Higgins Trust, an HIV charity which encourages promiscuity as a partner of Playzone: “We’re working in partnership with gay venues to improve conditions and make your play safer.” Eliot Morley has a staffer who is “Parliamentary Consultant, Network for Animals”. Fabian Hamilton has a staffer who is involved as Parliamentary liaison/research for the trade union Amicus. Lindsay Hoyle employs one of their Policy Officers. Doug Henderson employs the National Political Officer of the GMB union. Diana Johnson employers a Regional Manager for Unison. Edward O’Hara employs two staffers who are Parliamentary Assistants for Age Concern. I know this is a fairly innocuous organisation, but it is a lobbying group nonetheless.

Or how about the fact that Michelle Glidernew and Martin McGuiness of Sinn Fein have staff on the register at all? Neither has taken their seat since being elected, because they won’t take the oath of allegiance. However, Sinn Fein’s press office assures me that they are entitled to public money for this and most everything else, just like any other MPs.