Christians have been banned from giving their opinion. You could be next
British government ban on Christian radio ad upheld
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Britain’s Court of Appeal upheld a ban of a radio ad this week that had initially been banned by the then Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and the Radio Advertising Clearance Centre on the grounds that it was directed toward a political end. Media political advertising is not permitted in the UK.
The ad, by Christian Community Partnership (CCP), asked people to identify if they had experienced discrimination in the workplace as a result of their faith. CCP publishes several magazines as well as owning Premier Christian Radio, the national broadcaster that was to carry the commercial.
Subsequently CCP took out a full page ad in the Daily Telegraph saying “Premier Christian Radio believes this is a bad day for democracy and a very bad day for everyone’s Freedom of Speech. Christians have been banned from giving their opinion. You could be next.” They then print the entire content of the 30-second ad, originally scheduled for broadcast during the election season in 2010.
Surveys have shown that over 60% of active Christians consider that Christians are being increasingly marginalised in the work place.
The ad said: “We are CCP. Surveys have shown that over 60% of active Christians consider that Christians are being increasingly marginalised in the work place. 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.”
As reported by the Christian Institute; The Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, said in his decision that the advert was “directed to the political end of making a fairer society”, which is against broadcasting law.
Oh my gosh! Shock! Horror! It is against broadcasting law to attempt to make a fairer society. This, according to the Court of Appeal is a political objective because after all, we should have the right to have an unfair society even if we’re not allowed to have a say in it! The hypocrisy of this decision is astonishing.
However, the decision was not unanimous. Lord Justice Elias said in dissent: “The only issue is whether, considered objectively and by focusing solely on the advertisement, the listener is being subjected to a partial political message…. The fact that the purpose is to enable the advertiser in future to seek to exert such influence and operate as a more effective pressure group does not in my judgment amount to an infringement of [the statute]. If an advertisement does not itself constitute a partial political message, why should it be banned?”
The episode clearly illustrates how Christianity is continually marginalized in the UK. Whilst the government frequently bends over backwards to accommodate minority groups, Christians are routinely harangued and told to be quiet as they are denied the rights afforded to others.
Institutional discrimination against people with Christian faith
Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of Christian Legal Centre, weighed in on the matter in her usual brilliant way: “It’s startling that such an innocuous ad, set to be broadcast on a Christian radio station, should be deemed unlawful. It’s clearly an attempt to gain information for the laudable aim of creating a fairer society. There is no attempt in the advert to persuade anyone to adopt a particular political position. The court’s decision is chilling, as well as bewildering. We have seen Christian adverts being banned in other areas whilst those of other special interest groups have been allowed. We’ve seen TV adverts for abortion clinics, bus ads by humanists claiming there is probably no God, and bus ads by a gay campaign group telling us to ‘get over it’. Christian adverts in response to the ‘get over it’ posters were not allowed. There now appears to be a clear asymmetry in how Christian messages are being treated by advertising standards bodies.”
This last sentence is the most disturbing and if Williams is right, that there is a clear asymmetry in how Christian messages are treated, it is evidence of the need for parliamentary legislation to guarantee that Christian speech is protected on the grounds that there is institutional discrimination against people with Christian faith.
It is ironic that this is the nation that runs the Church of England, the mother church of the 80 million member Anglican Communion of which its own Sovereign is head, is yet engaged in a systematic persecution of its members.
However, Britain’s current leadership will likely engage in exercise of duck and cover rather than address the problem. Prime Minister David Cameron and his cabinet will likely try to explain away the events as devolved powers each performing their duties independently. What the government should do is get out of the business of regulating free speech.