Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The High Court's decision on Christian Advertising on the radio

London Christian Radio Ltd and Anor v Radio Advertising Clearance Centre (RACC) and Secretary of State for Culture

The High Court has upheld the refusal of the broadcasting regulator to clear an advertisement for transmission on the grounds that it offended the prohibition on political advertising. This restriction, said Silber J, was a necessary one for the purposes of Article 10(2) of the European Convention. The purpose of the ban on political advertising was to protect the public from the potential mischief of partial political advertising, and the views of the advertiser, as to whether an advertisement was political, were irrelevant.

Read article at:

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Lord Carey on Christianity

Lord Carey says worshippers are being “vilified” by the state, treated as “bigots” and sacked simply for expressing their beliefs.

The attack is part of a direct appeal to the European Court of Human Rights before a landmark case on religious freedom. In a written submission seen by The Daily Telegraph, the former leader of more than 70 million Anglicans warns that the outward expression of traditional conservative Christian values has effectively been “banned” in Britain under a new “secular conformity of belief and conduct”.
His comments represent one of the strongest attacks on the impartiality of Britain’s judiciary from a religious leader.
He says Christians will face a “religious bar” to employment if rulings against wearing crosses and expressing their beliefs are not reversed.
Lord Carey argues that in “case after case” British courts have failed to protect Christian values. He urges European judges to correct the balance.
The hearing, due to start in Strasbourg on Sept 4, will deal with the case of two workers forced out of their jobs over the wearing of crosses as a visible manifestation of their faith. It will also take in the cases of Gary McFarlane, a counsellor sacked for saying that he may not be comfortable in giving sex therapy to homosexual couples, and a Christian registrar, who wishes not to conduct civil partnership ceremonies.
Lord Carey, who was archbishop from 1991 to 2002, warns of a “drive to remove Judaeo-Christian values from the public square”. Courts in Britain have “consistently applied equality law to discriminate against Christians”.
They show a “crude” misunderstanding of the faith by treating some believers as “bigots”. He writes: “In a country where Christians can be sacked for manifesting their faith, are vilified by State bodies, are in fear of reprisal or even arrest for expressing their views on sexual ethics, something is very wrong.
“It affects the moral and ethical compass of the United Kingdom. Christians are excluded from many sectors of employment simply because of their beliefs; beliefs which are not contrary to the public good.”
He outlines a string of cases in which he argues that British judges have used a strict reading of equality law to strip the legally established right to freedom of religion of “any substantive effect”.
“It is now Christians who are persecuted; often sought out and framed by homosexual activists,” he says. “Christians are driven underground. There appears to be a clear animus to the Christian faith and to Judaeo-Christian values. Clearly the courts of the United Kingdom require guidance.”
He says the human rights campaign has gone too far and become a political agenda.
Keith Porteous-Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, said: “The idea that there is any kind of suppression of religion in Britain is ridiculous.
“Even in the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to religious freedom is not absolute – it is not a licence to trample on the rights of others. That seems to be what Lord Carey wants to do.”

Taken from: Telegraph

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Thinktank Report: Religion and Politics

Religious people are more likely to be leftwing, says thinktank Demos. Research undermines commonly held view that faith group members are more conservative. See comment on the Guardian:

Court attendance and religious obligations

This week, in a 4-3 judgment, the Court ruled against a violation of the freedom of religion of Mr. Sessa, a lawyer and member of the Jewish faith, unable to attend a court hearing scheduled on Yom Kippur. The case is Francesco Sessa v. Italy. After two recent steps forward in freedom of religion cases the Court with this case takes several steps back. Fortunately, the dissenting opinion leaves the door open for future reasonable accommodation cases.

See rest of comment from Strasbourg Observers:

Access to Religious Site in Cyprus

"UN expert urges end to restrictions on access to religious sites on divided Cyprus

NICOSIA, Cyprus — More needs to be done to allow worshippers free and unfettered access to religious sites on the ethnically divided island of Cyprus, a U.N. expert said Thursday.
Heiner Bielefeldt, the U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief, said the situation has improved some after crossings linking the island’s minority Turkish-speaking north and its majority Greek-speaking south were opened nine years ago.
This has allowed Muslim Turkish Cypriots to visit holy sites in the south, and Orthodox Christian Greek Cypriots to do so in the north. But Bielefeldt, who presented the preliminary findings of his eight-day fact finding mission, said restrictions are still in place, especially where religious sites are situated in military-controlled areas in northern Cyprus.

“Freedom of religion ... is a right, not an act of mercy,” said Bielefeldt, a human rights professor at Germany’s Erlangen-Nurnberg University and a former director of Germany’s National Human Rights Institution.

The Mediterranean island was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Turkish Cypriots declared an independent state in 1983, but it is only recognized by Turkey, which maintains 35,000 troops there. The island joined the European Union in 2004, but membership benefits are enjoyed only by the internationally-recognized south. Talks aimed at reunifying the island have made little progress since they began in 2008. Bielefeldt said the island’s approximately 2,000 Maronite Christians are still prevented from visiting some churches and cemeteries in northern villages because they are within Turkish military zones. He also said derelict Orthodox Christian churches and cemeteries across the north, including areas such as the northeastern Karpas peninsula have been vandalized, looted or left to crumble.

“Vandalism is unacceptable, terrible, and it hurts people’s feelings, and that was very clear when I had the opportunity to talk to people in the Karpas region,” said Bielefeldt.
He said Muslims living in the south expressed concern at the lack of religious education and a lack of funding for the maintenance of mosques and cemeteries. He criticized Cyprus authorities for deporting asylum seekers — especially of the Baha’i faith — despite risks that they will be persecuted for their religious beliefs. Bielefeldt also urged Greek Cypriot education authorities to incorporate more information in the school curriculum about different religions and beliefs."

Taken from:

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Religious freedom

"Do we want freedom from religion or freedom for religion? Professor Derek Burke, former Vice Chancellor of UEA, examines the arguments presented in Norwich recently by Prof Roger Trigg.

A recent letter to The Times (March 19, 2012), from Tom McIntyre, described one view of the present situation: “But … already nurses can lose their livelihood if religious conscience forbids them to help with abortions. Innkeepers are prosecuted if religious conscience forbids them to accommodate gay couples. Adoption agencies have to close down if religious conscience forbids them to allow gay couples to adopt children in their care….. Religious conscience has no rights.”

This was the issue addressed by Professor Roger Trigg of Oxford University at the 2012 Keswick Hall Lecture at the University of East Anglia on March 21. Indeed, as Western Europe becomes more secular, will religion be seen as purely a private affair, which should not have any direct influence on public life?

Recently the remains of an unknown Saxon woman, buried in 680 AD, was found to be wearing a cross. So we know she was a Christian, but for how much longer? The courts have recently said that wearing a cross is not an obligation of Christian faith – we can choose to wear it or not – and since some might object, crosses should not be worn. Surely, Roger Trigg argued, we should allow those who want to do something which matters very much to them to do it, even though we might disagree?

The Council of Europe has said that separation of Church and State is ‘one of Europe's shared values’ (not true of course), and that religious principles must not limit human rights. Roger Trigg argued that such categorical statements must be challenged; otherwise they will be accepted by default. Surely religion is a foundation of human rights, so “secular rights” should not trump “religious rights”.

Roger Trigg argued that religious freedom must protect all those who have religious views, of whatever religion. We not only have a right to believe, but a right to manifest this belief; for a false distinction has been drawn between core belief, which is private, and it’s manifestation, which is public, and so subject to the State. This is why wearing a cross has been rejected and these ideas are also influencing both the current debate on marriage, and that over Sunday working, where the State’s needs, defined in purely commercial terms, has trumped religious objections.

Why is all this happening? He suggested that it is because religion is seen as outmoded, even as a threat, to be fenced around, and kept at the margins. Religion too claims a higher authority and that also might be why it is politically unpopular. Roger Trigg instanced recent work in Oxford that shows that growing children think religiously first – their default position is theism. Roger Trigg claimed that religion is a part of what it is to be human and for this reason religion should be protected, not trumped by other views.

To summarise, freedom of religion is more than freedom to worship, and religion is more than the formal practice of worship, because inevitably it will affect the public debate. We have to decide in the UK whether we want freedom from religion, like France, or freedom for religion like the US? All faiths have a common agenda here."

Ghana: Cultural and religious beliefs and human righst abuses

The Deputy Minister of Women and Children’s Affairs, Hajia Hawawu Boya Gariba, has reiterated Ghana still has a general problem with religion and culture leading to human rights abuses.

“We still have to go further to achieve the needed empowerment of women by educating the girl child and get women in certain positions to help in the development of the country” she said.

Speaking in a telephone interview on Joy News TV’s pm: EXPRESS programme, the Deputy Minister noted that the number of witches camps in northern Ghana have increased to about six within a short space of time, a development she describes as very alarming as their existence infringes on the rights of women and children.

In some parts of the Northern region, there is a belief that blames the causes of famine and outbreak of diseases such as meningitis on witchcraft with mostly women being accused of causing the outbreaks.
See story:

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Defamation of Religion: Free Speech Debate

Three human rights experts scrutinise the defamation of religion, which they argue misses the point by protecting faith rather than the often vulnerable holders of faith.

Dr Nazila Ghanea, a lecturer in international human rights law at the University of Oxford, tells Free Speech Debate that the UN resolution on the defamation of religion was “hugely problematic” because it protected faith rather than minorities. “It doesn’t protect freedom of religion or belief in any way shape or form as captured in international human rights standards,” says Ghanea. Agnes Callamard, executive director at Article 19, argues that the debate over the resolution intensified after the September 11 attacks in the US. “It was a complete product of 9/11, the war on terror and the civilisation conflict that played itself out in Geneva in the human rights council,” she says. Susan Benesch, a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute, adds that in her experience there is a divide between religious individuals who often conflate their religion with themselves and others, such as herself, who see a clear distinction.


Fillm banned for blasphemy now released

The only film ever banned in Britain for being blasphemous is to be released in its original, uncut form after more than two decades.

Suu Kyi in Parliament

BY Holly Williams, in Wah Thin Kha

Burma's opposition party claims Aung San Suu Kyi has won a seat in parliament after voters took to the polls in the country's by-elections.
The 66-year-old former political prisoner spent 15 years under house arrest as punishment for opposing the country's military regime.

Her release in late 2010 saw thousands of people take to the streets in Rangoon, Burma’s biggest city and former capital, in a spontaneous celebration.

Today Ms Suu Kyi visited several polling stations in Kawhmu - the constituency in which she is running.

 Dressed in red - the colour of her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) -and wearing flowers in her hair, the Nobel peace prize winner chatted with voters.

Kawhmu is a poverty-stricken farming area just an hour outside Rangoon. Many local people live in flimsy bamboo huts and scrape a living growing rice and beans.

In the village of Wah Thin Kha voters began queuing shortly after dawn.

"I love her because she's so brave," said one voter, Aye Fu Hlaing

Another, Saw Hein Min Zan, said: "I voted for Aung San Suu Kyi because I trust her. I hope she can help fix problems like healthcare and education."

The NLD has 44 candidates running in a total of 45 seats being contested.

Aung San Suu Kyi
Supporters chanted the name of Aung San Suu Kyi

Ms Suu Kyi has complained of "irregularities" during the campaign, including the intimidation of candidates, and says the polls will not be free or fair.

Nevertheless, many Western governments hope the by-elections will be an important step towards democracy in Burma, not least because greater reform would allow them to relax sanctions on the country.

Economic sanctions have trapped the Burmese in poverty and isolation. Ms Suu Kyi favoured them, however, as a way of pressuring the regime.

In 2010 Burma held general elections that were widely regarded as rigged. Critics say the military-backed government is simply the former junta changed into civilian dress.

But since then hundreds of political prisoners have been released, the country is enjoying greater freedom, and Aung San Suu Kyi - the regime's former enemy - has been permitted to run for parliament.