By Vexen Crabtree 2013
The Christian Institute is a political lobbying organisation based in the UK. Its concerns are Christian power; it has defended high-profile Christian cases in many ludicrous cases where the only apparent concern is defending Christians (no matter what their claims are), and trying to establish exceptions from the law for Christians in general, especially from Human Rights and Equality law, and from Employment Law. Homosexuality in particular is something that the Christian Institute finds it cannot allow to be protected by anti-discrimination law. Luckily, they have lost all of its cases that I know about, apart from one involving British Airways, where BA itself accidentally caused the case to fall in the C.I.'s favour at the European Court of Human Rights.
The Christian Institute campaigned to retain Section 28 (an old anti-homosexuality law), campaigned for a higher age of consent for homosexuals, opposed the introduction of Civil Partnerships (which allow a form of marriage for homosexuals), and opposed the Civil Partnership Act which allowed gay partners to adopt children.1. Their national campaigns are often high-profile, and several reporters in the mass media reproduce Christian Institute material in their opinion pieces, giving the body a reach disproportionate to the size of their supporters. Much of the time, this kind of reporting is very poor quality and of a sensationalist nature - the amount of times "Christian persecution" has appeared in the headlines when the Christian Institute loses a gay discrimination case is uncountable.
Charities' Commission reports on the Christian Institute (accessed 2013 Feb 16, latest available) list the following Trustees of the Christian Institute:
|Mr John Burn||Chairman. See below|
|Rev. David Holloway||A trustee of other charities and church groups. Founder member of Reform, an evangelical pressure group within the Church of England, and in the 1980s proposed that bishops should face a "heresy test"2.|
|Rev. George Curry||A trustee of other charities and church groups. Chairs the council of the Church Society, the leading evangelist body in the Church of England2|
|Mr Alex McNichol|
|Mr Trevor Ernest James||A trustee of some other charities|
|Rod Badams||Trustee of the Chanctonbury Evangelical Trust|
|Mr Geoffrey Fox|
|Mr Philip Robinson|
|Rev. Rupert Bentley Taylor|
|Rev. James Leggett|
|Rev. DR William J U Philip|
The Vice President (and founder) is Mr Colin Hart, an unpaid director of "Coalition for Marriage", another lobbying body that presses to prevent gays from getting married.
|2011||£2 406 104|
|2010||£1 739 107|
|2009||£1 692 151|
|2008||£1 462 134|
|2007||£1 386 578|
John Burn is a highly influential Christian creationist and the C.I. has close links with the Vardy Schools who gained infamy for their teaching of creationism in place of history - that is - they were teaching students that the Earth (and Universe) is only several thousand years old. The profile below from BCSE is out of date and the C.I. has risen to 51 employees.
The Christian Institute is now a high-profile and well-established evangelical organisation with some 12 staff and an annual income of around £700-£800k. It claims to have some 10,000 supporters. [...] Nominally, the Christian Institute has no formal links to the Vardy schools but it is clear that the informal links have been very influential from day one - not least because Burn was head of Emmanuel College. Moreover, Burn remains as a trustee of the Vardy schools and is currently Vice-Chairman of Directors at Emmanuel College (see http://www.emmanuel-schools.org.uk/hattrick.htm). Moreover, it looks clear that Burn´s 1987 approach to Vardy which eventually resulted in Emmanuel College, was prompted by Burn´s keenness to establish a school run on traditionalist and literalist biblical lines. It is also understood that the head of Emmanuel Schools Foundation, Nigel McQuoid, is a close personal friend of Burn.
“The Christian Institute was set up in 1990 as a right-wing Anglican evangelical body whose aims included promoting Christian education and Christian aims in the UK. However, the founders included John Burn who later was head of the Vardy school, Emmanuel College and still retains links with the Emmanuel Schools Foundation. It looks as if what the Institute meant by education at the time was fundamentalist protestant evangelical education with a very strong element of creationism in it. Based in Newcastle, the Institute is seen as a major player in the battle within the Church of England between the liberal and the conservative evangelical arms or the organisation.”
Registrars in Town Halls arrange marriages. They are government employees whose wages are paid for by the public, via taxes. They must therefore, treat everyone equally and without prejudice or discrimination, because they perform a service as a part of a democracy. Lillian Ladele felt that such lofty ideals were below her but lost her legal case after refusing to officiate for same-sex civil partnerships since 2005 Dec. Her battle against homosexuality caused additional complaints from her work colleagues, and by 2007 the office atmosphere was described as "deteriorated", at which point disciplinary action was brought against her. She took it to the Employment Tribunal and ironically claimed that she was being directly discriminated against and it was taken to an appeal court: "Lillian Ladele, the Islington registrar who refused to conduct same-sex Civil Partnerships on religious grounds, has been refused leave to appeal against the decision of an Employment Tribunal that she did not suffer religious discrimination at work. She has also been ordered to pay costs". Her case was funded by the UK evangelical political lobbying organisation The Christian Institute.The National Secular Society report that "Islington was also battling against considerable odds. These cases are being fought with huge determination and massive funds from evangelical Christian groups".
In 2009 the UK Court of Appeal upheld the ruling that she had not been subject to religious discrimination and BHA's Andrew Copson said "As the judgment made clear, in a modern liberal democracy, there can be no “opt out” for those who say they are unable to do their jobs because they wish to discriminate, even when that desire to discriminate derives from a religious belief. This judgment is extremely welcome"3. She then appealed yet again, now to the Supreme Court, but was refused on 2010 Mar 04. But it wasn't the end of the story! Lillian Ladele contined to fight, and the case eventually went to the European Court of Human Rights, where, on the 15th of Jan 2013, they also found that anti-gay bigotry was not excused in the public sector, not even by domineering Christians. She reinforced her irrational and prejudiced opinions with constant references to her belief in Christian beliefs, and the press have widely reported it as "Christian persecution".4
The Christian Institute's news article on the loss of the Ladele case said "Five judges rejected her claim, but two believed that she had suffered discrimination because of her Christian beliefs about marriage" which is a skewed perspective; she was not discriminated against because of her beliefs, but because of her behaviour. She was rightly fired because she was refusing to do her job. If her religious beliefs mean she puts herself under additional limits as to who she can treat equally, then, she should not choose to do a public-facing, public-sector job.
Chymorvah Hotel sits near Penzance, UK, and in 2008 its owners Peter and Hazelmary Bull refused to give a gay couple a double room, and the guests (Martin Hill and Steven Preddy, civil partners) then sued the B&B owners. Bristol County Court ruled against the prejudiced hotel owners in February 2011, finding them guilty of direct discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Their campaign was being financed by the Christian Institute (C.I.), and they continued with their case and took it to the Court of Appeal and in 2012 Feb, lost again. Simon Calvert of the C.I. said that the hotel owners had been "penalized" for their beliefs, which is untrue. They were penalized for discriminating against a gay couple - they are free to hold whatever beliefs they want, but, beliefs - and even Christian beliefs - are not justification for putting discrimination into action.5, ,6
The Christian Institute lost these cases against human rights, along with their others. Despite those losses in other cases, the C.I. helped the Bulls take their case to the Supreme Court: The Christian Institute and the Bulls lost again, when five justices ruled against them on 2013 Nov 27.7
They used various excuses - such as saying that their policy was that they only give rooms to married couples, not to civil partners, but these were rejected because civil partnerships are designed specifically to give homosexuals equal rights, so to continue to discriminate undermines the law, and, the hotel owners permitted plenty of opposite-sex couples to book into double rooms even when they signed the register with different surnames. Their concerns was clearly with homosexuality, not with the technical differences between marriage and civil partnerships. They also argued that their Christian beliefs applied in 'their home', but, it was clearly the public-facing business that was the concern. The Bulls have since closed their hotel, so will never again have to be appalled by having to treat gay customers the same as straight ones.
In 2003 March two Sefton Council workers refused to take part in adoptions for gay parents, because they say it is against their Christian beliefs. As it is part of their job to perform this civil function, they have been fairly enough been threatened with dismissal for not doing their job. The Christian Institute fought for the two Christians' cause "based on Christian principles".
"However, during the consultation on the Employment Directive [...] the Christian Institute - and other faith groups - fought for the right to sack non-Christian workers who didn't support the "ethos" of faith-based organisations that employed them. Now, it seems they think it is OK for Christian employees to undermine the ethos of secular employers and get away with it".8
The Christian Institute wants employers to be able to sack people for not having the same beliefs as themselves, Christians, but also wants Christians to be able to remain in companies despite having religious beliefs that undermine the job the employees are supposed to do. The Christian Institute is not fighting for morals, but supporting sectarianism and discrimination based on religion, and therefore undermining the stability of equal and democratic society.
You simply can't discriminate against gays, even if you do believe they're "immoral". It is illegal to discriminate, even if you do so out of religious conviction. If employers such as Sefton Council bend to the wishes of those who wish to discriminate, then, those employers are encouraging illegal (and hurtful) behaviour.
National Secular Society's Terry Sanderson summarizes the Christian Institute's story-making, and the fact that some national newspapers report these attention-grabbing distortions. Newspapers include the Daily Telegraph, Daily Express and the Daily Mail (2009 Feb 20).
The Christian Institute has argued that there aren't enough gays in the UK to justify giving them protection under law!
“The Christian Institute believe that the figures showed that the gay population is `tiny´, and therefore not worthy of being given equal rights to marry. Mike Judge of the organisation told the Daily Mail: "It is staggering that such a monumental change is being carried out on behalf of a tiny proportion of society."
But Benjamin Cohen of Out4Marriage said: "... Even if the lesbian, gay and bisexual population was as low as is claimed, why should that therefore mean that LGBT people are entitled to less rights than heterosexual people? [...] Jewish people make up less than half a per cent of the UK population. Yet as a Jew, I have the legal right to get married, for that marriage to be conducted by a Rabbi and recognised by the state, although obviously only currently to someone of the opposite sex. By the Christian Institute´s interpretation of population data, the Jewish population is presumably even more `tiny´, so presumably the Christian Institute believe that Jews should, like gay people, be denied the right to marry."”
The first few months of 2011 saw the Christian Institute's reporting take a turn for the inexplicable, as they reported and promulgated the idea that 5-year-olds were being taught sex education in schools and that parents were being kept in the dark about it. Baroness Massey of Darwen and Baroness Walmsley were singled out as the causes of this surprisingly well kept secret. It turns out however (thankfully) that the former's Education Bill amendment did not aim to do that at all, and, the latter Baroness was seemingly picked at random.
In 2011 two peers "condemned a "cruel" and "vicious" campaign against them by the Christian Institute which claimed they wanted to make personal, social and health education (PSHE) compulsory for five-year-olds. This includes education about sex and relationships.
NSS honorary associate Baroness Massey of Darwen put forward an amendment to the Education Bill calling for school inspectors to consider the wellbeing of children and report on issues such as policies on bullying and the delivery of sex education. Baroness Walmsley was not proposing an amendment at all, contrary to the Institute's accusations.
The Christian Institute issued misleading and inaccurate information in an attempt to derail the amendment. This included writing to members of the House of Lords, trying to manipulate the Bill debates. During the debate, Lady Massey said: "Never in my time in this House have I known such a sinister and vicious campaign that has sought to misinform others. Noble Lords will have received hundreds if not thousands of letters, sent to your lordships taking up your time and energy and I find this deeply regrettable."
Lady Walmsley added that: "The Christian Institute recently sent out a letter in which they claimed that I would be laying an amendment to make PSHE compulsory. As your lordships can see, this is not true. They also claimed in a subsequent letter that my fictional amendment and Lady Massey's amendment would force schools to teach five-year-olds about sex. Also not true. [...] We had a so-called Christian organisation telling lies and being both uncharitable and cruel." [...]
The Institute itself has not responded or issued any kind of apology.”
“Children as young as five are being exposed to `shocking´ sex education books in primary schools, the Daily Telegraph reported on 9th March according to research from The Christian Institute - a charity that promotes Biblical teaching. The report said parents were being kept in the dark about the content of resources used in sex education lessons.
The PSHE Association believes that this kind of research and reporting - which is inaccurate and lacking objectivity, serves neither children nor their parents and schools well.
The Education Act (1996) and the Learning and Skills Act (2000) make it very clear what the requirements are for the teaching of sex education in schools.”
“Discussions of the Education Bill in the House of Lords became heated last night as prominent children´s rights advocates slammed the Christian Institute for spreading `misinformation´ and `wicked insinuations´ about amendments relating to inspecting well-being in schools insinuating that proposed changes `would force schools to teach five year-olds about sex´.
Leading health and education campaigner, and secretary of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group, Baroness Massey, and the former shadow Children, Schools and Families Minister for the Liberal Democrats Baroness Walmsley, both spoke out against the campaign organised by the Christian Institute against their proposed amendment to the Bill.
Baroness Massey said `Never in the time that it has been my honour to serve in your Lordships´ House have I known such a sinister and vicious campaign, which has sought to misinform others.´
Baroness Walmsley stated, `The Christian Institute recently sent out a letter in which it claimed that I would be laying an amendment to make PSHE compulsory. As your Lordships see from the Marshalled List, this is not true. It also claimed, in a subsequent letter, that my fictional amendment, and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, which we are now debating, would force schools to teach five year-olds about sex. That is also not true. There have been wicked insinuations that we would want to do something that would harm children and their innocence. The noble Baroness and I have spent our whole parliamentary lives, much of what went before and a lot of what goes on outside, working to promote the well-being of children, and to suggest that we would harm them is outrageous and very un-Christian.´”
The C.I. have been worrying for many years that the education system is teaching people that homosexuality is not sinful and is, indeed, a normal part of sexuality. Their sensationalist piece in 2009 (linked, and titled 'Gay lessons obligatory for England's schools') was just as misinformed as their 'research' in 2011. The cause of their outcry is not that they actually believe that sex education is about to be made compulsory for 5 year-olds, but, that they believe that homosexuality is sinful and against the bible, therefore they will ramp-up claims of the unsuitability of the current system, in order to eventually return to a pre-human-rights era of prejudice against gays.
The Coalition For Marriage is a lobbying group that seeks to curb the legal rights of homosexuals and the comments below are primarily concerned with investigating C4M. The Charity Commission notes12 that the C.I.'s Chief Executive Mr C. Hart "is an unpaid Director of Coalition for Marriage Ltd." and that the C.I. gave a notable sum to the Coalition for Marriage. "Scotland for Marriage" is a campaign to restrict marriage to the union of one man and one woman in Scotland. Mr C Hart is an unpaid Director of Scotland for Marriage Ltd.
“There are links with a number of religious lobby groups. Board members of Coalition for Marriage Limited are prominent members of the Christian Institute, CARE, Family and Youth Concern and Christian Concern. Of these, the Coalition´s links with the Christian Institute are particularly close. Coalition for Marriage Limited is registered to the Institute´s Newcastle-upon-Tyne premises; its website is registered to the Institute´s office manager, John Errington, and the Institute´s co-founder, Colin Hart, is a Coalition spokesman.
The Christian Institute has campaigned viciously and relentlessly against every single piece of LGBT rights legislation in the 22 years since its founding. As a charity, it has been reprimanded by the Charities Commission on a number of occasions, most notoriously for producing organ-donor style plastic cards, that read: "In the event of my death, I do not want my children to be adopted by homosexuals".
It also came in for criticism for it[s] publication 'Bankrolling Gay Proselytism: The case for extending Section 28', for being an exclusively political activity with relation to its supposed aims. It was one of several positioning papers - whose publication often coincided with related parliamentary debates - [...some] depicting gay people as diseased or dangerous and more likely to be paedophiles.
The Charities Commission might also like to know that last September, [Christian Institute's] PR man Mike Judge - also a C4M spokesman - appeared on the U.S. fundamentalist Christian news outlet OneNewsNow, to warn that integration of LGBT personnel in the UK Armed Forces 12 years ago has been disastrous for discipline. That the Christian Institute should push blatant untruths despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary is bad enough. Perhaps more alarmingly, why is this organisation willingly associating itself with the media arm of the American Family Association, an organisation that supports the recriminalisation of homosexuality and absolute bans on abortion, even in the case of rape? [...] Will the media ask if the Christian Institute seeks recriminalisation of homosexuality[?]”
After the loss of the Gary McFarlane and Ms Ladele cases, the Christian Institute says it was disappointed and that Christians with traditional beliefs about marriage were "at risk of being left out in the cold". -- PinkNews.co.uk. Of course the true situation is that the C.I. is disappointed that Christians can't discriminate against gays. Christians are not "left out in the cold" - Christians are protected by the same marriage rights as everyone else.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of Christian Concern and the Christian Legal Centre; and the Wilberforce AcademyTB Joshua's Synagogue, Church Of All Nations (SCOAN): In Southwark, London, UKThe Christian Institute: A UK Political Lobbying Organisation
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