FLC205, How Long Before Christians are Actively Persecuted in England?, Sean Gabb, 1st March 2011

Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 205
1st March 2011 

How Long Before Christians are
Actively Persecuted in England?
by Sean Gabb

I think it would be useful to begin this article with a brief statement of the facts. Eunice and Owen Johns are an elderly couple from Derby, who fostered a number of children in the 1990s, and who recently offered their services again to Derby City Council. Their offer was rejected on the grounds that, as fundamentalist Christians, they might teach any children in their keeping that homosexual acts were sinful. They took legal action against the Council, arguing that their beliefs should not be held against them. On the 28th February 2011, judgment was given against them in the High Court. The Judges ruled that, where the laws against discrimination are concerned, sexual minorities take precedence over religious believers. Because Mr and Mrs Johns might not remain silent about sexual ethics, there was a danger to the “welfare” of children taken from their homes by the Council.

The Judges insisted that this did not represent a “blanket ban” on the fostering of children by religious believers. There was no issue involved of religious liberty – no precedent being set for wider discrimination by the authorities. It was simply a matter of child welfare. You can read all this for yourself on the BBC website.

I think we can take it as read that the Judges were talking hot air about the nature of the precedent they were setting. There is already a modest but settled ruling class bias in this country against Christianity. This does not extend, so far as I can tell, to Jews and Moslems. But the bias does certainly apply to fundamentalist Christians, especially when it is a matter of what they believe and might say about homosexuality. Yesterday, they were barred from fostering, and perhaps also from adoption. It is only a matter of time before they are barred from teaching. It is conceivable that they will eventually be classed – on account of their beliefs – as unfit parents and will have their children taken away from them. Before that happens, of course, there will be laws against home education, and an inquisition in the schools of what they have been telling their children.

This is my most important observation arising from the case. The issues in themselves are not at all to my taste. I dislike the idea of fostering. There are times, I accept, when people are so violent or negligent that children must be taken away for their own protection. In these few instances, though, I prefer that children should be kept in orphan asylums or offered for adoption. The present system allows immense numbers of children to be snatched away by social workers – often for trivial, and even perhaps for corrupt, reasons – and then put into the temporary care of strangers. I will not deny that many foster parents do as fine a job as circumstances allow. Probably, Mr and Mrs Johns were good foster parents in the 1990s, and would have been again. Even so, those who volunteer as foster parents are giving support to a system that is mostly used to steal children who are in no reasonable danger.

Also, I oppose all anti-discrimination laws. People have rights to life, liberty and property. Deriving from these are the specific rights to freedom of speech and association, and to due process of law. No one has the right not to be hated or despised, or not to be excluded. People have the right to hate or despise anyone they happen to take against, and – so long as they refrain from any breach of the rights mentioned above – the right to put their beliefs into action. While there is good reason for insisting that the authorities should not discriminate, I fell no general sympathy for people who make use of anti-discrimination laws to get their way.

But, this being said, I return to the matter of our ruling class bias against Christians. Why? Why should Christians be so disliked? Why should Christian hoteliers be persecuted for refusing to take in homosexual guests, or refusing to let them occupy double beds? Why should Christians not be protected – given our apparently comprehensive anti-discrimination laws – when forbidden to wear crosses at work? Why should banknotes be printed with pictures on them of Charles Darwin? The facts that Darwin was a great man, and that I think he was right about evolution, are beside the point. For very large number of British citizens, he was a gross blasphemer. Why are the few British colonies that remain being ordered to remove any reference to Christianity from their constitutions? Why do many local authorities keep trying to rename Christmas as Winterval? Why is there so much evidence, both anecdotal and on the record, of an official bias against Christianity?

One answer, I suppose, is the current power of the homosexual lobby. The prejudice against homosexuality that has existed throughout much of European history is blamed – perhaps unjustly – on the Christian Faith. Certainly, Christian leaders were, until very recently, forthright in their condemnation of homosexual acts, and they opposed the legalisation of such acts. There are many homosexual activists on the lookout for historical revenge, and who are making use of every law that now stands in their favour.

But I am not satisfied by this explanation. It is impossible to know how many homosexuals there are – especially since sexual preference is a spectrum on which most people cluster far from the extremes. But there are not that many embittered homosexual anti-Christians. If they are being listened to at the moment, I do not believe it is because they are powerful in themselves. They are getting a hearing because what they say is what those in power want to hear.

We are moving towards a persecution of Christianity because Christians believe in a source of authority separate from and higher than the State. Until recently, it was the custom of absolute states to make an accommodation with whatever church was largest. In return for being established, the priests would then preach obedience as a religious duty. Modern absolute states, though, are secular. Such were the Jacobin and the Bolshevik tyrannies. Such is our own, as yet, mild tyranny. In all three cases, religion was or is a problem. Though a Catholic, Aquinas speaks for most Christians when he explains the limits of obedience:

Laws are often unjust…. They may be contrary to the good of mankind… either with regard to their end – as when a ruler imposes laws which are burdensome and are not designed for the common good, but proceed from his own rapacity or vanity; or with regard to their maker – if, for example, a ruler should go beyond his proper powers; or with regard to their form – if, though intended for the common good, their burdens should be inequitably distributed. Such laws come closer to violence than to true law…. They do not, therefore, oblige in conscience, except perhaps for the avoidance of scandal or disorder. (Summa Theologiae, I-II, 96, 4, my translation)

Bad laws do not bind in conscience. And there may be times when even the avoidance of scandal or disorder do not justify public obedience. Then, it will be the duty of the Faithful to stand up and say “No!” It will be their duty to disobey regardless of what threats are made against them. Any ruling class that has absolutist ambitions, and is not willing or able to make an accommodation with the religious authorities, will eventually go too far. It will command things that cannot be given, and then find itself staring into a wall of resistance. The French Revolutionaries were taken by surprise. The Bolsheviks knew exactly what they were doing when they hanged all those priests and dynamited those churches. Our own ruling class also knows what it is doing. The politically correct lovefeast it has been preparing for us throughout my life requires the absolute obedience of the governed – absolute obedience to commands that no fundamentalist Christian can regard as lawful. Therefore, the gathering attack on Christianity.

As said, this does not yet apply to the other religions. The Jews are untouchable. Besides, religious Jews are a minority within a minority, and involve themselves in our national life only so far as is needed to separate themselves from it. The Moslems and others are not really considered part of the nation. Otherwise, they are considered objective allies of the new order under construction. Otherwise, no one wants to provoke them to rioting and blowing themselves up in coffee bars. But it goes without saying that other believers must eventually be persecuted should the Christians ever be humbled.

I think this explains what is happening. Whatever the case, it is wrong. Now, the accepted rule for defending any unpopular group is to begin with a disclaimer – for example: “I am not myself a Christian/homosexual/white nationalist, etc. Indeed, I bow to no man in the horror and disgust these people inspire in my heart.” There are further protestations that depend on the circumstances. But the concluding plea is the same: “It is therefore only out of a possibly misguided commitment to Victorian liberalism that I ask for these people not to suffer the extreme penalties of law. All else aside, it sets an unwise precedent that may be used one day against undoubtedly good people.”

Well, I do not propose to make this sort of defence. I am a Christian of sorts, and I think that even fundamentalist Christianity is a very fine religion. It is the historic faith of my country, and part of my national identity. It is also connected, however loosely, with the growth of civility and the rule of law. I do not like to see it persecuted. And the persecution is wrong in itself. I may not have a clear message to give about the refusal to let two elderly Pentecostalists become foster parents. But I do object to the creeping delegitimisation of the Christian Faith in England. Any Christian who is willing to stand up and speak in the terms set by Thomas Aquinas gets my support.

But now – and only now – that I have said this, I will talk about precedents. Sooner or later, the present order of things will come to an end. It is based on too many false assumptions about human nature. It is based, indeed, on too many misapprehensions about the natural world. In the short term – even without pointing guns at them – people can be bullied into nodding and smiling at the most ludicrous propositions. In the longer term, bullying always fails. The Bolsheviks had seventy years, and murdered on a scale still hard to conceive. They never produced their New Soviet Man. Except for the worse, they never touched the basic nature of the Russian people. Our own ruling class will fail. What new order will then be established I cannot say. But I suspect it will be broadly Christian.

What we shall then see may not be very liberal. Possibly, homosexual acts will be made criminal again, or everything just short of criminal. I spent my early years as a libertarian denouncing the legal persecution of homosexuals. I have now spent years arguing against persecution by homosexuals. I may sooner or later need to turn round again. As with all collective revenge, the individuals affected will not be those who are now behaving so badly – just as those now persecuted probably did not make any fuss about the 1967 Act that legalised most homosexual acts. But that is the nature of collective revenge. Because the most prominent homosexual leaders have not been satisfied with a mere equality of rights, ordinary homosexuals in the future may find the current precedents used against them.

For the moment, however, England is a country where Christians are fair game for harassment. I do not suppose that the case of Mr and Mrs Johns will be my last reason for commenting on this fact.

© 2011 – 2017, seangabb.

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7 thoughts on “FLC205, How Long Before Christians are Actively Persecuted in England?, Sean Gabb, 1st March 2011

  1. Pingback: Should No supporters be worried their jobs are risk from vengeful Yes supporters after the referendum? - Page 90

  2. Ian B

    I have a couple of disagreement Sean. The first is a nitpick, really, and rather minor, but since you’re the kind of person with an interest in history- whether it be your own novel, whcih I believe is called The Churchill Memorandum, and possibly the best alternative history novel ever written, or your friend’s trilogy on the ancient world- I think it’s a nit worth picking.

    I am a Christian of sorts, and I think that even fundamentalist Christianity is a very fine religion. It is the historic faith of my country, and part of my national identity.

    This is not true. The historic faith of your country and your ancestors is paganism, the worship of trees, rocks, small crawling insects, etc. Christianity is a foreign religion whose arrival was probably not dissimilar to the current invasion of the Moslems. Indeed, it may be that 1500 years from now, conservatives will be complaining that nobody goes to the traditional mosques any more, and how Islam is the root of morality in England. Possibly.

    Nitpicking out of the way, I think your general thesis is insufficient.

    We are moving towards a persecution of Christianity because Christians believe in a source of authority separate from and higher than the State.

    I disagree. You are making the mistake of thinking that the English homosexual lobby (etc) are independent creatures. A local effect. They are not. Since at least the 1960s (arguably longer) we have been fighting one of America’s proxy wars.

    The military struggle between America and Russia did not take place on American and Russian soil. It was fought in nations which would have been otherwise inconsequential backwaters, such as Viet Nam, which became famous because the superpowers fought for dominance there. Analagously, the American kulturkampf is currently being fought outside America (as well as inside); particularly across the Anglosphere, but generally across the “West” and to some lesser degree generally internationally.

    The entire political discourse in Britain, Australia, Canada, and Europe, was imported en bloc from the USA in the 1960s and every new struggle in that American culture war similarly. Thus, for example, the american racial struggle and discourse is imposed here in Britain, which had no massive and despised emancipated slave population- so one had to be invented by mass immigration. The language we use, and the arguments on the subject, are American. The Left in Britain is a reflection of the Left in America, with American concerns and language. Memes flow unidirectionally across the Atlantic.

    Once, a few years ago, when my mother was still alive and I was at her home, there was a BBC green propaganda report on “SUVs”. “What is an SUV?” she asked. Quite reasonably, because four wheel drive vehicles were never marketed as an “SUV” in Britain. It is an American term. But the anti-SUV propaganda had simply moved across the Atlantic without the decency of even adapting it to British English. This is generally true. “Binge drinking” as it is now used is American. The Obesity Panic is an American panic. And so on and on.

    The USA is the world superpower. It is also the world’s ideological power. As Nixon might have said, “we are all Americans now”.

    So, to Christianity. The major- in fact only- ideological foe of the Left in the USA which has any political traction (Libertarians are as far from favour there as here) is centred on fundamentalist Christianity. In Britain, a largely irreligious nation since 1960 or so, fundamentalists are a politically insignificant minority, generally laughed at. In the USA they are not. They are a powerful political force. They have been the single organised resistance to Progressivism for the past century. The two sides fought- and still fight- viciously over “Darwinism” because birth control, eugenics and that whole awful first-wave progressivist suite of policies were resisted by a predominantly religious, “fundamentalist” coalition.

    Indeed, it is easy to see with a little historical research that the two sides in American politics are a faith battle, between Northern Yankees and Southern Baptists. (The Yankees were the Christian “left” who secularised and became the Progressives).

    So that is why British gay leftists are targetting Christians. It is because fundamentalist christians are the Enemy in America, and the discourse- on Gay Rights and the whole Progressivist movement- is American. But, because there is not actually any equivalent of the American Fundamentalist movement here in Britain- no mass fundamentalist christian voting bloc with mass organisation and voting power- the relative few, powerless, Christians are simply getting steamrollered. Because British Progressives- seeing the world through American eyes- think they are fighting the same war as the American leftists they idolise and emulate.

    Like I said, a proxy war.

    I also disagree that whatever will come after this historic phase will be “broadly christian”. I appreciate that that appeals to your conservative instincts, but I think it’s fundamentally erroneous. The old institutions have been destroyed, and only some strange form of cultural archaeology would revive them in some zombified and ersatz form. There is little reason to think that the predominantly irreligious English population would seek a return to some overwhelming religiosity. We have learned, most of us, to live without God.

    Additionally, you have to remember that Christianity in Britain has been, for a very long time, overwhelmingly leftist. The Church Of England is a leftist organisation, as are the non-conformist churches. This is hardly surprising, as anglo-socialism developed out of the non-conformist churches. (The CoE was converted to the social gospel in the later ninteenth century, and it is difficult to imagine it reverting again). The overwhelming form of socialism in the anglosphere- including particularly the USA- is gospel socialism. The difference in the USA is that they had a civil war and a divided nation, and the churches of the losers of that war became a religious “right” which has no parallel in Britain, the rest of the Anglosphere, or Europe.

    Christianity in Britain consumed itself. After the Puritan horror, it started fading fast as the Enlightenment took hold. Late in the C18, the revivalism began. With no hope of a return to direct theocracy, the Dissenters chose a social role for their churches, going not to the ruling class but to the poor. The churches thus found a meaningful niche as providers of social services, when there was little State welfare. Poor people were bound into the Church because being a member of it meant being a part of a social network that could help one in time of distress. Think of the Mission Hall on Coronation Street in the early 1960s. The Church found a role as a social and thus inevitably socialist organisation. The growth of Christian charity in Victorian England was this process. The Church made itself meaningful to ordinary people by being a practical provider.

    But then the Welfare State arrived- ironically engineered by many who were themselves Christian Socialists. It was a direct, and superior, competitor. People, particularly women, no longer needed to be bound into the local church to have help in time of need. The State would provide instead, and far more generously, and without being forced to suffer a sermon to get a handout. The result was a catastrophe for Christianity.

    Within two decades of the founding of the Welfare State- long enough for people to get used to it and know it wasn’t going away, long enough for a generation to grow up who had always known it- church attendance was plummeting. The English people rapidly returned to their true, pre-Victorian nature as a bunch of dissolute, irreligious ruffians (the very national character that had led us to invent Liberalism in the first place), and the anomolous piety that had existed for only around a single lifetime evaporated. By 1970, Ena Sharples had been turfed out of the Mission Hall and it had been bulldozed.

    It is hard to see how the Church could reinvent itself again. Of course, it could return to being a welfare provider, perhaps if the Tories manage to contract out welfare provision to them, or something. But it seems unlikely that the Great Unwashed, let alone the Progressivist left who, being Americanised, are as we are discussing actively anti-Christian now, would stomach that.

    We have no idea if, when, or how the Progressivist regime will fall. I doubt it will do so in a way which has much historical precdent. There are too many different stresses and strains to know which will burst it asunder. It is likely that what is left of English Christianity- the mithering old bearded women of the CoE, the utterly Progressivised Methodists and Quakers etc- would escape any such destruction. Whatever value system the population might grasp onto after such a crisis, it is unlikely to be churchgoing christianity in the Victorian stylee.

    It seems to me that what Libertarians should be doing is trying to ensure that it is we that the people turn to when such a crisis comes. I sometimes wonder quite what it is that I, and we in general, are fighting for. But I do like to think it’s something better than a thuggish theocracy. We can do better than another Cromwell, can’t we?

    1. Sean Fear

      The case was not as reported. The judges actually made no ruling at all, because the Council had taken no decision on which they could rule. Both parties to the case, the Council, and Mr and Mrs. Johns, were asking the judges to formulate a set of principles, which the judges refused to do. Fortunately, it doesn’t set a precedent, in law.

      However, it does seem likely that some local authorities will seek to bar people from fostering, and eventually, adoption, because of their political and religious beliefs, at a time when we are told that there is a huge shortage of fosterers and adopters. A high proportion of the population think that homosexuality is wrong (36% according to the British Social Attitudes Survey). Most of the population want a complete ban on immigration, which presumably would rule them out, on grounds of racism. Most people have attitudes (on at least some subjects) which conflict with those of our Establishment, and can therefore be barred from fostering and adoption.

      It’s then a short step to say that people must be interrogated in detail on their ideological beliefs before being allowed to work with children, and even to have their children removed on ideological grounds.

  3. Anonymous

    If those pesky fags would just roll over and forget about the centuries of scorn and hatred heaped on their heads doubtless everybody would be better off. I haven’t heard about any Christians being clubbed over the head and arrested (in Britain or the US) for assembling in their places of worship as was common for homosexuals until the early 70s, so you and your kind probably have a bit more time before bands of marauding pansies, in the employ of the state, begin to visit your temples in order to drag elderly women from the pews and bludgeon them for wearing articles of clothing that depart from then current trends in fashion and taste.

    The almost hysterical aversion by many Europeans to Christianity is doubtless based upon numerous and complex positions, some utterly reactionary and others well-reasoned. It is possible, though I doubt it, that your excerpt by Aquinas was selected as applicable to anti-homosexual laws as well as others belonging to Caesar. Aquinas did not speak for other religions, however. The problem is that people who hold religious beliefs, in general, are unable to keep their beliefs to themselves. It is not enough to entertain belief in the supernatural, everybody else must share that belief. It is not sufficient that precepts pertaining to sexual behavior and food be followed by adherents to any particular religion. They must be followed by all, and so on for centuries. While it is possible that religious may be libertarians, it is nonetheless incompatible with the precepts laid out by their source documents, exhorting one and all to convert, or punish and kill all who refuse to believe.

    All religions deserve to be examined and evaluated based upon their claims, just as one examines claims to efficacy and truth for any notion or theory put out for viewing.

    You are doubtless right about the setting of precedent and the eventual reversal of events. Homosexuals, not in this lifetime, however, should plan for widespread persecution in the future and should assume that the final order they hear will be: to the gas chamber, go, delivered by representatives of the pious few, garbed in ecclesiastical garments, snacking on chips as the poofs mince toward their deaths.

  4. John R McDougall

    I can but agree with you, but for different reasons. I have little time for any religion, and I have worked in countries with Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist majorities. When ever I see a culture which accepts various religions and does not discriminate against them, I feel I can relax (although I rarely refer to my own unbelief-or my kufir status). The more there is discrimination against anyone, you can be sure that the tumbrels may be coming for you at a later time.

  5. Reggie Perrin

    Whether one thinks that the decision in this case was right or wrong, the striking thing about it from a lawyer’s perspective is that it was absolutely un-novel, predictable and in line with previous precedent.

    In fact, whole sections of the judgment were lifted almost verbatim from Mr Justice Munby’s earlier decision in the High Court stage of the Jewish Free School case.

    The line of cases which fed into this judgment goes back at least to the early 1990s, and arguably to the 1917 case of Bowman v Secular Society.

    I’ve gone into this in more detail on my own blog here: http://religiousstudiesblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/christianity-and-law-of-england.html

    Essentially, whether you love or loathe the court’s decision, it was in no sense a surprise or a novelty against the background of the previous precedents.

  6. Albert Meyer

    I sent BBC this email:

    I wonder if the BBC could consider whether it is true (I don’t know, hence I listened to BBC for my education), that the holy books of the Christian faith, the Jewish faith and the Muslim faith declare homosexual behavior as a sin against their God.

    If this is fact the case, then the government could clear up a lot of confusion by making a law that couples who embrace any one of these three religions are not allowed to foster children. We really need to purge society of these evil Christians and their cohorts in other religions.

    I think these” hate-filled” Christians would be very happy if the government were to pass a law taking away their right to vote, to receive government education, medical care, retirement and other “privileges” offered by government, such as fostering children. In return for the loss of “citizenship” they would not have to pay taxes. I would immediately relocate to the UK (my wife and sons hold UK citizenship through birth) and convert to Christianity.

    Alas, the government is no doubt very happy to persecute Christians for their evil belief and take their taxes, because it no doubt results in a net gain to the Treasury. Christians, apparently law-abiding and well-behaved, place little to no demands on the criminal justice system. Their silly beliefs that frown on smoking and imbibing also mean less demands on Nation Health. Many Christians send their children to private schools. One can almost make a case that weren’t it for a large Christian community (one could possibly argue the same for the Jewish and Muslim communities) in the UK, the national debt would have been much higher today, with particular stress on the budgets of criminal justice, national health and education.