As MPs voted last night on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, it has been rather disturbing to watch as a ground swell of Christian Fundamentalists attempt to hijack the debate for their own means.
My worst fears were confirmed last night whilst watching an excellent episode of the programme Dispatches on Channel 4. In case you missed it, the episode – In Gods Name, was compelling viewing, and should hopefully serve as a warning to those who fail to see the dangerous and insidious nature of their various activities.
What really impressed me about the documentary was the way in which the programme makers simply allowed those being interviews to give their opinions, no matter how offensive, without resorting to sensationalist reporting.
As far as faith goes, I would consider myself to be a committed Atheist; however I choose not to condemn or ridicule those who do have a religious faith of any kind. It is an individuals right to practice their own religion and to worship as they see fit; however, this must go both ways.
The heavy handed tactics of those who see it as their place in life to force their Christian views upon those non evangelicals has always made me feel very uneasy.
For example, I feel we have to question why we have government regulated and approved, (independent), faith schools in this country, as featured in the programme. These children are being taught a hard line, almost fundamentalist version of Christianity. At one point, I was amazed to see a young girl sitting a science test, where one of the questions being asked was “In how many days did God create the Earth?” This is a science test we’re talking about here, not a religious education lesson.
Even more worryingly, this was followed by a fourteen year old girl at the school confirming that she thought that the Earth was somewhere between six and ten thousand years old!?! A quick look at her text book confirmed that this is the kind of information that these children are being taught to believe.
Is it me!?!? Perhaps I’m being too judgemental here? Surely it’s wrong for us to be allowing children to be taught this bunkum? Can it be right for children to be taught that the Bible should be taken quite literally as Gods word? The obvious and only answer to this must be a resounding NO…
It was fascinating to see the different lines of attack from within the fundamentalist community. Some prefer a more direct approach – openly spouting their vile anti-Islamic and homophobic views in public; for example at gay pride events, or on sites where proposed Mosques are due to be constructed. What is more worrying are the more professional and media savvy groups such as the Lawyers Christian Fellowship; represented during the programme by Andrea Minichiello Williams – their public policy director.
Now, Andrea is a self confessed fundamentalist; and as such it is disturbing that along with the LCF she has free access to lobby various members of the House of Lords and Parliament.
Whilst disturbing, it was less of a surprise to find out how closely the LCF have been working with the one and only Nadine Dorries. In fact, it transpired that Andrea has been working as a key member of the Dorries abortion campaign to reduce the abortion limit to twenty weeks – although as any liberal thinking person knows, their key objective would be to make abortion illegal in this country. So, with that in mind, let’s just think about this for a moment; what we have is an elected Tory MP receiving help, advice and backing from a group whose policy director not only admits to being a Christian fundamentalist, but also claims that Islam is a false religion. We could also mention that she is a homophobe who when asked estimates that the Earth is probably about four thousand years old, and rejects scientific evidence with regards to carbon dating.
So, we have to ask ourselves, should an elected member of parliament be associating in a professional capacity with a group such as the LCF?
When confronted with Andrea’s particular brand of Christian beliefs. Nadine didn’t seem unduly concerned. Then again, I wasn’t particularly surprised by this – her main areas of support obviously come from various parts of the wider Christian community. This iuncludes another organisation involving Andrea - Christian Concern for our Nation - their website makes interesting reading...
I think that serious questions need to be asked with regards to the levels of influence that groups such as the LCF have with our elected officials. Hopefully, documentaries such as this will help to open the debate with regards to the growing influence of Christian fundamentalism in this country.