In a not-unexpected court ruling yesterday, a judge ruled that a Christian Bed and Breakfast owner was in breach of the law in refusing to give the same treatment to a homosexual couple that she would have given to a heterosexual couple. Her case was backed by the Christian Institute.
The case itself was an important continuation of the debate about to what extent the rights of one group should supersede the rights of another. As a matter of law — if all the training I’ve been on about discrimination is correct — the ruling was the only ruling possible. The Christian Institute’s underlying argument was that the law is wrong.
It is entirely appropriate that debates of this kind take place, and right that lobbying groups like the Christian Institute continue to make their case in the public arena.
However, the proceedings and the verdict have been overshadowed by the intervention of Nick Griffin MEP, of the British National Party, who tweeted the address of the couple and appeared to urge his supporters to organise a demonstration outside the couple’s house.
This is not the first time that Griffin and other BNP members have tried to insinuate themselves into debates and news issues which have a Christian tinge. In a separate issue the BBC reported yesterday on peaceful protests in Northern Ireland relating to a Mari Stopes clinic which were mainly led by Christians, but which the BNP had decided to attend, despite having no elected presence in the province. Earlier in the year their attempt to attend an Orange rally prompted a sharp rebuke from the organisers.
Griffin’s own comment is revealing. Mr Griffin told Sky News: “I was very angry in the way in which left-wing political activists and a minority of gay activists are working with left-wing judges to use the Human Rights Act to persecute ordinary people, especially Christians.
It’s the “especially Christians” bit which is revelatory. Why Christians? Griffin has no known link with an established church, does not attend church regularly, and has never made any pronouncements outside of a politics which have a Christian flavour. His comments were immediately denounced by the Christian Institute, and Christians — including myself — have frequently highlighted the disparity between what he believes and the teaching of the New Testament, including ‘love your enemies’, ‘do good to those who persecute you’ and ‘do not judge others’.
From his published oeuvre, Griffin’s only interest in Christianity is in trying to harness it for the promotion of his own political agenda. Of course, he would not be the only person doing this. At a General Election debate I was once baffled by one of the candidates who professed that all of his actions were motivated by love, because he was a Christian. I wouldn’t claim to be able to judge the thoughts and motivations of anyone else, but I have never met anyone else — including some very saintly people — who would go so far as to claim that everything they did was motivated by love. Interestingly, he only said that at that particular debate — which was the Churches Together debate. He never mentioned Christianity at the others. I don’t doubt that he sincerely meant it at the time.
The difference, though, between some other politician trying to pick up a few Christian votes at a Churches Together debate and the BNP is that Griffin actively tries to wade into areas of Christian concern, and does so in the most unChristian way possible. He was censured for the way he described Irish Republicans recently, using an expletive in his tweet.
What we must understand before going any further is that Nick Griffin’s view of ‘Christian’ has nothing to do with Jesus Christ. Griffin has never shown any public interest in Christ’s teachings. The notion of forgiveness is something that never appears in his policies.
Rather, for Griffin, ‘Christian’ is short-hand for ‘Anglo-Saxon White traditional English intolerance’. Not that Griffin wants anyone to realise that when he uses the word. He wants the resonances of the word ‘Christian’ to galvanise those who feel warmly towards Christianity, but don’t actually practise it themselves. The 70% or so who say they are ‘Christian’ in surveys, but probably don’t go to church more than at Christmas, at weddings, and at funerals.
A few years ago we picked up a BNP leaflet in Yardley, Birmingham, which claimed that Muslims from Stechford were attempting to close down Yardley Old Church, a well known landmark which dates back to the Anglo-Saxons. Nobody who actually attended Yardley Old Church would have believed it for a moment. No church in Britain has ever been closed down by pressure from Muslims (though, sadly, historically churches have been closed down because of pressure from other churches). If there is a threat to Yardley Old Church, it is non-attendance by those who reckon to be Christians. The claim was laughable, but to those who did not attend but liked the idea, it may have had some resonance.
A couple of years later a friend of mine picked up a leaflet from the BNP. It talked about the importance of the family, abortion, traditional morality, and such things. Over tea she told us that was impressed with the leaflet and would even consider voting for them. Her husband — was was black — gently pointed out the incongruity of this. Put this down to political naivety, but there was nothing in the leaflet that hinted at racism or intolerance: it had been carefully constructed to appeal to people like her, and to conceal what the BNP is really about.
If you are a Christian reading this, then I would urge you on every occasion that Griffin attempts to link himself to Christians, or presents himself as defending the rights of Christians, to immediately repudiate it, and make clear to anyone listening what the difference between Christianity and the BNP really is.
If you are Nick Griffin reading this, then let me urge you: read the New Testament, join a church, attend an Alpha course, find out what Jesus Christ was really about. You may decide that it’s time you stopped trying to link yourself to Christians. Or, better, you may decide that it’s time to follow a radically different way, and renounce the BNP and everything it stands for,
- BNP leader Nick Griffin posts address of B&B case gay couple online(guardian.co.uk)
- Police examine Griffin B&B tweets(bbc.co.uk)
- Calls to arrest Nick Griffin for ‘incitement’ after tweet of gay couple’s address(thetimes.co.uk)
- Nick Griffin’s tweets ‘a damp squib’, gay couple say – BBC News(bbc.co.uk)
- Nick Griffin facing investigation over gay couple tweet(standard.co.uk)
- Police probe ‘Nick Griffin’ tweet(express.co.uk)
- BNP’s Nick Griffin Defends Twitter Posts(news.sky.com)