Thursday, 12 December 2013


Here's the thing: nobody in the UK is persecuted for their Christian religion or faith.

In fact, I doubt that anyone in the western world is persecuted for their Christian faith, but I cannot be certain that there are not parts of the west where some persecution happens.

What is more, there are very few occurrences of religious persecution of any religious faith in the UK.

Now, just to clarify, people are vilified for being bigots. Some of them are Christian, some of them are members of the EDL. That is not religious persecution - that is the fact that we don't actually like bigots. There is ridicule of people for the expression of aspects that they consider to be critical aspects of their faith. That is not persecution, that is highlighting ridiculous aspects of faith.

Let me take a recent example. There has been a lot of comment that this couple were being persecuted for their faith, whereas the truth is quite different. For the moment, I will reserve judgement on their attitude to gay couples - I might disagree, but I can accept that they consider this part of their faith.

Despite being Christian, they were allowed and supported in setting up and running their business, from their own house. That does not seem like persecution to me.

The case centred about an incident when they took a booking for two people, and when they turned up, they were both male and were expecting to share a room together, because they were partners. The owners turned them away, citing that they "regard any sex outside marriage as a 'sin'". They were taken to court, for damages, and lost the case.

This does not seem like persecution to me - their business was boycotted, not unsurprisingly, by gay couples and supporters of gay relationships, and has, I believe, folded. They were allowed to use the proper legal channels of the country. Nobody burned their house down, attacked or killed them, threw them into jail. They ran a business, there was a legal issue that came up and they pursued it through the courts. In the end they lost. But losing a legal argument is not persecution. It may be an indication that your position and belief is out of touch, and that should be a challenge to grow - I am not saying which side is right or wrong.

One comment they made stands out to me: "Our B&B is not just our business, it's our home. All we have ever tried to do is live according to our own values, under our own roof." This is the core of the problem, it seems. They have failed ot distinguish between their business and their private lives.

If they wanted to let people who agreed with their beliefs come and stay, they should have done this privately, not as a public business. They can charge, they can run it to earn money, but if they want to open their home up, and ensure people "live according to our own values" then they have a spare room, nothing more.

If it is a business, and they are advertising publicly, then they can expect to have people who might disagree with them involved. How do they know that all of the other couples that have stayed were married? Do they check? Are they sure that nobody has ever sneaked an extra person in for some holiday nookie?

The problem is, it seems, that they put their beliefs into the public domain, and found that they were not universally accepted. That is not persecution - that is life. Most people - at least those who work with me - express something about their belief system which gets ridiculed and dismissed. It is not persecution, it is the process of honing beliefs and ideas to understand them and understand what they mean.

There are places in the world where just admitting the label "Christian" means that you will suffer in society, be cut off from the community, and risk death. In a few cases, this is religious persecution - because the dominant religion accepts no alternatives. Mostly, it is a society and culture that does not tolerate the label, irrespective of what it actually represents. The persecution may be done under a religious label, but that doesn't mean it is based on religious differences or faith, any more than the B&B couples actions are religious persecution just because their actions are driven by their faith.

In my experience, most religious intolerance - which is not persecution, but can lead to it - happens in the churches, where people are judged and sidelined based on their conformity to the accepted belief system. Society in the west is actually very tolerant of faith. If you want to stop experiencing "persecution", then I would suggest getting out of the church and engaging with society instead.

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