Censorship and Christianity

Believers and Pro-Lifers Targeted by Political Correctness

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By Father John Flynn, LC

ROME, FEB. 15, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Censorship is back; not against pornography or unpopular political opinions, but against Christianity and pro-life opinions. A number of recent cases highlight the trend to silence unpopular convictions.

A Baptist nurse, Caroline Petrie, was suspended from her job at the North Somerset Primary Care Trust for offering to pray for a patient, reported the Telegraph on Feb. 1. Last December, when she was attending a patient, Petrie offered to pray for her.

The patient did not accept her offer, and Petrie did not persist. Subsequently, Petrie was suspended.

The patient concerned, May Phippen, subsequently told the Telegraph newspaper in an article published the following day that she had not made a complaint about Petrie’s offer and that all she did was to mention it to another nurse. Phippen also said she did not want Petrie to be dismissed over the issue.

The Christian Medical Fellowship said Caroline Petrie’s suspension amounted to religious discrimination, reported the Daily Mail newspaper Feb. 3.

The fellowship’s general secretary, Peter Saunders, told the paper that there are thousands of Christian health care workers, along with people of other faiths, and that prayer is a normal daily part of their lives.

«A sensitive inquiry as to whether a patient would value prayer may well be an appropriate part of a medical consultation especially in an NHS [National Health Service] where some NHS trusts actually pay spiritual healers as part of the care team,» said Saunders.

Following widespread protests and media coverage of the suspension, Petrie was told she could return to work, the BBC reported Feb. 5.

«Of all professions, nursing is one that is firmly rooted in the Christian tradition,» commented the Anglican bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, in an opinion article on the matter in the Telegraph newspaper Feb. 7.

Withdrawing faith

«The long withdrawing roar of the sea of faith seems to be getting louder,» he observed. «Nurses cannot pray, the Creed cannot be recited at Christian services for fear of offending nonbelievers, Christian marriage counselors are removed because they believe in Christian marriage and Christian adoption agencies cannot be publicly funded because they believe that children are best brought up in a family with a mother and father to look after them.»

Strong words, but whose accuracy was supported by the news a few days later that a British publisher, Wiley-Blackwell, pulped a four-volume Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization, for being too Christian.

The news of this episode of book burning came from Edward Feser, one of the contributors to the encyclopedia, in an article published Feb. 11 by National Review Online.

The encyclopedia had been fact-checked, edited and approved by the publisher, then printed and formally launched, explained Feser.

What happened next, he continued, was that a small group of scholars protested about the «excessive» Christian content. They also objected to the use of chronological terms such as BC and AD, and wanted more «balance» by adding material attacking Christianity.

The revelation of the encyclopedia’s destruction came on the heels of the news that a foster mother was struck off by council authorities after a teenage Muslim girl she was looking after converted to Christianity.

The foster mother has looked after 80 children over the last 10 years, she told the Daily Mail newspaper in a Feb. 7 article. «It is also my entire income,» she explained. «I am a single carer, so that is all I have to live on.»

The woman insisted she had not pressured the 16-year-old girl to convert. According to the Daily Mail the girl had been interested in Christianity before being placed in foster care.

The carer is taking legal action against the council, with the help of the Christian Institute. Mike Judge, a spokesman for the group, told the newspaper: «I cannot imagine that an atheist foster carer would be struck off if a Christian child in her care stopped believing in God.»

Another episode of selective action against Christianity took place last year, when an Anglican priest was no longer welcome to appear on the BBC, reported the Telegraph newspaper Sept. 14.

The Reverend G. P. Taylor is the author of «Shadowmancer,» which was on the top of book sales for 15 weeks in 2003. He had previously appeared in a number of programs by the BBC, but he explained: «Once they had decided that I was promoting Christianity in my books I found the door firmly shut.»

«We can’t be seen to be promoting Jesus,» Taylor was told by a BBC producer, according to the Telegraph.

Club banned

Meanwhile, in Canada, a group that protests against abortion had its status as a club revoked last Tuesday by the student union at the University of Calgary, reported the Calgary Herald, Feb. 11.

After a hearing that took a bare 10 minutes the clubs committee took the decision because they said that the Campus Pro-Life club violated policy in its display of the Genocide Awareness Project. The decision means a loss of access to facilities and funding.

The club had displayed graphic photos of aborted fetuses on the campus. Club secretary, Asia Strezynski, asked the student union what specific policy the exposition had violated, but the committee did not reply to her question.

Even before the decision to suspend the club was taken the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) warned that denying status to groups protesting against abortion is an infringement on free speech, reported the Globe and Mail, Feb. 2.

The CCLA sent a letter to the Canadian Federation of Students, objecting to a resolution supporting student unions that deny funding and office space for anti-abortion groups.

It’s not the first time pro-life groups have been censored by Canadian university student unions. Last year Students for Bioethical Awareness complained about a cancellation of a public debate on abortion, and also about being denied the use of university facilities, reported the National Post newspaper June 27.

Funding question

In the United States, no stranger to disputes over the role of religion in the public square, government funding of charitable activities run by the Catholic Church is under threat.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint in a federal court in Boston, alleging that the Church is imposing its religious views on victims of human trafficking by not allowing government funds to be used for contraception, condoms and abortion, reported the Associated Press, Jan. 12.

The lawsuit claims that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the source of the funds, has allowed the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to limit the services its subcontractors provide.

According to the Associated Press, the bishops’ conference began administering the funds in 2006, using social service organizations as subcontractors to provide the services.

«We will continue to provide those services in the contract that are consistent with our belief in the life and dignity of the human person,» said Sister Mary Ann Walsh in the article.

A society that is secular in a healthy way does not ignore the spiritual dimension and its values, Benedict XVI recommended in his Jan. 8 speech to the members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See.

Religion, the Pope said, «is not an obstacle but rather a solid foundation for the building of a more just and free society.» A statement that raises the question about what sort of society we will have if Christianity is censored and excluded.

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