Posts Tagged ‘News’

The Salvation Army and #Workfare Controversy

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

To be upfront, I didn’t know what the issue was with the government Workfare scheme. I’ve not really been interested in this until this morning, when I read Johnny Void’s provocatively entitled post: Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness (unless thou is the Salvation Army fibbing about workfare).

Void’s post alleges the Salvation Army continuous to use Workfare workers and he links to a rather grim story in the Daily Record (Scotland). Void also links to a Jobcentre referral to Mandatory Work Activity letter (dated 17th Jan) which clearly cites the venue as an Salvation Army shop.

I spoke briefly with Void and he Tweeted:

So, where to start with finding out about Workfare; Wikipedia of course:

Workfare in the United Kingdom refers to government workfare policies whereby individuals must undertake work in return for their benefit payments or risk losing them. Workfare policies are politically controversial. Supporters argue that such policies help people move off of welfare and into employment (See welfare-to-work) whereas critics argue that they are analogous to slavery and counterproductive in decreasing unemployment.

OK, where too next, Twitter of course, and the link given by a couple of folk was on the Boycott Workfare website, which I’ll let you read, but I will cite their raison d’etre:

Boycott Workfare is a UK-wide campaign to end forced unpaid work for people who receive welfare. Workfare profits the rich by providing free labour, whilst threatening the poor by taking away welfare rights if people refuse to work without a living wage. We are a grassroots campaign, formed in 2010 by people with experience of workfare and those concerned about its impact. We expose and take action against companies and organisations profiting from workfare; encourage organisations to pledge to boycott it; and actively inform people of their rights.

Bernadette Meaden kindly linked to Public Interest Lawyers who are challenging the government’s Workfare program in the courts on behalf of their clients.

BoycottWelfare Tweeted me directly:

The Boycott Workfare link is well worth reading; it very clearly sets out their objections to Charity Workfare. Here’s a quote:

By colluding with the government to increase the number of benefit sanctions charities are pushing vulnerable people further into poverty and destitution. Oxfam have refused to take part in workfare because they say it is incompatible with the goal of reducing poverty in the UK. When homelessness charity SHP left the Work Programme earlier this year they warned that sanctions were pushing vulnerable individuals further into poverty and leaving them with little option but to beg and steal. The increase in benefit sanctions is one of the reasons that we are seeing an increase in the use of food banks.

OK, so where are we?

Workfare is a highly controversial and contentious issue, so much so, that some big highstreet names and charities have very publicly suspended their involvement in the Workfare program.

The evidence suggests that the Salvation Army are involved in the scheme at some level, so what is the Sally Army’s formal response:

There is no mandatory voluntary work for the three sub contracts we deliver within the Work Programme. Anyone who volunteers their services to us does so in the knowledge that their benefits will not be affected.

We do not have any national agreements in place to provide mandatory 4-week work placements, but on a local level we are aware that our trading company has been approached by independent welfare to work providers which have been offering short-term work experience, locally, in some of our retail shops. We must stress that no placements are in place of paid work and we trust the decision of our local representatives to provide valuable professional experience.

We don’t take people in short-term placements for work that would otherwise be paid as we believe in empowering the person who is volunteering, by treating them with the respect that everyone in society is due. We believe strongly that every person has worth, irrespective of what they can offer society and it is our desire to help all who are willing to work, irrespective of their starting point. For some, the route to employment can be a long one with several milestones on the way.

Working in stages back into the workplace helps to build confidence as a lack of confidence is one of the overriding barriers to work. We believe that it is important that people on long term benefits ‘test’ themselves in the workplace, to gain work experience without any threat of losing benefit or having to start the process again.

It is sensible to partner with the private and voluntary sector to provide many of the programmes, not because the work will be done ‘on the cheap’ but because better value will be achieved by the flexibility of our sector to tailor programmes to individual need and achieve better results. We have the expertise and broad working base to help achieve effective outcomes.

How does this read to you? For me, I am left with absolutely no idea whether the Salvation Army participates in the Workfare scheme or not.

Whether you be for, or against, Workfare, it would strike me the prudent move as a Christian organisation, with such an morally explosive issue, would be to withdraw from the scheme and publicly state as much. Otherwise, you might just find yourself on the receiving end of responses such as this:

I have Tweeted the Salvation Army direct:

I’ll let you know if I receive a response.

UPDATE: Three Tweets received from BoycottWorkfare which really cast the Salvation Army in a poor light in regard to this issue:

 

 

Oh dear!

European Court of Human Rights (ECHR): Eweida, Chaplin, Ladele, McFarlane – Judgement Published

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Today (Tues 15th) at 9am GMT the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) will announce its judgement on four applications that UK law has failed to adequately protect the applicants’ right to manifest their religion, contrary to Articles 9 (freedom of religion) and 14 (prohibition of discrimination).

I’ve blogged on each of these cases: Nadia EweidaShirley ChaplinLilian LadeleGary McFarlane

The National Secular Society and Equality and Human Rights Commission have both filed intervening submissions under Rule 44 §3.

Christian Concern made this comment in an email yesterday:

“These are landmark cases and we have waited a long time to get to this point. At stake is not only the future shape of Christian involvement in community life but the protection of important personal freedoms in a diverse society.”

Christian Concern are not the only group to consider this a landmark case, as we’ve already had the BHA and NSS publish their pre-ruling releases today.

In fact, these cases are viewed as so important even the Russian Orthodox Church has offered UK Christians moral support.

There’s one thing we can be assured of when this ruling is published, irrespective of the outcome. And that is there will be a flurry of ill-informed, polemic, alarmist headlines, and articles.

As with all things legal, it is often far more complex and nuanced than it first appears and that is why I won’t be personally attempting any analysis. I know my limitations and will await the experts in such matters.

I’m planning to create a list of links here on this post to opinion pieces and analysis. I know some bloggers have already begun formulating their posts and I will ensure they’re linked to here.

So perhaps bookmark this page and check back periodically over the next few days as the ruling is read, digested, blogged, and then linked to from here.

In the meantime, I’m out and about quite a bit today, so if you come across any good links on this matter, or if you write a piece yourself, let me know in the comments.

THE JUDGMENT HAS NOW BEEN PUBLISHED

CASE OF EWEIDA AND OTHERS v. THE UNITED KINGDOM

 

Back in September I said:

The case that I have most sympathy with is Nadia Eweida, the British Airways employee who was asked to stop wearing a cross at work. To me, this may be the most clear-cut case of religious discrimination and that is because of a potential disparity between the treatment of Eweida and other employees of different faiths.

The argument in Eweida’s case is that if other faiths are permitted to wear religious paraphernalia, as they were at BA, and this does not constitute a health and safety risk, then it is wrong to discriminate against one particular expression of faith.

We have to remember that in Eweida’s case the tribunal used the argument that there was no religious discrimination as “Christians generally” do not consider wearing a cross as a religious “requirement”. We have to watch for judgements using this reasoning, as it is secular courts pontificating on theological necessities. Complex and fraught indeed.

Also individual rights and freedoms do not depend on how many people agree with your conscience or speech.

Analysis and opinion Links

UK Human Rights Blog - Strasbourg rules against UK on BA crucifix issue

Cranmer - Victory for religious symbols; defeat for the religious conscience

Turtle Bay and beyond - Christian employees in the UK: A second class category

Unconfirmed Tweet:

This would be: Lilian LadeleGary McFarlane

Here’s a link to the NSS and BHA and whilst I’m at it Ekklesia: Here, here and here. All well chuffed with the result.

New piece on Ekklesia, written by Simon Barrow and comes complete with a quote from me!

Religion Law Blog (Barrister At Law – Neil Addison) - Eweida and Others – First Views

Religion Clause - European Court of Human Rights Vindicates Britain In 3 of 4 Cases Denying Accommodation of Christian Beliefs

Head of Legal - Strasbourg judgment: Eweida and others v UK

First Things - European Court’s Judgment in UK Religious Freedom Cases: A First Read

God and Politics - Letting employees wear a cross won’t destroy your business

Oxford Human Rights Hub - Religious Rights in the Balance: Eweida and Others v UK

Law and Lawyers - Eweida and others v UK ~ a look at what is being said?

Mrs Markleham - Eweida: what it all means

UK Constitutional Law Group – Ronan McCrea: Strasbourg Judgement in Eweida and Others v United Kingdom

A Range of Reasonable Responses – Eweida & Co: the Decision

Law and Religion UK - Chaplin, Eweida, Ladele and McFarlane: the judgment

Danny Webster - Legal right and religious wrongs

Co-belligerent Secularists and Christians force government to reform Section 5 of the 1986 Public Order Act

Monday, January 14th, 2013

An unlikely coalition of Christians and Secularists joining together in a rare act of unity has forced the government to reform Section 5 of the Public Order Act to give more protection to free speech.

Section 5 of the 1986 Public Order Act says a person is guilty of an offence if:

(a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or

(b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.

It was the word “Insulting” that caused the consternation, confusion and subsequent abuse of the Public Order Act. It’s a very vague and subjective term that allowed too much discretion in application.

This Act had been used against Christians on quite a few occasions, most notably in the case of Jamie Murray, owner of the Salt & Light Coffee House.

This was a truly bizarre incident in which the displaying of Scripture on a video screen prompted a police visit following a complaint. The police notified Murray that he was displaying offensive or insulting words which breached Section 5 of the Public Order Act; in other words, the Biblical texts contravened the act.

The Christian Institute have been long campaigning for the removal of the word ”insulting” from the act, together with the National Secular Society, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, and others.

website and Twitter account were set up.

Today the Christian Institute are declaring “Victory”:

The Government gave way tonight, and agreed to reform Section 5 of the Public Order Act to give more protection to free speech.

Campaign group Reform Section 5 (RS5) has been pushing for the change, which has seen many controversial arrests.

Today, in the House of Commons, Home Secretary Theresa May said the word ‘insulting’ would be removed from Section 5 of the Public Order Act, as part of the Crime and Courts Bill.

The amendment to the law was put forward by Lord Dear, a former HM Inspector of Constabulary, and when discussed in the House of Lords, peers voted by 150 to 54 in favour of the change.

The Government today announced that it would not overturn the amendment but will allow it to become law.

This is very good news for freedom of speech in this country.

Open Brethren write to the Charity Commission to stress differences with Exclusive branch

Monday, January 14th, 2013

I thought this an interesting development:

Neil Summerton, chair of Partnership, says he fears the forthcoming charity tribunal case involving the Preston Down Trust will damage the reputation of other types of brethren

The chair of a support body for the Open Brethren has written to the Charity Commission and the Public Administration Select Committee to outline the differences between his faith and the branch of the Exclusive Brethren which has been refused charitable status by the regulator.

Neil Summerton, chair of Partnership, told Third Sector he was worried that allegations about the Exclusive Brethren could damage other types of Brethren in the UK.

In June last year, the commission refused charitable status to the Preston Down Trust, a congregation of Exclusive Brethren in Devon. An appeal to the charity tribunal is due to be heard in March.

In the letter to the commission, Summerton says the Exclusive Brethren split from his own faith in 1848, and that one branch of the Exclusive Brethren, now under the leadership of an Australian accountant called Bruce Hales, “went in a decisively sectarian direction” in the 1950s.

He says this branch, which includes the Preston Down Trust, has recently renamed itself the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church, which the group says is its historical name.

There are other branches of the Exclusive Brethren in the UK, he says, that do not follow Hales and have not adopted the new name.

He says the Open Brethren congregations, of which there are about 1,000 in the UK, do not follow a central leader and do not practice the doctrine of separation followed by the Exclusive Brethren. This practice forbids followers to eat and drink with outsiders, watch television or listen to the radio, or live in semi-detached houses next to non-Brethren.

…..continue

A few good links

Monday, January 14th, 2013

A few links I found interesting for one reason or another:

Chelliah Laity - RIP Big Issue Sellers

The World of Mentalists - The #TwentalHealthAwards – The Winners

Believer’s Brain - Flat-Pack Furniture and the Body of Christ

Accepting Abundance - Unmoved Mover for Unmoved Doubters

The Alethiophile - A christian response to trolling, Part 1: Trolls and what Peter said - (Part 2)

The Not So Big Society - Generic Condemnation of This Thing That Person Said on Twitter

British Religion in Numbers - Attitudes to Muslims

The Ugley Vicar - The enormous value of being logically wrong

Thought catalog – Five emotions- invented by the internet

Pakistani Christian refugee Imran Firasat being deported from Spain for making a documentary about Mohammed

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

I want to set out a caveat at the top of this post, and that is I can only track information relating to this on very Right leaning, anti-Islamic websites. But if true, and the facts are as reported, then this would indeed be alarming:

Sultan Knish introduces this thus:

Spain has begun deportation proceedings against Imran Firasat, a Christian refugee from Pakistan, for making a documentary about Mohammed and thereby threatening the national security of Spain. If Firasat is deported back to Pakistan, he will face the death penalty proving that it’s a short step from the Spanish Inquisition to the Pakistani Inquisition.

According to Gates of Vienna a group called Stand up America has sent out this release:

Imran Firasat has been served the official documents by the Spanish government confirming that his residency status has been revoked.

The authorities quickly hand-delivered the official revocation documents to Imran on Friday evening, December 22nd, giving him no chance to consult his lawyer or plead his case. Through these actions, Spain has proven to the world that it holds Islamic law in high regard, even above its own laws.

Firasat is an ex-Muslim from Pakistan who has taken a radical stand against Islam since his conversion to Christianity. He has received many death threats from Muslim individuals and groups in various Islamic countries for seven years because of his criticism of Islam.

Spain, a free western nation, had given Imran welcome asylum to protect him from these violent and radical Islamic groups. Imran has been involved in the co-production of the Youtube, The Innocent Prophet, with Terry Jones and Stand Up America Now. The Innocent Prophet was released to the public on Youtube on December 15, 2012.

Imran officially backed out of the project when the Spanish government threatened to revoke his protected residency status and have him deported to Pakistan where the death penalty is waiting for him because of his criticism of Islam. Firasat did his best to cooperate with Spanish authorities by presenting documented proof to them that he had backed out of the project. Despite this, Spain quickly revoked Imran’s protected asylum status during a period of approximately ten days. This would normally take the government about six months to process.

Imran has not committed any crime according to Spanish law. He has only exercised his right of free expression concerning his views on Islam. Nevertheless, his residency status has been revoked and he faces imminent deportation to a Muslim nation where the penalty for blasphemy against Islam or Muhammad is death.

As Firasat was working with Terry Jones, he clearly keeps some unsavoury company; however, if his residency has been revoked, then the Spanish government would certainly be signing his death warrant.

I’d be interested if anyone has any other info on this.

Using tragedies opportunistically to spout bullshit

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

I couldn’t watch the news yesterday or go online, as I simply couldn’t cope with the gut crunching imagery conjured up in my mind as a result of the US school massacre.

I braved it today and found myself shaking with rage.

First up, an article arguing not for the banning of guns, nor arguing the case for keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill; nope, arguing instead for the banning of psychiatric medication. Yep, you heard me right.

There’s talk online that the gunman was potentially suffering from a personality disorder; as far as I can make out, that’s all we know. We don’t know which particular disorder, or what medication he may, or may not, have been receiving, but that does not prevent this sort spurious bullshit:

No gun can, by itself, shoot anyone. It must be triggered by a person who makes a decision to use it. And while people like NY Mayor Bloomberg are predictably trying to exploit the deaths of these children to call for guns to be stripped from all law abiding citizens who have done nothing wrong whatsoever, nobody calls for medication control.

Why is that? After all, medication alters the mind that controls the finger that pulls the trigger. The saying that “guns kill people” is physically impossible. People kill other people, and as we all learned from watching the O.J. Simpson trial, you don’t need a gun to commit murder.

We should be outlawing psychiatric medications, not an inanimate piece of metal

I’ll let you read the rest of it if you can stomach it.

Piers Morgan Tweeted this earlier:

Putting my cards on the table; mentally ill folk should not be allowed to own guns. I’m mentally ill, and am no danger to anybody, with or without a gun, but I still should not be legally allowed to own one, for the simple fact that I am mentally ill.

Does that mean I believe that all mentally ill folk are potentially mass killers, no it doesn’t. My main concern with the mentally unstable having easy access to guns, is to do with the ease of dispatching oneself into eternity.

That’s my opinion.

But what if this tragedy has nothing to do with guns, mental illness, evil, or what have you, but is instead a by-product of godlessness?

That’s the other angle being pumped out at the moment; this time, of course, by Christians.

Don’t believe me, check out The Freethinker

or

or

In the wake of the Connecticut shootings, many Christians are placing the blame on people’s lack of faith in God, on the increase of secularism in our countries and our schools, and on people’s increasing unwillingness to submit to God. Some are saying that this tragedy is God’s way of trying to cause people to repent for their depravity – a kind of punishment for people’s lack of devotion to God. These Christians are arguing that tragedies like this stem from us as a nation turning away from God.

SOURCE

And so on…..

Apparently this T-Shirt is doing the rounds:

I really can’t articulate a response to this any better that Prof McGrath

I am glad that fundamentalists are finally being a bit more honest about what they mean by “God.”

They clearly do not mean an omnipresent being who cannot be excluded from any place. It’s quite a different notion from that encountered on more than one occasion in the Psalms, for instance. The ancient Israelite author never said “Where shall I go to flee from your presence? I know – a public school!” And in the Book of Jonah, the main character’s attempt to flee from the one who he himself says “made the sea and the dry land” on a boat is depicted as a fool’s errand. And could you imagine any ancient Israelite or Christian author taking seriously the notion that God could be kept out of somewhere?

But even though creating laws that exclude a real and omnipresent God from public school would be utterly futile, there are in fact no such laws in the United States.

What is excluded is the use of state power and influence to promote religion in general or some sectarian religious dogma in particular.

And so I think that, when fundamentalists say that their God is excluded from public schools, they are speaking the truth. The God they worship is not the true God, the one that is omnipresent and ultimate, but political power and coercive imposition of their views on others.

That is what fundamentalists worship and serve. That is what they lament seeing expelled from public schools. And that is what they opportunistically use tragedies like the recent one to promote.

Those who know or seek the true God will not bow before such idols, and will call those who do so out, and seek to expose them for what they are, namely worshippers of false gods.

I’ll leave it there…..

#SyriaBlackout – Syria has vanished from the Internet – Time to pray!

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Reports are breaking that Syria has vanished from the Internet and that telecommunications are interrupted. Quite understandably with the fighting in and around Damascus this is being interpreted as a potentially ominous sign:

Renesys is still investigating what’s going on, but, as we’ve seen in other countries, cutting off the Internet is usually meant to try and control the flow of information to the world. It’s also a pretty sure sign that the regime of Bashar al-Assad is either getting nervous about how it is being perceived in the world, or that it is planning something unspeakably harsh in the coming days and wants as little information emerging from that country as possible.

I would urge all praying types to send one up for Syria and of course for the beleaguered Christian community which finds itself in a perilous and precarious position.

There is a Twitter hashtag to follow: #SyriaBlackout

Hopefully this will prove to be an unnecessary blog post.

UPDATE: This from Google:

A little less than two years ago, when Internet access was cut off in Egypt, we worked with Twitter to launch Speak2Tweet, giving the ability for anyone to tweet using just a voice connection.

In the last day, Internet access has been completely cut off in Syria. Unfortunately we are hearing reports that mobile phones and landlines aren’t working properly either. But those who might be lucky enough to have a voice connection can still use Speak2Tweet by simply leaving a voicemail on one of these international phone numbers (+90 212 339 1447 or +30 21 1 198 2716 or +39 06 62207294 or +1 650 419 4196), and the service will tweet the message. No Internet connection is required, and people can listen to the messages by dialing the same phone numbers or going to twitter.com/speak2tweet.

Is Bishop Justin Welby the new Archbishop of Canterbury?

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

There’s nothing in the mainstream media to confirm that Bishop Justin Welby has been selected as the new Archbishop of Canterbury; however, Cranmer has posted congratulating his elevation to the See of Canterbury.

Interestingly, yesterday bookmakers suspended betting due to a  sudden run of bets on Justin Welby.

The odds on the Bishop, who spent 11 years in the oil industry before joining the clergy, crashed dramatically as a result, taking him from 13/8 second favourite to 4/6 favourite in less than 60 minutes.

“In the space of less than an hour we had to cut the odds three times, so took the decision to close the book as we know a decision is already overdue and it seems word may have leaked out,” said Hill’s spokesman Graham Sharpe.

Ladbrokes echoed its rival’s comments, saying its market analysts had spotted several significant wagers being placed. Much of the activity is believed to have come from new accounts, a sign in the business that someone, somewhere knows something.

So, given Cranmer’s track record for inside information, coupled with these wagers, could this be accurate?

We’ll see.

Tribunal dismisses Catholic Care appeal and are prohibited from discriminating against gay couples in adoption services

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

For the last five years Catholic Care has been seeking exemption from equality laws which would force it to provide adoption services to gay couples.

Catholic Care sought exclusion from the 2007 sexual orientation regulations and began legal action to change its constitution so it could continue helping married couples only. The Charity Commission refused to give consent to this, and today we have the outcome of the fourth appeal against the Charity Commission decision.

An Upper Tribunal has upheld a ruling by a lower tribunal, which ruled against Catholic Care and in favour of the Charity Commission earlier this year.

Put simply, once again Catholic Care’s appeal against the Charity Commission has been rejected; therefore, they are prohibited from discriminating against gay couples in their adoption services.

You can access the full judgement here.

I don’t have the knowledge to know if there is any further legal recourse available for Catholic Care. It’s hard to imagine them fighting on, but I thought that before.

UPDATE: The Religion and Law blog and Digital Nun have both commented on this case.

UPDATE II: UK Human Rights blog have now posted analysis.

UPDATE III: Law and Religion UK Blog have commented – They mention the possibility of the Court of Appeal.

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