Christian Group’s Intimidation Tactics Must Be Challenged

The police must act against a Christian group using intimidation and bullying against bookshops and artists to attempt censorship of what it considers ‘blasphemous’ art, says the National Secular Society.

Stephen Green who runs Christian Voice has admitted it was behind the cancellation of a poetry reading at a Cardiff bookshop yesterday. Mr Green had warned the management of Waterstone’s that there would be disruption if the reading by Welsh poet Patrick Jones went ahead. In a press release Mr Green described the poetry as “obscene and blasphemous” and said: “Just the knowledge that we were on our way has put the fear of God into the opposition.”

Now Mr Green is pressurising Waterstone’s to stop selling the book of poetry, Darkness is Where the Stars Are.

Last week, when the Crown Prosecution halted a legal challenge to the Baltic Centre in Gateshead after it exhibited a statue of Jesus with an erection, Mr Green reportedly warned the art collector who owns the statue, Anita Zabludowicz, that the artwork would not “survive being put on display again”.

Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, said: “Stephen Green is becoming a real threat to artistic freedom. It seems a mere phone call from him threatening some kind of demonstration can cause a bookshop to capitulate to his demands and cancel an artistic event. His increasingly bullying behaviour needs to be challenged by the police. We simply cannot allow this man to dictate what can and cannot be said by artists. It is really up to the authorities to protect artists and their promoters from such intimidation.”

Mr Sanderson said that Stephen Green had also tried to prosecute the Director General of the BBC for broadcasting Jerry Springer - the Opera, and had published the addresses of several BBC executives at the height of the controversy, causing distress and fear to some of the families. “Freedom of expression is too precious to be sacrificed to the whim of a zealot. The authorities must step in and protect artists who are acting within the law from the religious bullying practised by Mr Green.”

13 November 2008