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Newsline 24 April 2015

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The Christian “fired for praying at work” – here’s the other side of the story

The Christian “fired for praying at work” – here’s the other side of the story

Opinion | Thu, 23 Apr 2015

The British media unquestioningly promulgates the false narrative of Christians being discriminated against in the workplace. Terry Sanderson looks at the latest case involving a Christian disciplined for subjecting a subordinate to unwanted and intrusive proselytising.

The Christian Legal Centre's latest claim that one of its clients had suffered religious discrimination at work has been rejected by an employment tribunal in East London.

The case involved Victoria Wasteney, an occupational therapist working for the East London NHS Trust. Ms Wasteney is a member of the Christian Revival Church London – a "happy-clappy" Pentecostal outfit. She describes herself as a "born-again Christian".

When the case was being heard, the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail published reports based almost entirely on what they had been told by Andrea Minichielo Williams of the Christian Legal Centre. It gave the impression that Ms Wasteney was another in a long line of Christians who were being oppressed and discriminated against at work.

The NSS said at the time that there was probably more to this story than was being revealed by the Christian Legal Centre and, indeed, there is.

Much more.

We have obtained a copy of the tribunal judgment and it tells the whole story of Ms Wasteney's determined evangelism in the psychiatric hospital where she worked.

She started work in the hospital in 2007. In 2011 she approached her line manager, Mr Wilson and asked whether "the Trust could provide a Christian Worship Service at the John Howard Centre." She suggested that this could be provided by her church – The Christian Revival Church.

After consulting the chaplain, Mr Wilson agreed to the idea for a probationary period, only on the understanding that the services would be "ecumenical" in nature, so it would have broad appeal and that all Christians who wanted to could attend.

Within weeks of the church arriving in the hospital complaints began to arrive on Mr Wilson's desk about the nature of the services it was conducting. The Matron said that staff who were escorting patients to the services were being pressurised to participate in the worship and give their personal details.

This is how the tribunal judgment then describes what happened:

A further issue was raised with Mr Wilson by Dr Philip Baker', a Consultant Psychiatrist, on 1 February 2012. Dr Baker said that the Claimant's [Ms Wasteney] interaction with a service user for whom she had no direct clinical responsibility but who had attended the CRC services with her was troubling nurses on the ward. We shall refer to this patient as "RH". Dr Baker asked to speak to Mr Wilson about his concerns. Dr Baker expressed the view to Mr Wilson that there was a potential conflict of interest between the Claimant's professional status and her personal religious convictions. As we understand it the Claimant had been acting as an escort for RH when she attended the CRC services notwithstanding that the Claimant had no direct involvement in RH's care.

Mr Wilson met the Claimant for a routine supervision meeting on 7 February 2012.

He covered a number of topics in this meeting but one of them was the concerns raised by other members of staff noted above. His notes of this point in the supervision record reads as follows:

"Phil Baker met with John re Victoria's input into RH's CR church attendance (ensuring nursing escort is available, previously assisting with escorting. Receiving RH at church). The MDT and nursing team expressed concern that Victoria is involved with this aspect of RH's care as she is not a member of RH's care team and is an active member of the CR Church. There is not an MDT issue re RH being able to attend the CR Church services but Victoria cannot be considered to be a neutral party in this and her ongoing involvement therefore represents a conflict of interest between her professional status and her personal religious convictions. I'm of the view that it does represent a potential conflict of interest and that in the event that a complaint was subsequently made, Victoria would be vulnerable to the allegation that she has a personal, vested interest in RH's attendance at CRC. It was therefore agreed that Victoria would separate herself from any further involvement in the arrangements or escorting of RH to CR Church services. Victoria noted that she was able to maintain professional boundaries in this matter but acknowledged the potential and perceived conflict of interest involved her continuing to be involved with RH. She therefore agreed to withdraw from this with immediate effect."

On the following day the Claimant emailed Mr Wilson questioning the concerns raised so, she said, she could understand them. Mr Wilson replied as follows:

"You should refrain from direct clinical input with an individual service user where the input involves attendance at, or involvement with CRC, on the grounds that you are an active member of that church

You would not be considered neutral specifically in relation patient attendance, at or involvement with CRC. This does not apply to spiritual care provision more generally although the spiritual care leads for the Trust would be that main authority in relation to this.

No-one in the MDT has described your relationship with RH as inappropriate, simply that there is a conflict of interest between your professional status and your active membership of CRC. You would be deemed to have a vested interest in RH's attendance,"

It is clear from this exchange that Mr Wilson was telling the Claimant not to involve herself in the clinical care of the service user RH who was also a member of her church because of the potential for the Claimant's motives to be misconstrued. In practical terms this meant that the Claimant was to desist from acting as escort for RH at the CRC services.

On 7 March 2012 Mr Wilson received a further email from Dr Baker informing him that the Claimant had been on the ward the previous Sunday enquiring about escorting arrangements for RH. Dr Baker also expressed a concern related by one of the Occupational Therapy Trainees that the "external facilitator" at the Discover Life Group (a CRC member) had set service users the "homework" of trying to encourage other people to join the group "to find the love of God". The trainee was concerned about the impact of this on the Trust's service users who are potentially vulnerable. Dr Baker also forwarded a further email he had received from Ms MacGillivray dated 2 March 2012 recounting an instance when an escort said that he or she had felt uncomfortable at a CRC led service.

On 15 March 2012 Mr Wilson received further complaints from two senior Occupational Therapists, Jemma Payne and Karen Hogan, that they felt that service users were being pressurised to dance, sing and clap at Discover Life Group Services, that they were being encouraged to donate to the CRC rather than to charity, that negative views had been expressed about other religions and that the services involved the laying on of hands and speaking in tongues. The two therapists also referred to the "homework" allegation and said that escorts were under pressure to participate in the service and were routinely asked to attend other CRC services in the community.

Mr Wilson spoke to Mr Copsey to get feedback on the Discover Life Group. Mr Copsey said that John Sahatundo, a Minister with the DSRCC, had been attending the services on behalf of the Department and had raised concerns that the CRC was promoting a particular strand of Christian worship and teaching.

Mr Wilson's evidence to us was that against this background he decided to suspend the Discover Life Group pilot. He announced this decision to the CRC in an email dated 19 March 2012 page 200). He also met with the Claimant that day to discuss the concerns that had been raised. He summarised the meeting in a letter to the Claimant dated 22 March 2012. He said in particular as follows:

"At our meeting on 19 March I confirmed that the same underlying principle should apply to your working relationship with staff in your department; that is, you should not invite or communicate with your staff in relation to attendance at events associated with your personal spiritual beliefs, You noted that you made these invites in good faith and did not apply any pressure to attend. However, given that the relevant staff are managerially accountable to you, I highlighted that they may feel compelled to attend on the basis that you are an active member of CRC."

Mr Wilson undertook an investigation into the concerns raised by staff about the Discover Life Group, He worked with Raphael Zernoff, a Spiritual Care Co-ordinator in the DSRCC in compiling this report, which is dated 30 April 2012. It is beyond the scope of these reasons to analyse the details of this report but our impression is of a balanced and thorough investigation. Many of the allegations raised against the CRC were not accepted or not accepted in full by the investigators. Nevertheless the report recommended that future provision needed to be broad based and ecumenical so as to meet the needs of all Christian denominations. One factor raised in the report is of particular importance in this case: the authors highlighted that junior staff had felt under pressure not to respond negatively to invitations to participate in the Discover Life Group's activities. The authors referred expressly in this context to the fact that the Claimant was head of the department and an active member of the CRC.

The Claimant's first response to this report was in an email dated 1 May 2012; she described it as "an exceptionally well put together report". Following the publication of the report, a copy was sent to the CRC and it was asked whether it wished to participate in redesigned services meeting the broad based and ecumenical objectives: the CRC declined. Mr Wilson agreed however that it could provide a letter to service users explaining why the Discover Life Group had stopped. Subsequently the Claimant brought in a number of packs from the Church for distribution: these included flyers, a DVD and sweets. We have looked at this material and agree with Mr Wilson's evidence that this was not the letter of explanation that he had envisaged from the Church. Mr Wilson chose not to distribute this material.

The Claimant provided some detailed comments on Mr Wilson's and Mr Zernoff's report in a letter dated 8 May 2012 (pages 216 to 219). Once again she described the report in positive terms, "thorough and professional". She asked questions about the report's recommendations that the practices of laying on of hands and speaking in tongues should not be engaged in on Trust sites. The letter shows that the Claimant was well aware of the recommendations in the report.

We have set out this passage of events in some detail as, whilst it does not give rise to specific justiciable issues of discrimination or harassment, it is said by the Claimant to be evidence of a general hostility to Christianity in general and the CRC in particular within the Trust. We do not accept this. The evidence shows that the Respondent was receptive to the idea of establishing regular Christian worship at the John Howard Centre: it was the way in which that worship was conducted which gave rise to allegations of improper pressure on staff and service users. It is notable in this context that service users are vulnerable persons with mental health conditions. Furthermore, there was cogent evidence that services were not broad based and ecumenical as the Respondent had requested but were more narrowly focused on the Charismatic and Evangelical strands of Christian belief. Mixed in with all of this was the Claimant's own conduct in respect of RH which she persisted in despite being told by her line manager to desist because of a potential conflict of interest.

We are unsurprised therefore that the Claimant received counselling and an informal warning from Mr Wilson in February and March 2012 respectively about the boundaries between her spiritual and professional life. We are also unsurprised that the Discover Life Group was suspended.

It is notable that the CRC was invited to remodel its services so that they could continue but the CRC declined to do this. This is not consistent with a conscious or subconscious anti-Christian animus. Nor do we find that the Respondent was against the CRC in particular, it merely wished that when on its premises, the Church acted in a way which was multi-denominational rather than confined to its own regular style of worship.

It is quite clear from this that Ms Wasteney had a long record of overstepping the bounds of what is appropriate and acceptable at work. It is also clear that, despite what Andrea Minichielo Williams says ("The NHS is increasingly dominated by a suffocating liberal agenda that chooses to bend over backwards to accommodate certain beliefs but punishes the Christian," – as she told the Daily Mail) this hospital went above and beyond what was necessary to try to accommodate this somewhat extreme evangelical group. In fact, it could be argued that they were irresponsible to have subjected the vulnerable people in their care to this kind of religious extremism.

But then we come to the young Muslim woman (referred to as EN) who made the complaint of harassment and bullying against Ms Wasteney.

She was a newly-qualified occupational therapist who had a 12 month contract at the hospital and Ms Wasteney was her manager.

EN had moved from Birmingham to London to take up the position and was feeling particularly alone and vulnerable. The original complaint against Ms Waveney – which runs to 8 pages - shows just how intense was the pressure she applied to her subordinate colleague, EN.

The employment tribunal found that Victoria Wasteney had not suffered religious discrimination. It said that she had been disciplined by the hospital because she misused her seniority over EN (the Muslim junior) to try to impose her views. It said that it would not have mattered whether these were religious or political views, the matter was not about religion but about abuse of authority.

The Christian Legal Centre is now funding an appeal against this decision that will add to the significant amount of money that the East London NHS Trust has already had to spend on stopping Ms Wasteney abusing her position to proselytise.

Andrea Williams is doing this because it will enable her to repeat her claims that this is a 'clear case of religious discrimination', that Christians are disadvantaged at work etc. etc. etc. It will enable her to reinforce the perception that there is persecution of Christians in the workplace. It will enable her to fire another bullet at the heart of the Equality Act.

But her claims are baseless. She relies on the fact that no-one is going to read 25 pages of legal reasoning to find out the true story – even if you can find the judgments in the first place.

The Daily Mail said in a headline that Ms Wasteney claims she was "sacked" from her job (although in the body of the story it admits that she was not sacked and is still working for the Trust). Too late – the perception that she was fired from her job simply for praying is now part of the mythology.

In a BBC story about the case this week, Ms Wasteney was given free range to once more give a partial account of the story. In an interview Victoria Derbyshire put the complaints to her and she answers slickly. But where was the real challenge here? Where is the other side of the story?

The NHS Trust obviously wants the whole thing to go away and to be able to get on with its job of caring for patients. It certainly doesn't want to fund yet another very expensive court case. It has asked Ms Wasteney not to speak to the media. She takes no notice.

We have been told repeatedly that the NHS is in dire financial straits, particularly mental health services. Is it really in the best interest of everyone to allow this case to proceed any further when it is clear that it has no merit? Will Ms Wasteney just for once put her religion aside for the greater good and stop this nonsense now? And if Andrea Minichielo Williams is really as deeply Christian as she claims, won't she spare the hospital this unwanted and foolish distraction and let it get on with its job of caring for sick people?

On a wider point, when people like Williams talk about "Christians", who is she referring to? Do all Christians go along with her aggressive and dishonest approach?

We often hear people demanding that moderate Muslims distance themselves from the fanatics.

Perhaps it is now time for sensible Christians to do the same with the likes of the Christian Legal Centre, which is bringing their religion into disrepute.

Allowing children to languish in illegal religious 'schools' is the bigotry of low expectations

Allowing children to languish in illegal religious 'schools' is the bigotry of low expectations

Opinion | Wed, 22 Apr 2015

NSS campaigns manager Stephen Evans warns that growing numbers of unregulated religious 'schools' are badly letting children down, and argues that the rights of children to education should be prioritised.

This week it was revealed that officials at the Department for Education (DfE) are investigating up to fifty unregulated schools set up by Islamists, including several established by a former teacher at the centre of the so-called Trojan Horse scandal.

According to The Sunday Times, many of their pupils, including some from Somali, Bengali and Pakistani families, have been taken out of mainstream schools to attend unregistered schools without proper regulation or oversight.

But as the DfE is well aware, the problem of unregistered schools is nothing new. For many years it has been aware of the thousand or so 'missing' Jewish boys from Hackney, in London's East End, who, instead of receiving a broad and balanced secular education, are attending unregistered, and therefore illegal, 'yeshivas' where the curriculum is entirely religious.

As far back as 2008 the Jewish Chronicle raised the issue of children disappearing from the education system at age 13 and being "systematically undereducated in secular studies" in unregulated schools. A follow up leader article called on authorities to "confront the Charedi Taliban", but despite being aware of this criminal activity for years, it's not at all clear what the DfE has actually done about it.

Powers contained within the Education Act 2002 to prosecute proprietors of unregistered independent schools are seldom - if at all - used. The DfE says it would "prefer" it if all 'schools' were registered, but says this situation is "best achieved through co-operative working".

Last year's Channel 4 Dispatches highlighted how the problem of illegal Jewish schools hasn't gone away. One former student gave an insight into life inside such 'schools'.

He told Dispatches: "I didn't speak English. I only spoke Yiddish. I didn't even know what the word science meant, I didn't know the definition, I hadn't heard this word before. We didn't come out with anything we could use in daily life or even in the future. When I was a kid I was told terrible things about non-Jews."

He added: "The thing in the community is that in order to keep such a vast number of people enclosed is that they are indoctrinating from a very young age that everything outside is bad, that everything outside is evil except Charedim is bad."

The number and variety of unauthorised religious schools now appears to be growing. Whatever the DfE is doing, it doesn't appear to be working.

While it's heartening to learn that the prospect of young people being taken out of school to be radicalised by Islamists is of concern to the DfE, their concerns needs to go beyond worries that children might become a threat to national security - to caring about the denial of young people's right to a decent education.

The state provides schools, but UK law places children's education as a parental responsibility. It's reasonable that parents have the right to take part in decisions concerning their child's education, but surely they shouldn't be allowed to dictate what happens entirely on their terms.

The wishes of parents should, of course, be taken into consideration. But the independent interests of young people and parents (not to mention civil society) must be balanced. But when it comes to religion, it appears the scales are tilted in favour of the parents, with the independent interests of the child hardly getting a look in.

A child-centred approach to education would mean that, whilst parents are given free rein (within the law) to raise their children as they wish at home, the independent interests of the child would always be the first priority when it comes to their education.

The DfE doesn't have a great record on this. When the National Secular Society objected to young girls being denied knowledge about human reproduction at a state funded Jewish school, the Minister's response was to allow redactions of 'sensitive' exam question to continue, "respecting the schools need to do this in view of their religious beliefs".

Thankfully, the exam regulator disagreed with the Minister and banned the practice - putting children's best interest first.

Surely one of the primary purposes of state education should be to cultivate children's autonomy. Many yeshivas and madrassas exist to stymie young people's independence. In some cases, it's not only intellectual abuse that's taking place.

Schools being used as a mechanism to inculcate the next generation of religious believers isn't only a problem in unregistered schools. It's a significant problem in both the maintained and independent sectors. But it's in the shadows of the 'illegal sector' where the worse violations of children's rights occur.

The state has a duty to protect and uphold children's rights - to ensure that each and every child gets the best possible start in life. It should fulfil its duty equally for all children and young people, regardless of their religious background.

There is of course a tendency to evade issues deemed to be in the 'too difficult' department. There may not be a simple solution to this problem, but one has to question whether the political will is really there to stand up for children's best interests when it runs the risk of upsetting religious communities.

But it's not only in the Swat Valley of Pakistan, or the Boko Haram controlled areas of Nigeria where more must be done to stand up for children's human right to education.

These unregistered schools aren't really schools at all. They're indoctrination centres run by religious leaders to brainwash young minds. Allowing young people to languish in them when they should be in school is nothing short of the bigotry of low expectations.

This article was originally published on the Huffington Post.

NUS votes to work with group accused of supporting Islamic extremism

NUS votes to work with group accused of supporting Islamic extremism

News | Thu, 23 Apr 2015

The National Union of Students has voted to work with Islamic 'civil rights' group Cage, against the Government's counter-terror and counter-radicalisation strategy.

What do the minor parties have to say about secularism and religion?

What do the minor parties have to say about secularism and religion?

Opinion | Tue, 21 Apr 2015

From the Wessex Regionalists to the Christian People's Alliance, the NSS presents some highlights on secularism and religion from the minor parties' manifestos.

Which party wants to place unicorns on a list of protected animals? Who wants to give married couples £10,000 if they go on "marital awareness training"? Which manifesto argues that communism and cross-dressing have taken over non-religious schools? Read on to find out more…

As part of our General Election coverage, we've been going through the party manifestos to reveal their stance on secularist issues like faith schools and the role of religion in public services.

We've already picked out the highlights from the Conservatives, the LibDems, the Greens, UKIP, Labour, the SNP and Plaid Cymru. Now we take a look at some of the smaller parties.

Christian Party

The Christian Party says that "Britain's education system is rooted in our Judaeo-Christian heritage" but has been taken over by "communistic ideals." It warns of pupils cross-dressing in schools, and the Government's "pro-homosexuality" agenda. Their manifesto states that education has been "eroded by the secular and multifaith agendas".

The Party says they will "refocus education on the basics of the core curriculum of reading, writing, mathematics, science, languages and modern studies".

The party argues that there is "waste of education resources on peripheral" activities, but despite this they argue that "the obligation to assemble pupils for an act of Christian worship, including praise and prayer, should no longer be ignored."

The Party challenges the teaching of evolution, and believes that "the Science curriculum should include the evidence of creation and design in the Universe, presenting evolution as an alternative hypothesis rather than falsely depicting it as a proven fact."

PHSE will be reformed with "Christian content." The party "supports a wide variety of corrective measures in schools" and promises to "bring normality back to childhood". They state that "Sex education needs to be in the context of traditional marriage. The Christian Party will promote true love in its education policy."

They also believe that the current Government's plans on sex education "will sexualise children at an early age." Their manifesto states: "Given the coalition's pro-homosexuality agenda, sex education for five-year-olds amount to state-sponsored sexual indoctrination."

The Christian Party warns, "the cross-dressing of primary school children is an abuse of the school environment and of the children themselves. We resist the use of schools for the LBGT political agenda, such as promotional months, and government backing and financial support for their literature and campaigns. The Christian Party continues to call for the end of the promotion in schools of the LGBT agenda, which is now appearing in other subjects across the curriculum."

On healthcare, the Christian Party says the NHS should not provide services "based on lifestyle choices" such as abortion.

The Christian Party claim they will "will restore proper respect for our neighbour by removing the inequalities in our equalities legislation."

Their full manifesto can be read here

Christian People's Alliance

The Christian People's Alliance say "the breakdown of marriage is costing the country £49 billion." They plan to "change the whole culture of our society" and claim this will "claw back substantial amounts of this money."

Though they aim to reduce the size of government and cut spending, they want every married couple to be given £10,000 "on the occasion of their first marriage", if the couple go to three sessions of "marital awareness training."

Another grant will be available to parents who have a child "within wedlock."

On education, the party believes that "sex education should teach the high value of marriage for personal and societal enrichment" and that sex outside of marriage exposes "participants" to sexually transmitted diseases and abortion. They say children should be taught that "'safe sex' is a misnomer" and that "marriage is the best protection."

They stress the importance of teaching children to "preserve one's sexual organs for marriage."

The party states "all students should understand that Christian worship benefits society" but that pupils should only participate in collective worship at school if they wish to. They plan for a "broad curriculum" in faith schools.

The Christian People's Alliance call for "strong principles of good and evil" in the health service.

On the environment, the manifesto laments that "all of western man has never been totally committed to Genesis" and notes that not all atheists are "eco-friendly." To tackle climate change, the party lists "practical steps" which include "encouraging repentance of previous abuse", seeking "God's blessing on the world" and avoiding the waste of food. "Ecological balance is biblical", they say.

Their full manifesto can be read here.

Communist Party

The website of the Communist Party is "committed to secularism" and argues that "religious institutions shouldn't play a role in the state and vice versa." The party says that it is not anti-religious, and notes that many of its members are "ministers of different denominations and religions."

They explain: "Despite the fact that modern British society is very secular, it's institutions aren't. The Church of England is still the official state religion and has its own unelected representatives in Parliament. Communists argue that religious belief should be a matter for the individual. A socialist Britain would be one that celebrates and recognises the diverse traditions and beliefs of the peoples' of Britain, guarantees the freedom of religious belief and worship for all without having any institutionalised privileges for any one religion or church."

Their website can be found here.

Left Unity

Left Unity would "end the charitable status of fee-paying schools, and also withdraw state funding from schools or colleges which exclusively promote any one religious belief system, including Christianity, unless such establishments have an open, secular enrolment policy."

The party proposes abolishing the House of Lords and the monarch. Their manifesto argues that "the Church of England must be dis-established, its privileges ended and its wealth confiscated."

They state that "media myths have fuelled Islamophobia."

Their full manifesto can be read here.

Liberty GB

Liberty GB promises a "zero tolerance" strategy toward Islam and "any Islamic practice that conflicts with traditional British laws or values."

They aim at "limiting the size of the Muslim community and preventing political Islam from gaining influence. This is essential to ensure a peaceful future and preserve our way of life."

Liberty GB vows to "enact a law of sedition specifically aimed at eradicating Islamism, and re-classify acts of terrorism as treason. Treason will carry the possibility of the death sentence for all those involved. Both will carry a sentence of possible expulsion from the UK."

"No infringement of British law will be tolerated or ignored for the sake of 'community relations'. Religious or cultural norms and values will no longer be considered as mitigating circumstances to gain a light sentence or as a reason to evade prosecution."

The party would prohibit Muslims from holding public office.

Their full manifesto can be read here

Monster Raving Loony Party

The Monster Raving Loony Party has quite a short 'manicfesto' online this time, which includes making unicorns a protected species. If new policy is forthcoming, we will update this post.

Their website can be found here

Wessex Regionalist Party

A Wessex Regionalist Government promises to "phase out religious involvement in publicly-funded education" and to "return control of education policy and funding to local councils."

Their website can be found here

You can read our blog about the major parties manifestos here.

Secularist bequest upheld in court, in 1915

Secularist bequest upheld in court, in 1915

Opinion | Fri, 24 Apr 2015

A landmark legal cases involving secularists took place a century ago. In Bowman v. Secular Society the relatives of a testator leaving money to the Secular Society (an associated company of the NSS) sought but failed to have the bequest declared invalid on the grounds – less spurious then – that it was contrary to the blasphemy law.

The NSS worked in both the House of Commons and Lords to secure the abolition of the blasphemy law, eventually succeeding in 2008.

We reproduce the reporting of the case and less than enthusiastic editorial by the Church Times on 23 April 1915, with the kind permission of its current editor.



The decision of Mr. Justice Joyce in re Bowman, which we report at length elsewhere, is of considerable historical interest. A testator had left his residuary estate to the Secular Society, Limited, a Society which has Mr. Foote for its president. The Society boasts a somewhat colourless Memorandum which, however, it is difficult to reconcile with Christianity. The next of kin of the testator attempted to set the gift aside; but this attempt failed, Mr. Justice Joyce deciding that the objects of the Society are not contrary to morality. The question, however, is whether they are contrary to Christianity. Cases as late as the Victorian epoch have decided that such gifts are invalid. Probably the case will be appealed; but the judgment shows that the Chancery Division of the High Court has been affected by the wave of opinion which has modified the Blasphemy Law, finding a punishable offence no longer in a denial of Christianity, but only in a denial couched in vulgar and offensive language. It is now more ridiculous than ever to say that Christianity is part of the Common Law of England.





THE question at issue in this case was whether the gift of the residuary or the late Mr. Bowman in trust for the Secular Society, Limited, was valid.

The Secular Society is a Company Limited by Guarantee. Clause 3 of the Memorandum of the Company states its objects. Object A is, "To promote in such ways as may from time to time be determined the principle that human conduct should be based on natural knowledge and not on supernatural belief, and that human welfare in this world is the proper end of all thought and action."

The next-of-kin of the testator attacked the validity of the bequest on the ground that it was illegal under the Blasphemy Law and void as being against public policy.

Mr. Tomlin, K.C., and the Hon. M. M. Macnaughten appeared for the Secular Society; Mr. George Cave, K.C., M.P., and Mr. J. A. Price appeared for the next-of-kin of the testator; Mr. Hughes, K.C., and Mr. L. W. Byrne appeared for the trustees of the will.

Mr. Tomlin opened the case.

Mr. Cave argued that the gift was bad under the Blasphemy Law, and referred to the Blasphemy Act of William III. (1697). This statute imposes severe penalties on persons who shall by writing inter alia, shall deny the Christian religion to be true or the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, to be of Divine authority. Until this statute was amended in favour of the Unitarians it denounced similar penalties against them, and on this ground it was decided (1835) by Lord Lyndhurst, in the case of Attorney-General v. Pearson, that Unitarians were unable to participate in Lady Hewley's Charities.

Mr. Cave referred to the prosecutions under the Blasphemy Law, tracing them back to the seventeenth century. He admitted that at the present time the Blasphemy Law is in confusion, since some judges take the view of -the late Mr. Justice Stephen that a denial of the Christian religion, in whatever language expressed, renders the offender liable to prosecution, while others follow the view adopted by the late Lord Coleridge in the Foote case, that blasphemy consists only in a denial of Christian verities expressed in contumelious language. Ho also referred to the ease of Briggs v. Hartley, 1850, where Vice-Chancellor Shadwell held that a legacy for an essay to show the sufficiency of natural theology to constitute a perfect system of religion was bad as being against Christianity, and to Cowan v. Milbourn, 1867, where a contract to let a hall for free-thinking lectures was held to be unenforceable.

Mr. Cave also urged that the Secular Society, Limited, was a mere dummy to obtain legacies for the National Secular Society, which was more avowedly atheistic; but the Judge would not allow evidence on this point to be put in. He also urged that it was bad on public policy. If public policy made bequests for Masses for the dead illegal, surely public policy must do the same with bequests for atheism.

At several points during Mr. Cave's argument Mr. Justice Joyce insisted that he could see nothing contrary to Christianity in the secularist Memorandum. His lordship expressed his approval of Lord Coleridge's view of the meaning of the Blasphemy Law, and with the statement that Christianity is no longer part of the law of the land. At the same time his lordship stated that he had no sympathy with the secularists.

Mr. Justice Joyce, in a brief judgment, said the case must be decided by law, and he did not find anything in the Memorandum of the Secular Society subversive of morality or contrary to law. Consequently the bequest was good.

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