“I am incandescent,” she said. “I was told that the words I had written were not appropriate because the congregation would include people of little or no faith who presumably would be upset. Even more insultingly, I was asked instead to read a passage from Bertrand Russell, a militant atheist.”
That would be Cristina Odone, the former deputy editor of the New Statesman, Guardian columnist, and defender of the veil. Albino Assassination Monk she ain’t. Anyway:
As an experienced writer and broadcaster on religion, she was asked to write a short piece on the theme of “opportunities for all” that could be “political and controversial”.
She developed the theme of secular intolerance towards believers of all faiths, from the British Airways worker suspended for wearing a cross to the Muslim schoolgirl banned from wearing the veil. …
“To parade this allegiance by wearing a cross, a cap or a veil is red rag to the secularist bull. What little opportunity believers have to bear witness to their faith is being quashed. If you are black or gay or female, your plea for equal opportunity is met with respect, and your campaign is applauded by supporters. But not if you are a believer. In a culture increasingly hostile to God and his followers, expressions of faith have become taboo. The only opportunity we have is for silence.”
Stuart Mole, the director-general of the society, an educational charity that promotes the Commonwealth and whose patron is the Queen, told her the script was not acceptable.
He said it did not fit in with the overall theme of the readings, adding: “We also need to be mindful of the congregation, which will probably include quite a few drawn by the occasion and by the carols but who do not hold a deep (or even a shallow) faith.”
Yesterday Ms Odone said: “I think there is a tremendous move to down play this country’s Christian heritage, to silence, ridicule and marginalise religious belief.
“They have shown precisely the kind of intolerance and disapproval of Christianity that I am talking about.”
Mr Mole said he was “deeply sorry” Ms Odone felt unable to participate in the service but the tone of her script was too polemical for a “multi-faith” carol service.
I guess it’s a fine line between “political and controversial” and “polemical”. Meanwhile, Damian Thompson’s Holy Smokes blog at the Telegraph:
I’m still trying to get my head round the concept of a multi-faith carol service. Carols are unambiguously Christian: they celebrate the birth of the divine Messiah. Other faiths, by definition, reject the divinity of Jesus. So… no, I’m sorry, I give up.