Christians in the firing line
Dr Richard Scott
Wilberforce Publications, 202 pages, £7.99
Star rating : 3
Christians in the firing line consists of case studies of seven men, five women and one married couple, who, in the course of work, public service or exercising freedom of expression, have recently come into conflict with an employer, public or professional body, or the law.
Most of the cases touch on the issue of the right within society to ‘manifest one’s religion or beliefs’. This is part of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), to which Britain is a signatory. The problem is that this right has often appeared to be ‘trumped’ by other rights and considerations. The ECHR is the legal basis for all decisions of the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg.
What emerges from these cameos is the ordinariness of the people portrayed and how unremarkable were the circumstances leading to the actions initiated against them. There must be hundreds more instances where similar facts are already in place and a spark of contention could suddenly create another such conflict.
The author of this aptly titled book, Dr Richard Scott, is himself the subject of one of the published case studies. His case involved a General Medical Council finding of unprofessional conduct, arising from a faith discussion with a patient. Commenting on it, Dr Scott accurately summarises society’s changed attitude: ‘Thirty years ago, we (doctor and patient) would have agreed to disagree. Now our little contretemps in Margate warranted national news and I was up before the beak’.
Wilberforce Publications is a brand of Christian Concern, whose case-handling section, the Christian Legal Centre, acted in all the published cases. Some achieved widespread national publicity at key moments, but the book goes much further, revealing the people affected as individual personalities rather than just ‘cases’.
The studies also provide a fuller background to the circumstances and context of each case, defining the precise issue in contention, and showing how it became a problem. This is valuable information for every Christian in a potentially similar situation.
The importance of the work of Christian Concern — and the Christian Institute which undertakes a similar workload — in defending individual Christians, in seeking to establish what the law is, and constantly raising issues of concern from various contexts of public life, is incalculable.
Without it, legitimate freedom to express Christian convictions and stand by Christian principles would be greatly diminished.