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Church rejects claims of 'extremism'

CONTROVERSY: Phillips' views on Christians have been attacked

CHURCH LEADERS have been robust in their rejection of criticisms made by broadcaster and campaigner Trevor Phillips who last week attacked what he described as the increasing militancy of Christians on some social issues.

Phillips, who is currently Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHCR) also said that Muslims were doing a better job of integrating into British society than Christians.

He made his comments during an interview with The Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

During the interview, Phillips attacked “fashionable" views mocking and marginalising religion and pledged that the EHCR will stand up for believers.

However, he also warned of the dangers of extremism, claiming that some Christian activists were not fighting for their religion but for political influence

“There are a lot of Christian activist voices who appear bent on stressing the kind of persecution that I don't think really exists in this country” he said “There are some Christian organisations who basically want to have a fight and therefore they're constantly defining the ground in such a way that anyone who doesn't wholly agree with them about everything is essentially a messenger from Satan."

He also warned that “old time" religious views on homosexuality from African and Caribbean congregations were “incompatible with modern, multi ethnic society, multicultural society."

The Evangelical Alliance (EA), the representative body of over one million Christians in the UK strongly rejected Phillips’ comments.

Dr Don Horrocks, Head of Public Affairs at the EA said “Christians have been at the forefront of defending religious liberty and freedom of speech and conscience against the encroachment of a largely secular agenda that has been forcibly seeking to impose a ‘one size fits all’ blunt instrument of equalities legislation on everyone.

Such an approach ignorantly assumes that faith adherents can simply suspend their convictions and consciences in public life and keep them private.”

Horrocks added that Phillips was mistaken in his view that Muslims have integrated better into the equality and human rights agenda than Christians and described his comments about “old time” African-Caribbean Christianity as patronising.

In recent years a number of cases have hit the headlines where Christians have felt discriminated against by their employers or local authorities.

Earlier this year Pentecostal Christians Eunice and Owen John were told they were unable to foster children because they would not teach children in their care that homosexuality was socially acceptable. During the case the EHCR suggested that the couple could attend a ‘re-education’ programme.

And Christian bed and breakfast owners Peter and Hazelmary Bull face financial ruin after they were ordered to pay compensation to a homosexual couple who sued them for refusing to give them a double room. The EHCR funded and supported their case.

Rev Ade Oomba, founder of Christian Concern For Our Nation (CCFON), an organisation that supports Christians who believe they’ve been discriminated against because of their faith, also disagrees with Phillips' views. He said “For him to come forward to make such statements shows how disconnected he is. There are times when you have people like Trevor Phillips who do not understand the real issues within their community, who then attempt to lead and be a voice for that community. You cannot be a voice for a community that you do not serve."

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