The saga of electrician – and practising Christian – Colin Atkinson and housing provider WDH continues, at least for the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre at the Daily Mail. Worryingly, though, the affair has begun to suck in fringe groups such as the English Defence League (EDL) and the British National Party (BNP), the latter bringing a particularly sinister tone.
As WDH appear unmoved by the Mail’s bombardment of whataboutery, the paper has cranked up the rhetoric, characterising Atkinson as “persecuted”. The assembled talking heads now include Ann Widdecombe, who has demanded to know “where is the difference between a cross for a Christian and a verse from the Qur’an for a Muslim”, the answer being that company rules do not apply to employees’ own vehicles.
Meanwhile, no attention has yet fallen on the body pitching in on Atkinson’s behalf, the Christian Institute, an evangelical lobby group, who tell us that “The Bible is without error ... Christians must, therefore, submit to its supreme authority ... in every matter of belief and conduct”. That could be difficult, as the Bible is a deeply ambiguous work.
The Christian Institute has previously taken action over Section 28 (failed), another over legislation in Northern Ireland (failed), supported a registrar in Islington who refused to do the paperwork for civil partnerships (ultimately failed) and also supported two Christian hotel owners who would not let a gay couple stay (so far failed). If I were in Colin Atkinson’s shoes, I wouldn’t be too confident of success.
But it’s the far right’s involvement that is most worrying: the EDL have accused WDH of being “an enabler of Sharia norms” and demanded they cease any disciplinary action. Even so, the EDL have nothing on the BNP.
The BNP – showing that they are becoming desperate – have written to WDH threatening “an escalating campaign” against WDH if disciplinary action is not stopped. The company’s action is described as “far-left, pro-Islamic, Common Purpose-style bullying of decent people”, and the letter concludes “From now on, actions such as your persecution of Colin Atkinson will have consequences. The BNP will see to it”.
BNP leader Nick Griffin is in accord with the action, telling of “this anti-Christian Islamo-Marxist jihad”. Put directly, it’s turning nasty, and someone needs to turn down the rhetoric, and soon.That someone is Paul Dacre.