The Fourth Estate is getting some extended mileage out of the proposition that Christianity is somehow “under attack”: the latest shock horror outrage concerns a parish council in East Sussex, where councillors have been advised that it is not appropriate to say prayers before meetings. This is another of those “so what” moments: they’re there to do the business, not say prayers.
But such is the febrile state of some papers right now on the issue of religion that the apparently minor issue gets written up into a full feature in the Maily Telegraph. And then – as so often, a day late – the Express gets hold of it, and the dramatisation process begins. “Fury As Prayers Are Banned At Council Meetings” thunders the headline, in true why-oh-why style.
“Christians reacted furiously last night” we are told, despite the report being already a day out of date. Perhaps this is part of the Express standard template: whenever there is “fury”, or a “furious reaction”, it always happened “last night”, even when the publication takes place on a Monday, and it’s about councils or parliaments that don’t sit at weekends.
But at least the Express attempts to add some value by bringing in the Christian Peoples’ Alliance. Who they? Well, they have had councillors elected in the recent past, but none are still in office. They have opposed mosques, are anti-abortion, but in favour of caring for the environment. And their leader Alan Craig is seeing the full range of demons in today’s secular Britain.
Craig manages to make a direct link between less “Christian values and ... Christian prayers” and “rioting, binge drinking and drug culture”. It would be interesting to know how he expects to be taken seriously: even when many more attended church regularly, it did not prevent acts of disorder and drug and alcohol abuse, though it may have seemed that way when less well publicised.
And it would be most helpful if the Telegraph did not blatantly misinform: the decision not to allow prayers before meetings was not “in case it offends non-believers or other religious groups”, the latter being defined in the piece as “Muslims or Buddhists”.
It’s nice to see the Buddhists shouldering their share of demonisation.