A Tory council has banned posters for a carol service at a church over fears that non-Christians could be offended.
Chorister Bridget Adams had asked to put up a poster about the event in a local library. She was shocked when her request to publicise the service at All Saints’ Church, in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, was refused. An official said it contravened a policy banning notices of a religious, political or sexual nature.
The freedom of individuals to believe in, practice, and promote the religion of choice without (government) interference, harrassment, or other repercussions – as long as practices based on, or resulting from, those beliefs do not break the law (e.g. do not encourage or result in fraud, tax evasion, murder, terrorism, acts designed to undermine the government or the constitution, the use of unethical persuasion tactics, etcetera).
The practice of discouraging religious freedom and the freedom to express and/or promote all or certain religious beliefs – with repercussions ranging from discrimination and harassment to prevention and prosecution (by legal and/or illegal means). Does not cover legitimate legal measures designed to prevent and/or prosecute illegal practices such as fraud, tax evasion, murder, terrorism, acts designed to undermine the government or the constitution, the use of unethical persuasion tactics, etcetera.
a) Refusing to acknowledge and support the right of individuals to have their own beliefs and related legitimate practices.
b) Also, the unwillingness to have one’s own beliefs and related practices critically evaluated.
The following do not constitute religious intolerance:
Acknowledging and supporting that individuals have the right and freedom to their own beliefs and related legitimate practices, without necessarily validating those beliefs or practices.
Mrs Adams said: “The librarian said if she accepted one, she would have to take them all. But it was clear it was not about problems with space.
It was the perceived risk of causing offence.”
She added: “Surely we can encourage diversity without excluding our own heritage and special traditions?”
All Saints’ Church is currently without a fulltime vicar and is having its services taken by retired clergymen.
Mrs Adams is supported by several leaders of non-Christian faiths. Imam Sahidzada Jeelani, of the Wycombe Mission and Mosque Trust, said: “Each faith should be able to celebrate their festivals. I don’t think the poster would be offensive to anyone.”
Sarup Singh Seehra, president of Gurdwara, the Sikh temple in Wycombe, said: “The joy of Christmas rubs off on other communities. I can’t see how a poster could cause any damage.”
Mr Seehra, a magistrate who was awarded the MBE for services to the local community, added: “It’s political correctness being taken too seriously.”
Last night, the county council said the rule had been in place since 1992.
Margaret Dewar, councillor for libraries, said: “Not all religions celebrate Christmas. People who do not have the responsibility of promoting an inclusive society might see this as nitpicking. But our staff would be criticised if they let an extremist sect publicise its activities.”
Last week it emerged that Christian imagery has been banished from cards sent out by the Department for Culture.
And in Birmingham five years ago, the Labour authority replaced the name Christmas with Winterval.