Thursday, 24 March 2011

A family slaughtered in Israel – doesn't the BBC care?

[...] I have asked the corporation to let me know why, if the story was "prominent on the website", it was not deemed of sufficient merit to broadcast on television, and barely on radio. I have asked them to explain the inaccuracies and omissions in the reporting. And I have asked them what non-Japan, non-Libya stories made it to air, in preference. Twenty-four hours later, I have yet to receive a reply.

Like many of us, I consider the BBC to be a national treasure. I am not a BBC basher; I have never before complained. I do not support nor do I condone the Israeli settlement building. But none of that matters. This is a story about three children and their parents, slain with incredible cruelty, and its effect on the peace process. As a mother, I am shocked at the silence. As a politician, I am dismayed at the apparent bias and indifference. Yes, I will be filing a complaint – about a story I never heard. I hope Daily Telegraph readers will join me. Read more

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Doubling of UK HIV rate prompts routine testing call

A doubling of new HIV infections in the UK in the past decade is leading experts to tell GPs to offer testing to all adult male patients in some areas.

Health Protection Agency data shows new UK-acquired cases rose from just under 2,000 in 2001 to nearly 3,800 in 2010.

Many of these new cases are among men who have sex with men and it is this group that campaigners hope to target.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has launched new guidelines for doctors in England. Read more

Monday, 21 March 2011

It's time to decriminalise drug use, say peers

The war on drugs has failed and should be abandoned in favour of policies that treat addiction as a health problem, according to high-profile public figures including former heads of MI5 and the Crown Prosecution Service.

Leading peers – including prominent Tories – say that despite governments worldwide drawing up tough laws against dealers and users over the past 50 years, illegal drugs have become far more easily accessible. Vast amounts of money have been wasted on unsuccessful crackdowns, while criminals have made fortunes importing drugs into this country, they argue.

The increasing use of the most harmful drugs, such as heroin, has also led to "enormous health problems", according to the group.

The peers, along with MPs, have formed an all-party parliamentary group on drug policy reform that is calling for policies to be drawn up on the basis of scientific evidence.

It could lead to calls for the Government to decriminalise drugs, or, at least, for the police and Crown Prosecution Service not to prosecute people for possession of small amounts of banned substances. Read more

Sex before I get married? No problem, says Joanna the most glamorous vicar in Britain

[Ed: Ironic, in view of the previous story, about the same person]

She was born with a facial deformity and found fame through her forthright views on abortion. Now chaplain to the fashion industry, she is planning her wedding... and is as outspoken as ever

Given her formidable drive and forthright personality, it might seem surprising that we have heard so little of Joanna Jepson in recent years.

The glamorous cleric first came to public attention when she spoke out against a late abortion that had been carried out in 2001 - the termin­ation of a 28-week-old foetus with a cleft palate.

[...] Is she opposed to sex before marriage? 'No,' she says firmly. 'I think it is part of getting to know someone and discovering if you have a future together.

'You have to get to know a person emotionally, intellectually, physically and spiritually, all of which are components of a relationship.

'But I am not living with Nick. I think setting up home is something you do after the wedding.'

Read more

Channel Four vicar says her show makes Christianity look sex-obsessed

The vicar starring in a new Channel Four reality show has accused the programme's makers of deliberately making Christians appear obsessed with sex.

The Rev Joanna Jepson, who is chaplain to the London College of Fashion, described the show, Make Me a Christian, as "sensational", "irresponsible" and "contrived" and claimed that she was duped into taking part.

Miss Jepson was so unhappy that she took legal action to try to force the producers to remove scenes involving her from the final cut, but was unsuccessful. She has now spoken out to distance herself from the social experiment, which features a lapdancer, a Muslim and a lesbian being asked to change to a Christian lifestyle.

Miss Jepson is one of a panel of four clergy charged with persuading the volunteers to live by the teachings of the Bible; the others are a Pentecostal minister, an evangelical preacher, and a Roman Catholic priest. Read more

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Chelmsford Diocesan Evangelical Association Meeting with Bishop Stephen Cottrell 2nd April 2011

Saturday 2 April 2011
Meeting with Bishop Stephen Cottrell
(followed by AGM)

Meadgate Avenue

10.00 to 1.00
Coffee from 9.30
Our new bishop will lead us in a Meditation on Scripture, followed by a 'question and answer' session.
Annual General Meeting begins at 12.30pm

Enquiries 01245 492741

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Ofsted: Primary school history 'lacks narrative'

History teaching in primary schools lacks an overarching narrative because teachers do not know enough, the schools watchdog Ofsted has said.

At secondary level, the subject was generally taught well, but some teachers tended to "spoon-feed" students, a study by the body found.

But it was a "myth" that not enough UK history was taught, Ofsted said.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has said children are growing up ignorant of UK history and "our island story".

Professional development
Mr Gove has stressed that he wants narrative British history to be "at the heart" of his curriculum review, and lamented the "trashing of our past".

Although Ofsted found that history teaching was good or better in most primary schools, it said some pupils learned about events, characters and periods but "found it difficult" to place them "within any coherent, long-term narrative".

This was partly because "many primary teachers did not themselves have adequate subject knowledge beyond the specific elements of history that they taught".

The curriculum "was itself episodic and militated against pupils grasping such an overview", the report said. Read more

English and Welsh ordinariate launches website as excitement builds

The English and Welsh Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham has launched a website to inform others about the new church structure for Anglicans who want to join the Catholic Church. Its head noted the “real excitement” at being involved in the new endeavor.

The website,, bears a welcome message from Fr. Keith Newton, the head of the ordinariate. Read more

Friday, 11 March 2011

Gay couple end hotel payout claim

[...] Lawyers for the gay couple then submitted documents to the Court of Appeal claiming the religious beliefs of Mr and Mrs Bull should have been disregarded, calling for the damages to be increased.

But today the EHRC said the cross appeal was an "error of judgment" by its legal team and was being withdrawn.

Legal director John Wadham said: "This morning we withdrew our cross appeal in this case.

"It was filed initially because of an error of judgment on the part of our legal team.

"They submitted the cross appeal in an attempt to clarify the law around how damages are calculated in cases such as this.

"This resulted in it appearing that Steve Preddy and Martyn Hall were seeking to increase the amount of damages they receive because Mr and Mrs Bull's Christian beliefs had led them to break the law.

"This was not our intention and it was certainly not the intention of Steve and Martyn.

"I would like to confirm that public money will not be spent funding a claim for increased damages in this case." Read more

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Thought for Ash Wednesday: When you're, dead you're dead

[From Giles Fraser, Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral.]

[..] It's commonly assumed that Christians don't really believe in death at all, that we subscribe to the view that when we die we go on living in some other realm, or in some disembodied form. Just to be clear: I believe nothing of the sort. I don't like the euphemistic language of "passing on" or "having gone to sleep". Nor do I subscribe to Platonic ideas about the immortality of the soul. When you die, you die. As the first letter of St. Paul to Timothy puts it: "God alone is immortal"

Today is Ash Wednesday. Like millions of Christians around the world, I will be marked with ash and told that I am dust and to dust I shall return. There is nothing depressing or morbid about any of this - in fact, quite the reverse. Personally speaking, it leaves me with a more intense sense of the preciousness of human life, something that's intimately bound up with its intrinsic limit and fragility. Read more

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

BBC's new face of religion claims Eve has been 'unfairly maligned as the troublesome wife'

[Ed: Wow, an organization already known to practice ageism amongst its female presenters chooses someone young and pretty (and of course 'controversial') to present a series on the Bible. Incredible!]

The BBC's new face of religion is an atheist who claims that God had a wife and Eve was "unfairly maligned" by sexist scholars.

Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou has been given a primetime BBC Two series, The Bible's Buried Secrets, in which she makes a number of startling suggestions.

She argues in the programme that Eve was not responsible for the Fall of Man and was not even the first woman, as the story of the Garden of Eden did not belong in the first book of the Old Testament.

"Eve, particularly in the Christian tradition, has been very unfairly maligned as the troublesome wife who brought about the Fall," Dr Stavrakopoulou said. "Don't forget that the biblical writers are male and it's a very male-dominated world. Women were second-class citizens, seen as property."

The idea that God had a wife is based on Biblical texts that refer to "asherah". According to Dr Stavrakopoulou, Asherah was the name of a fertility goddess in lands now covered by modern-day Syria, and was half of a "divine pair" with God. Read more

Forced marriages 'at record high' - South Wales Police

A Welsh police force say they are dealing with the largest number of cases of forced marriage and honour based-violence they have ever seen.

In the past 12 months, South Wales Police have dealt with 49 cases of forced marriage, up from a typical 30-35, with new cases almost every week.

The four Welsh forces have been involved in about 60 cases, with four in north Wales in six months.

The figures are released to coincide with International Women's Day. Read more

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Christchurch earthquake: no bodies found in cathedral

Searchers in earthquake-devastated Christchurch said on Saturday they had found no bodies in the city's iconic cathedral and the death toll could be lower than initially feared.

Since the 6.3 magnitude earthquake on February 22, it had been reported that as many as 22 bodies were buried in the rubble of the 130-year-old cathedral, the centrepiece of New Zealand's second city.

"We have cleared the cathedral site and we found no bodies in the cathedral at all, so to us that's fantastic news," police superintendent Sandra Manderson told Radio New Zealand.

"Urban search and rescue have cleared the whole area, they've cleared the tower, they've cleared the church and they've cleared the immediate surrounding area all round the church, and they've found no bodies."

She said police were now trying to establish where the estimate of 22 people trapped in the cathedral had come from and the list of missing people was being reviewed. Read more

European court could rule traditional marriage benefits discriminatory

Legal experts warn that a European court is on the verge of deciding that Germany’s privileged legal status for traditional marriage violates European Union law.

An Advocate General for the European Court of Justice, which is the highest court in matters of European Union law, issued an opinion to the court which states that same-sex couples must have access to the same employment benefits as married couples in every EU state, regardless of a state’s constitutional laws.

While the opinion of the Advocate General, one of eight that assist the court, is not binding on the court, the opinions are almost always followed.

A leading Austrian homosexual rights activist has called the Advocate General’s opinion “groundbreaking”. “If the ECJ follows it, all 27 member-states will have to grant same-sex couples access to all the employment benefits married couples enjoy, no matter if they allow registered partnership or not,” said Dr. Helmut Graupner. Read more

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Joanna Lumley: we're raising lazy children with no morals

[Ed: I think this is what CS Lewis meant by 'men without chests', see 'The Abolition of Man'.]

The actress and campaigner said that today's youth "find it laughably amusing to shoplift and steal" and take little responsibility for their actions. In Africa, by contrast, children as young as seven are sent out to work and carry responsibility for their family's livelihood.

Lumley, 64, said society had changed for the worse since she was a child.

"There was one 'crime' during the whole time I was at school, when a fountain pen went missing. Stealing just didn't happen. I was taught not to shoplift, not to steal, not to behave badly. We weren't even allowed to drop litter," she said.

"We are very slack with our moral codes for children these days. Nowadays, children find it laughably amusing to shoplift and steal. We smile when they download information from the internet and lazily present it as their own work. We allow them to bunk off school and bring in sick notes. Read more