|Church group responds after council bans 'religious' posters
|September 21, 2009
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|Following the news that a north London council had refused to display posters advertising a 'St Francis weekend' of events about climate change, because of their religious content, the organisers have issued the following open letter:
Toffee the terrier, up for adoption at Mayhew Animal Home, who will be distributing information at Pet Blessing
An open letter from the Climate Change is a Christian Issue group (CCCI) at Our Lady Help of Christians Church, Kentish Town.
We were taken aback to learn that Camden Council will not display our posters about a weekend of events concerning climate change, because of a policy banning the promotion of religious events.
Last year our Green Fair hosted several stalls run by Camden council and was attended by Frank Dobson MP, and many Camden councillors.
This year we are again promoting fairtrade, recycling and energy conservation. Our concern, as it was last year, is to promote awareness of climate change issues, not to promote religion. Our keynote speaker is Mark Dowd, from Operation Noah, one of the leading authorities on climate change in the country. (He will be opening the weekend at 7.30pm on 2 October). We felt his talk would be of interest to people of all faiths and none.
It seems paradoxical that Camden Council which has a good record on climate change issues should refuse to support this initiative.
The Pet Blessing on the Sunday is completely religious of course. This is a very traditional Catholic event appropriate for the Feast of St Francis, who is a patron saint of animals. We thought it would be fun for Christians and non-Christians alike, especially children. I don't think we realised it would cause such a problem.
We have a separate poster for that.
We are still hoping Camden Council will reconsider their decision to ban our posters for the Mark Dowd talk.
*Picture from Mayhew Animal Home www.mayhewanimalhome.org/adoptmeetandcare/dogs.html
September 22, 2009 at 5:24pm
Religious posters banned in Camden
17 September 2009
CAMDEN council has been criticised by representatives of all major religions after banning a community poster from its libraries because it is too religious.
Campaign group Climate Change is a Christian Issue (CCCI) wanted to advertise their St Francis Weekend event on the environment in Kentish Town library but they were refused because the A4 poster (pictured) contained religious words.
The Town Hall says the poster detailing events on October 3 and 4 promotes religion with its use of the word Christian and a bible reference about the environment. It is therefore banned from public noticeboards under the council's control.
Members of the group, which is based in the Our Lady Help of Christians Church on Lady Margaret Road, reacted with incredulity at the council's stance.
Josephine Siedlecka of CCCI said: "It is nonsense. I am just shocked and surprised. This is a community building exercise we are not going to be walking around bashing people on the head with bibles. The issue of climate change is not limited to religion in any way. Our local corner shop is run by Muslims and they have allowed us to put posters up."
John Dixon, of CCCI said: "I can't see why it should offend anyone. One mention of God is not going to offend Jews or Muslims, it's very unlikely to offend Buddhists or Hindus because they are so tolerant anyway. It won't upset agnostics and you hope atheists would be big enough to take it.
"We would never object to groups from other religions putting up their posters next to ours."
Leaders of other religions have also criticised the move.
Muslim cleric Mohammed Joynal Uddin said: "I would not have any objection to the poster - we are living in a multi-faith society, we should be working together for the good of mankind."
Jon Benjamin, chief executive, Board of Deputies of British Jews said: "If this is a way of appealing to Christians to engage in an important topical debate, then there is nothing at all wrong with a flyer of this nature. There is no suggestion of proselytising or of promoting intolerance and there can be no reasonable objection."
The events on the poster include a traditional pet blessing and a talk by television broadcaster Mark Dowd.
Mr Dowd told the Ham&High: "I find it bizarre. You would have thought that instead of saying no religious posters they would look at each individual one and judge them on their own merit."
A spokeswoman for Camden Council said: "We are very happy to help promote community events. However we are not able to accept posters that promote particular religious beliefs or political points of view."
But the spokeswoman would not say if the council had independently adopted this policy or when it had been introduced.
When the Ham&High visited two libraries in neighbouring Haringey and Islington they both offered to display the poster.
But the council's stance has won support among non-religious groups.
Terry Sanderson, president of The National Secular Society, said: "Councils should keep religion in its place. You have to have a policy across the board saying this is a secular library.
September 22, 2009 at 8:11pm
As one of the people involved in “Climate Change is a Christian Issue”, Kentish Town, I would like to say that the posters were principally to advertise the weekend of events within the Catholic community, but especially since we were fortunate to find good speakers and in view of the seriousness of the topic we felt that the talks would be of great interest to the wider community. Mark Dowd's talk has had to be held inside the church itself not because it was part of a religious service but simply because the church halls were not available.
September 23, 2009 at 6:39pm
I am not a Catholic but, in trying to be informed, read the Independent
Catholic News. I am surprised that the Camden Council finds the efforts of a
group to promote environmental sanity to be religious and, therefor,not
qualifying for posting. Is this true or just one staff person with a
misunderstanding of the reality of the world in which we live? If a church is
sponsoring a clothng drive for relief efforts, would this be considered "too
religious" for the Camden Council? If a church is offering food to needy
persons is this something that couldn't be publicized? Do people's
activities and efforts regarding civic activity make them religious simply because
those persons come from a religious organization?
I live in Washington DC and we certainly have our issues with separation of
church and state in this country, I know. But basic concern about our
fellow citizens and the earth doesn't necessarily consistute religious
activity, does it? I hope the Camden Council will reconsider, if, in fact,
this is a regulation and not just a staff member's misunderstanding.
Susan Jensen Washington DC