Wednesday, 30 May 2012

God loves me; he hates you.

I find it incredibly arrogant and ignorant for sports stars and athletes to immediately thank God when things go their way.  By openly thanking God they are telling everyone that God has chosen them to do well, to score the goal, to win the game.

Sport has winners and losers. If he is choosing one team to win God is also choosing one team to lose. If you give someone success in the field of sport somebody else is inevitably punished.

Am I alone is looking forward to the day a Christian sports star publicly blames God for their failings with the same exhibitionism that they display when they thank God for their success?

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Wed as I say not as I did

The Coalition for Marriage website has a petition where people can sign up to the following

I support the legal definition of marriage which is the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. I oppose any attempt to redefine it.
A number of MPs are signatories. Others have express their views on the subject to newspapers or constituents. The Coalition for Equal Marriage are compiling a list detailing way MPs are likely to vote.

I make it 49 MPs who have said they will vote against an equal marriage bill. How many of them do you think would have their own relationship categorised under the definition above? All of them? 90 percent? Lets count and see who wins the race to be the biggest hypocrite.

I will start with those who didn't even get out of the blocks and have yet to embrace this whole marriage thing.

John Stevenson,
Paul Murphy
Philip Lee
Richard Fuller
Ann Widdecombe
Sammy Wilson
Robert Alexander Stewart and
Paul Maynard

Now it starts to get interesting. Bronze medals go to those who tripped up over either the 'for life' or the 'exclusion of all other' hurdles.

Robert Syms - Divorced
Simon Burns - Divorced
John Whittingdale - Marriage Dissolved
Stephen Pound - has a child from a previous relationship and
John Glen - married a woman with children from a previous relationship.

Silver medals go those who stumbled at the 'one man and one woman part', who so embraced the idea of marriage they did it twice or three times.

Sir Roger Gale, 3 wives
Richard Drax, 3 wives
Tony Baldry, 2 wives
Ann Main, 2 husbands and
Craig Whitaker, 2 wives

However we have a clear winner. The gold medal goes to

Nadine Dorries

Who not only got divorced but then went on to have an affair with a married man. Congratulations Nadine.

So to answer my earlier question less than 62% can be advanced as role models for the alleged marriage definition.

P.S. In awarding medals above I am not criticising the failure or otherwise of the relationships concerned. The end of marriages or relationships can be a painful and traumatic event, but it happens. Sometimes one party may be to blame, other times both, but it can also be neither.

My criticism is in the attempt by the Coalition for Marriage and the signatories to try to promote a false definition of marriage. I have said before 'Marriage is not defined a life-long exclusive commitment between a man and a woman. It is not life long. Married people can get divorced and if they choose may marry again. It is not exclusive either. People who have affairs are still considered married.'

The MPs highlighted above are promoting a false definition of marriage in order to exclude certain people despite personally failing to live within their own definition.

PPS. The information above was taken from the internet mainly Wikipedia. I am happy to amend any errors.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

VAT a disgrace

The Church of England is today celebrating a gift of £30 million extra a year from the Government which is cutting services and laying off workers in order to cut costs. This windfall is on top of the £12 million a year churches already receive as part of the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme (LPWGS).  

The origins of this gift can be found in the fiscal theme park of VAT.  Bear with me whilst I explain.  VAT has traditionally not been charged on supplies of alterations to listed buildings, when they are  used for charitable purposes or as a church. This "zero rating" did not apply to repairs. This created a VAT anomaly.  For example, if you repair a wall you will be charged VAT;  move the same wall -  or build a new one  - you will not be charged VAT.

The last budget removed the VAT free status of alterations. At the time, the budget note stated:
"Removing the zero rate removes a perverse incentive to change listed buildings rather than repair them and ensures that all alteration works receive the same tax treatment."
The removal of the zero rating means that all owners of listed buildings who use them for charitable purposes will pay more for any alterations.  Repairs will remain unaffected as VAT will still be charged.

This is bad news for charities, but not for churches thanks to the LPWGS.  VAT is a European based tax and rules are consistent across the member states. Those rules do not allow charities or churches to recover VAT charged in respect of their charitable activities. To get round this the Government uses the LPWGS to  give grants to churches which match exactly the VAT that would be recovered had the VAT system allowed it.

Until now, the scheme which started 11 years and £133 million ago, only covered repairs.  Today's annual £30 million gift from the Government to the churches, means that the scheme will be extended to alterations as well.

So what does this mean for charities and churches?
The original VAT relief was intended to help defray some of the costs of providing charitable activities.

The current situation is that a church will effectively pay no VAT on either repairs or alterations.  By contrast a charity will pay 20% VAT on both.

According to the House of Commons briefing paper on the subject, the budget measure was expected to raise around £85 million in two years.  However, thanks to today's decision, a very similar amount will be paid to churches.  Or, in other words,  the extra charge paid by charities will all go to churches to subsidise their repairs and alterations.

This policy will take money from charities who provide care to the disabled and disadvantaged and will pass it to churches to pay for repairs to pews, bells, and organs. Excuse me if I don't join in the celebrations.


Note:  By way of perspective the Church of England had investment funds of £4.8 billion at the end of 2009.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

More Christian persecution?

It seems that there is a growing tide of Christians complaining about being oppressed. This oppression is claimed to be coming from the state. We have recently seen the courts rule against Christians in a number of cases; the B&B who turned away same sex couples, the nurse and BA worker who each wanted to wear an outward symbol of their faith and the banning of prayers as part of official council business.

In addition to the courts, the Advertising Standards Authority have also incurred the wrath of Christians. I previously blogged about the Bristol group who falsely claimed prayer would cure Back Pain, Arthritis, MS, Addiction ... Ulcers, Depression, Allergies, Fibromyalgia, Asthma, Paralysis, Crippling Disease, Phobias, Sleeping disorders or any other sickness.

The latest ASA investigation to rile the Christian community concerns an advert by the Coalition for Marriage which appeared on the blog of right wing Christian Archbishop Cranmer. The advert consists of a series of wedding pictures followed by the words "I do" then "70% of people say keep marriage as it is" followed by an appeal to sign the coalition's petition.

Cranmer blogged about the investigation calling it persecution. Comments by supporters refer to it being harassment. Many suggest he tells the ASA to f*ck off. Others in solidarity have hosted the same advert on their own blogs and websites.

Is this investigation justified? At first glance there doesn't appear to be anything which would trouble the ASA. However, looking deeper it does appear that there is a case to answer. Cranmer helpfully lays out what rules may have been broken 'CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 4.1 (Harm and offence)’. The full text can be found here but the following extracts give the idea.

3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.

3.3 Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information.

3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation.

4.1 Marketing communications must not contain anything that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Particular care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age.
You may still be wondering how the advert might have broken the above rules. A clue is the in the small print to the "70% of people say keep marriage as it is" image. It says "Source ComRes poll for Catholic Voices". You can download that poll here.

The question, which got a 70% approval rating in the poll was "Marriage should continue to be defined as a life-long exclusive commitment between a man and a woman"

My first issue is that marriage is not defined a life-long exclusive commitment between a man and a woman. It is not life long. Married people can get divorced and if they choose may marry again. It is  not exclusive either. People who have affairs are still considered married.

The second issue is that the question covered only one definition. There could be others. Just because most people would agree 2+2= 4. It does not mean that they don't think 1+3=4 as well.

In stating that "70% of people say keep marriage as it is" the advert is relying on the answer to a question that did not give the correct definition of marriage and which did not ask whether marriage should be extended to same sex couples. I suspect there is a good reason why the obvious question was not asked. Other polls show a much higher support for same sex marriage than the 22% disagreeing with the Catholic Voices statement.

Seems to me that there is a case that the advert is misleading. I am not sure that 70% of people (or even 70% of those polled) do support the conclusion drawn. We will have to see whether it is misleading enough for the ASA to take action.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Is it time the Government lost God?

Alastair Campbell famously told Tony Blair "We don't do God". The current Government certainly does. I blogged last month about Cameron's claim that the values of the Bible are the values the UK needs.

Following last weeks elections, which were bad for the coalition, the Tory right has identified the cause for voter unrest and has identified the cure. The reason that the coalition did badly was their support for Equal Marriage and House of Lords reform. Dropping these will, they suggest, bring back the electorate. The signs are that the message is getting through. Were these the real reasons for the decline in votes or is this simply people with an agenda exploiting the traditional mid-term drop in support for the ruling party?

The London assembly vote gives an interesting insight. 'Christian Peoples Alliance - Supporting Traditional Marriage' fielded 25 candidates for the 11 available top up seats. I guess believing five loaves and two fish will feed 5000 renders this particular bums/seats problem trivial! The addition of  'Supporting Traditional Marriage' to the party's name brought the equal marriage issue to the fore. If this was a real concern then the votes would show it.

The results must have been a blow for the anti-equal marriage brigade. The Christian Peoples Alliance polled 1.7%, down from the 2.9% they achieved in both 2008 and in 2004. This 41% fall in support even managed to eclipse the catastrophic losses of the Liberal Democrats. Christianity is declining but not at the rate suggested by these results. This result shows one of two things. Either Christians have lost the appetite for mixing religion with politics, or maintaining discrimination in marriage is not an issue they can support. 

Similarly the support for Lords reform does not appear to be an issue which has alienated voters from the Government. A recent Yougov poll showed that only 5% support the current Lords appointment system. Perhaps this is the place to insert a plug for 'Holy Redundant' the humanist campaign to remove the automatic right for Bishops to sit in the Upper Chamber. Their website contains an email generator allowing you to express your opposition to the "Lords Spiritual" to your local MP.

Whatever reason people deserted the Government in the last round of elections, there is no reason to suggest it was down to Equal Marriage or Lords reform. Nadine Dorries suggests in the article above that that the Conservative party needs to drop these issues so they don't appear out of touch, inward looking and self interested. What appears to me to be out of touch, inward looking and self interested is Dorries and other Christians attempting to derail natural justice by trying to "do God" in politics.