Writer's speech 'too Christian' for carol service
By Jonathan Petre
The Royal Commonwealth Society is at the centre of an embarrassing row after it barred a well-known Roman Catholic commentator from attacking intolerance towards Christians at its annual carol service.
Cristina Odone, the former deputy editor of the New Statesman, was to be one of the "celebrity readers" at the service in St Martin in the Fields church in central London next month, which is attended by diplomats and politicians.
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"I am incandescent," she said. "I was told that the words I had written were not appropriate because the congregation would include people of little or no faith who presumably would be upset. Even more insultingly, I was asked instead to read a passage from Bertrand Russell, a militant atheist."
Ms Odone was invited three months ago to take part in the service alongside George Alagiah, the broadcaster, Gareth Thomas, the Government minister, and Don McKinnon, the Commonwealth Secretary General.
As an experienced writer and broadcaster on religion, she was asked to write a short piece on the theme of "opportunities for all" that could be "political and controversial".
She developed the theme of secular intolerance towards believers of all faiths, from the British Airways worker suspended for wearing a cross to the Muslim schoolgirl banned from wearing the veil.
"When it comes to expressing their faith, this country's believers have found that opportunities are blocked," Ms Odone wrote.
"Whether it is the boss at work or the head at school, the local authority or the chattering classes, people of faith know that their worldview is under siege, and their allegiances under suspicion.
"To parade this allegiance by wearing a cross, a cap or a veil is red rag to the secularist bull. What little opportunity believers have to bear witness to their faith is being quashed. If you are black or gay or female, your plea for equal opportunity is met with respect, and your campaign is applauded by supporters. But not if you are a believer. In a culture increasingly hostile to God and his followers, expressions of faith have become taboo. The only opportunity we have is for silence."
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Did They Really Do This?
This should give a whole bunch of cable commentators something to kick around.