Friday, December 05, 2008

British school cancels Christmas play because it interferes with Muslim festival of Eid

A primary school infuriated parents after cancelling the traditional Christmas nativity play to make way for the Muslim festival of Eid. Parents at the Nottingham school were told that the planned performance had to be pulled because some of the pupils wanted to celebrate Eid at home with their families. In a letter, sent by the staff at Greenwood Junior School, mothers and fathers were told: 'It is with much regret that we have had to cancel this year's Christmas performances. 'This is due to the Eid celebrations that take place next week and its effect on our performers.'

However, following a barrage of complaints, a second letter was issued saying the show had 'not been cancelled outright' but has been postponed until the New Year. The follow-up letter, sent by headteacher Amber Latif and chair of governors Yvonne Wright, apologised for the 'misunderstanding' caused by the first correspondence. It read: 'We are a very inclusive school and fully respect the cultures and religions of all the children. 'We are upset to know that some of our parents/carers have been offended by the letter. 'The Christmas performance has not been cancelled outright but has been postponed until the New Year.'

Mum Janette Lynch, whose seven-year-old son Keanu attends the school, said she was angered that the performance had been moved until after Christmas. She said: 'The head has a whole year to plan for Eid and so she should be able to plan for both religious festivals. 'I have never heard of this at a school. It is the first year my son has been there and a lot of the mums like me were really looking forward to seeing the children in the nativity. 'I think it's wrong it has been moved to after Christmas.'

The school has also sent out a timetable of events to mark Eid ul-Adha, or 'greater Eid', which is the second of the two Eid festivals. It lasts for two or three days and starts on Monday or Tuesday next week. Muslim children will be off school for the religious holiday. Sajad Hussain, 35, of who has two children at the school said: 'My children will be off for the two days next week to see their family. 'It's not that complicated; they could have one event on one day and another on another day, they should have both celebrations at the school. 'If you do not have both it becomes a racist thing and that's why you have to be careful if an issue is made out of it it could become nasty.'

Yesterday, a statement issued by the school said: 'We would like to apologise for any confusion caused as a result of [the original] letter we sent out and would like to reassure parents and the community that Christmas has not been cancelled at Greenwood Junior School. 'As a multi-faith school, like many schools in Nottingham City, we represent a wide variety of faiths and due respect is given to each one appropriately. 'For very practical reasons we have taken the difficult decision to re-arrange some significant events on the school calendar to ensure maximum pupil and staff attendance.' The next two weeks are brimming with festivities for both Eid and Christmas that the children are really looking forward to.


Counsellor sacked for refusing to give sex advice to gay couples because it was 'against his Christian beliefs'

A Christian relationship counsellor was sacked because he refused to give sex therapy sessions to gay couples, a tribunal heard today. Gary McFarlane, 47, had given advice to straight couples but felt his religious beliefs prevented him from offering advice on sexual intimacy with same sex partners. He was sacked by the national counselling service Relate for breaching its equal opportunities policy. The father-of-two says his religious beliefs were not taken into account and is claiming unfair dismissal on the grounds of religious discrimination at an Employment Tribunal in Bristol.

Mr McFarlane, of Bristol, had been a counsellor with Relate for three years when he undertook a diploma to become in psychosexual therapy, which involved dealing with intimate problems. But he says that promoting same sex physical relationships goes against his strong religious beliefs.

Yesterday his boss Michael Bennett, manager of Avon Relate, said he was dismissed because sexual advice might crop up in his everyday dealings with gay and lesbian couples. He told the tribunal: 'Sexual issues can come up in relationship counselling. 'You can have a situation where a counsellor can be talking to a couple and it might emerge that one has homosexual or bi-sexual feelings and have a despite to engage in a sexual relationship with the same gender to them. 'It is also true that heterosexual couples can also be involved in sex techniques that can mimic those of homosexuals.'

Mr McFarlane - a trained solicitor who specialises in resolving legal disputes through mediation and sits on a committee which advises the Law Society - joined Relate in 2003. He is also a part-time tutor on relationships at Trinity Theological College in Bristol and regularly attends both Church of England and Pentecostal services in Bristol. While training as a counsellor he had qualms about dealing with gay couples but claims he overcame them during discussions with his supervisor - and even offered support to a lesbian couple, the hearing was told.

But in September 2006 he trained as a psychosexual therapist, which involved dealing with people's intimate sexual problems. He assumed his supervisors would take into account his strong Christian beliefs and that he would not be asked to do anything that would encourage gay sex and that he would not be assigned to work with a gay couple, it was said. But some colleagues had difficulties with his stance and a letter was being circulated which claimed he was homophobic and there was pressure to dismiss him on these grounds.

Mr McFarlane's lawyer Paul Diamond said: 'There was a campaign raised against Mr McFarlane in Relate Avon calling for his dismissal. 'This campaign was organised against Mr McFarlane because of his religious beliefs.'

But Mr Bennett claims the pair held two 'constructive meetings' on October 10 and November 19 to see if they could resolve the situation. He said: 'I asked would he comply with our equal opportunities policy and he said that in PST that would put him under greater stress. 'I offered support to see if there was a practical way around it. 'Mr McFarlane said there was no practical way around it and during the meeting he said he did not feel he could work with same sex couples on sexual issues and that would continue to be the case.'

But Mr Diamond claimed Mr McFarlane's views were 'evolving' and that all he really wanted was for his supervisor to offer guidance and support. However, Mr Bennett denied this and told the tribunal: 'His views were quite fixed in both meetings. 'At the end of the October one I told him to go away and have a think about his stance because it was a very important decision. 'He had weeks to think this through and at the end of the November meeting he was absolutely clear that without a shadow of doubt he would not work with same sex couples on sexual issues on religious grounds.'

Fellow counsellors complained about Mr McFarlane's stance and claimed his views were homophobic, which led to his suspension in January 2008. He was summoned to a disciplinary hearing the following month and sacked on March 18 this year. His appeal was dismissed.

Relate, originally called the National Marriage Guidance Council, was founded in 1938. By 1998 it was counselling couples in a much wider range of relationships and changed its name to Relate. It now operates from nearly 600 locations nationwide and the Avon branch employs around 40 part and full time counsellors.

The hearing is due to last two days. Mr McFarlane is due to give evidence at its conclusion tomorrow. But he has previously been quoted as saying: 'If I was a Muslim this would not happen, they would find a way to make the system work. 'But Christians seem to have fewer and fewer rights. This could force other Christians out of counselling.'


Pirates and the Politically Correct

By Hal G.P. Colebatch

The Royal Navy may have been warned not to detain Somali pirates in case their human rights are violated, but Britain has cracked down firmly on pirates in other areas, such as children's parties. If real pirates are to be unmolested at sea, and domestic violent crime has increased hugely in the last few years, still the Nanny State has never been Nannier. After all, two-thirds of the new jobs created in Britain since Labour came to power have been in the public sector, and they have to do something productive and useful for their salaries.

This is, after all, the society where an actor playing the brave Lord Nelson had to wear a life jacket over his glittering uniform when crossing the placid waters of the Thames near the Tower of London by boat.

When a crude replica of a pirate ship was erected in memory of the late Princess Diana at a children's playground in Kensington Gardens, commemorating Peter Pan's duels with the wicked Captain Hook, officialdom decreed that it should be purged of violent imagery such as cannon, walking the plank, and skull-and-crossbones flag.

Children's books featuring the exploits of the naughty 11-year-old schoolboy William Brown, who delighted in playing pirates, have been attacked as creating bad role models.

Recently the skull-and-crossbones flag has also been banned from being flown in the gardens of suburban houses hosting pirate parties on the grounds that it is unneighborly.

Local authority officials told the parents of 6-year-old Morgan Smith (not thought to be any relation to either the notorious Bloody Morgan, who sacked Porto Bello, or Aaron Smith, tried for piracy at the Old Bailey in 1823 but acquitted) that they must apply for planning permission to fly the flag, at a cost to them of about $150. It was reported that an assessment of the 5'x4' flag's impact on the surrounding area would be undertaken before a decision was made as to whether the flag would be allowed for the party or not. The young would-be picaroon's father was quoted as saying: "When the lady from the council came to see me she said the Jolly Roger was of concern. She took some pictures and said that we would have to take it down from now on. I've put in a planning application but I shouldn't have to go to all this trouble."

Similar trouble befell fireman and ex-soldier David Waterman (not known to be related to "Bully" Waterman, opium-runner and most dreaded of the Western Ocean Packet Skippers), of Ashstead, Surrey, when he flew a skull and cross-bones flag for his four-year-old daughter's pirate's party. A neighbor complained and it was reported Waterman was facing court proceedings from the local council, whose spokesman said: "We are duty-bound to investigate complaints and enforce government regulations." Another neighbor then also hoisted a Jolly Roger as a gesture of solidarity with the Brethren of the Coast, but struck it after receiving a shot across the bows in the form of a warning letter from officialdom.

That old sea-dog Sir John Hawkins has also felt the wrath of the guardians of political correctness. One of the innumerable government-funded multiculturalism enforcers, the Plymouth Council for Racial Equality, attacked a proposal that a pub near Hawkins's birthplace in Plymouth be named after him, although in this case it was not because he cut out the occasional Spanish treasure ship but because he was a slave-trader.

Meanwhile, off the coast of Somalia the Royal Navy has reportedly received instructions from the Foreign Office not to detain pirates in case their human rights are breached. If sent back to Somalia they could, under Islamic law, face beheading for murder or having a hand chopped off for theft. (In Britain the death penalty for piracy on the high seas was only abolished in 1998.)

Captains of British warships patrolling off Somalia and other pirate-infested waters have also been warned that there is a risk captured pirates could claim asylum in Britain. Presumably they would be a charge on the State because they would not even be able to make new careers for themselves there at children's parties, or at least not without planning permission.


Global cooling harasses Brits

Road and rail travellers face misery as blizzard blows in

Blizzards and snowdrifts threaten to disrupt rail services and motorways today as heavy snow and high winds make milder winters seem a distant memory. From Scotland to the Midlands, snowfalls of up to 20 centimetres are expected to play havoc with travel arrangements, and even London can expect traces of snow among the rain.

Trains equipped with snowploughs have been placed on standby by rail operators to clear routes crossing the Pennines, where the heaviest conditions are expected. During the night, Network Rail was using special trains to spray warm deicer on mainline stretches of track on lines in the North West and North East. Drivers setting out overnight or early today were being advised to travel with warm clothing and an emergency pack including food and water, boots, windscreen deicer and a shovel.

Helen Chivers, at the Met Office, said: "We are expecting the heaviest fall to be over the Pennines, the North York Moors, and the Cumbrian Fells, which could get anywhere between 10cm and 20cm of snow. And it will be drifting, because it will be accompanied by higher winds, and higher roads could well be quite badly affected by blizzards well into the rush hour."

Severe weather warnings have been issued for parts of the country as far south as Birmingham, and authorities in London and across the South have been warned that heavy rain could turn into brief spells of snow and ice during today's rush hour. People who have become used to milder winters will be well advised to wrap up against temperatures that could fall as low as minus 10C (14F) in parts of Scotland, although the South Coast could reach 10C later in the day.

The cold weather, which has lasted two weeks, has felt unusually harsh after a series of mild Decembers.


Electric shock as sales of green cars go into reverse in Britain

Sales of electric cars have fallen by more than half this year, according to figures released two days after the Government's climate change advisory body predicted a huge increase. Only 156 electric cars were sold from January to October, compared with 374 for the same period last year.

Nice Car Company, one of the two main British distributors of electric cars, went into administration yesterday. Set up in 2006, the company had been selling an all-electric version of the French-made Aixam Mega. It had also planned to bring a range of new models to market by the end of the year. However, sales dropped to fewer than one car a week.

Richard Bremner, editor of, which specialises in green motoring, said: "While volumes are still tiny, any drop in electric car sales will come as a shock. Buyers could be holding off for cars from mainstream manufacturers, although they may still have years to wait."

The Committee on Climate Change said on Monday it expected electric and hybrid vehicles to form up to 40 per cent of cars on the road by 2020. There are about 1,100 all-electric cars currently on British roads - 0.004 per cent of the total. Most are owned by Londoners and are quadricycles, not fully type-approved cars.

Congestion-charge concessions for all-electric vehicles helped to create the market, but drivers have since opted for new small diesel cars with very low carbon emissions.


Huge bureaucratic bungle in Britain: "The Serious Fraud Office suffered a huge defeat yesterday with the collapse of its $50 million, six-year investigation into alleged price fixing among drug manufacturers. The Court of Appeal in London rejected the SFO's appeal against the striking out of its indictment in July this year against five pharmaceutical companies. The decision, reached in less than 1« hours, raises a question mark over the future of such lengthy and complex investigations by the SFO. The investigation dwarfs any other undertaken by the office. At one stage it involved every lawyer and every accountant at the SFO, its entire forensic computing unit and 100 police officers from the National Crime Squad as well as the entire Metropolitan Police fraud squad."

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