Tuesday, May 26, 2009

British Hospital worker told she'll be sacked if she keeps wearing crucifix because 'it might spread infection'

A Christian hospital worker is facing the sack for wearing a crucifix - even though it is not on show. Helen Slatter has been ordered by her bosses not to wear the one-inch tall gold cross on a chain round her neck, although they have no objection to her keeping it in her pocket. It means the 43-year-old must choose between her faith and her job as a phlebotomist - collecting blood samples - at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital in Gloucester.

The NHS Trust involved said that the issue was not Miss Slatter's religion, but conforming to a hospital uniform policy. This limits the amount of jewellery which staff are allowed to wear in the hope of reducing the spread of infection. It follows Health Secretary Alan Johnson's announcement of an anti-superbug dress code for all medics last September. This ordered all hospital staff to wear short sleeves and forgo wristwatches and jewellery whenever they are in contact with patients, in an attempt to halt the spread of MRSA and C. difficile.

Yesterday Miss Slatter said: 'I wear a fob watch and a name badge on my uniform, so what difference does a little cross underneath it make? 'I knew about the policy on jewellery, but this is a symbol of my beliefs. Some Muslim women who work here wear headscarfs. It just seems so wrong that I've been put in this horrible situation.'

Miss Slatter said she has worn the cross under her uniform since she started working at the hospital five years ago. She believes a colleague could have reported her after spotting it accidentally slip out earlier this month. She said: 'I've always worn my cross inside my uniform. It means a lot to me. They've told me I can carry it in my pocket but that simply isn't the same. I can't go along with that. 'My faith is important to me but I'm not a Bible-basher, I don't push it on colleagues or other people. 'Now I have to choose between my job and my faith and that's an awful situation to be in.'

Gloucestershire Royal Hospital says the crucifix ban is not down to religion but due to a uniform policy designed to reduce the spread of infection and the possibility of attacks by patients. [So how does a cross under clothes affect that?]

Mother of one Miss Slatter, of Gloucester, was told at a disciplinary meeting on Friday that she will be sent home if she continues to have the chain and crucifix around her neck. She has since signed off sick from work because of stress while she considers her next move.

She worships at St Peter's Catholic Church Gloucester, where the parish priest Canon Bernard Massey is also a chaplain at the hospital. He said: 'There seems to be an inconsistency in the trust's approach. When I visit patients in the hospital I wear a cross myself. 'It could be interpreted by some people that the problem is not that she is wearing it, but what she is wearing. 'I would be unhappy if she was made to take it off. I've been led to believe that some of the science about how a necklace spreads infection is dubious. 'They need to find ways of accommodating the beliefs of individuals with the needs of patients and hospitals, assuming that all these are fair and realistic.'

A spokesman for the Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust said: 'The issue is not one of religion. The Trust employs a uniform policy which must be adhered to at all times. 'This policy applies to all staff employed by the Trust who wear a uniform on duty. 'Necklaces and chains present two problems - firstly, they can provide a surface that can harbour and spread infections, and secondly, they present a health and safety issue whereby a patient could grab a necklace or chain and cause harm to the member of staff. 'Jewellery is restricted to one pair of plain and unobtrusive studs in the earlobes only and no facial piercings are permitted, including tongue studs. One plain ring or band is permitted on the ring finger.'


Does having daughters makes fathers more likely to agree with Left-wing views?

The underlying assumption of the British article below is faulty. Women split roughly evenly between Left and Right at election time. Although it is often asserted, Leftism is NOT in fact "feminine". Women can be very practical and such women are by that fact less likely to succumb to Leftist fantasies. I will be very interested to see what the research methods were when the article behind the story below is finally published.

And other facts run contrary to its conclusions. Married people with children lean heavily towards conservative parties. So having ANY childen, male or female, moves you to the Right. And, in general, people with chidren, male or female, will be older and older people too tend to become more conservative than when they were young. It is young unattached females who lean Left. So the known demographic factors that influence political choice have nothing to do with the sex of the children concerned

When she needs a lift or money to buy clothes, a girl will turn the charm on her father. But it seems that a daughter’s influence on her dad goes far beyond the odd favour. Research has found that the more girls a man has, the more likely he is to be Left-wing. Daughters have such a profound effect on their fathers that they can switch their political viewpoint, a study suggests.

Compared to men, women are more likely to favour Labour or Liberal policies such as higher taxes to fund provisions like the NHS. They also tend to earn less than men so won’t be as hard-hit by higher taxation. As a man fathers more daughters, he will gradually be won round by their more Left-wing viewpoints.

The study, carried out by Professor Andrew Oswald from Warwick University and Dr Nattavudh Powdthavee from York University, also found that a predominance of sons can make a mother more right-wing. The researchers even suggested that well-known Left-wing politicians and personalities owed their beliefs to the high numbers of daughters in the family. The late John Smith, former leader of the Labour party, had three daughters. Similarly Cherie Blair’s father Tony Booth, the actor who starred in the BBC’s Til Death Us Do Part, who was renowned for being a strong supporter of the Labour Party, had eight daughters

In an unpublished article to be submitted to an economics journal, the researchers wrote: ‘This paper provides evidence that daughters make people more Left-wing, while having sons, by contrast, makes them more Right-wing.’ Professor Oswald said: ‘As men acquire female children, those men gradually shift their political stance and become more sympathetic to the “female” desire for a larger amount for the public good. ‘They become more Left-wing. Similarly a mother with sons becomes sympathetic to the “male” case for lower taxes and a smaller supply of public goods.

‘Potential feelings are much less independently chosen than people realise. ‘Children mould their parents. It’s so scientifically because it’s out of the parents’ control whether they have a boy or a girl.’ ‘We document evidence that having daughters leads people to be more sympathetic to Left-wing parties. ‘Giving birth to sons, by contrast, seems to make people more likely to vote for a right-wing party.’

They found that among parents of with between two to four children who voted for Labour or the Lib Dems, the average number of daughters was higher than average number of sons. The study is backed up by recent findings in America that showed US congressmen were more likely to support gender equality policies if they had daughters.

Sociologist Rebecca Warner from Oregon State University and economist Ebonya Washington from Yale University studied the voting records of the politicians before and after they had children. The authors concluded that parents realise the potential struggles their daughters will face and begin to sympathise with them.

Long before he even became a father, Brad Pitt broke down in tears and spoke of his desire to have daughters. The actor, who was in a relationship with Jennifer Anniston at the time, told a US TV show: ‘Yes, I have got family on the mind. Jen and I have been working something out. Little girls, they just crush me - they break my heart.’ Sylvester Stalone, star of the Rocky films, admitted he altered his career path and chose more emotive roles after the birth of his daughter Sophia in 1996. He said: ‘The birth of my daughter was a subtle indication of the way I should go. I want to get back to more emotional, character-driven films.’


Climate skepticism heard in N. Ireland Parliament

On Thursday 21 May 2009, at Stormont, Belfast, Dutch scientist Hans Schreuder, who now lives in East Anglia, told the Northern Ireland Climate Change Committee that there is no evidence for global warming or climate change being man-made. Quoting from eminent scientists world-wide, Mr Schreuder dismissed the entire climate alarmist scenario. From his testimony, these quotes:

"[...] the longstanding paradigm says that because of trace gases like CO2, the atmosphere heats the earth. But this isn't true."

"Any and all evidence that has ever been presented to support the idea that carbon dioxide has an effect on global temperatures has been biased, opinionated and based on an agenda that pre-emptively dismissed alternative explanations."

"Computer simulations regard the earth as a flat disk, without North or South Pole, without the Tropics, without clouds and bathed in a 24 hour haze of sunshine. The reality is two icy poles and a tropical equatorial zone, with each and every square metre of our earth receiving an ever varying and different amount of energy from the sun, season to season and day to day. This reality is too difficult to input to a computer. Did you realise that?"

"If carbon dioxide really is such a danger to mankind, as the US Environmental Protection Agency would have us believe, then the upcoming Olympic Games should be cancelled, as well as all other big sporting events, as well as all road transport and all air transport and all coal- and gas-fired powerstations should be shut down. Clearly there is no need for such drastic action and clearly carbon dioxide is not dangerous at all."

"The above makes a mockery of saying that today's level is unprecedented."

"As a further rebuttal of the influence of carbon dioxide over the climate, the alleged IPCC greenhouse effect is a non-existent effect. No greenhouse, whether made from glass, plastic, cardboard or steel will reach a higher inside temperature due to the magic of re-radiated infrared energy. If it did, engineers would have long ago been able to design power stations made from air, mirrors and glass, extracting more energy out of it than was put into it - if only!"

"The periodicity in the data and the unequivocal solar linkage were not even addressed. This is not science. The whole climate change issue is about to fall apart. Heads will roll."

"Any and all schemes to reduce carbon dioxide emissions are futile in terms of having an effect on global temperatures or the climate and any and all carbon trading exchanges are a fraudulent exercise amounting to no more than hidden taxation."

Above is a press release from Schreuder [hans@ilovemycarbondioxide.com]. Full presentation here

Comment on the above received by email:

Courtesy of Prof. Ian Plimer, let me offer you another conundrum. The earth is approx 3.5bn years old. For half of this almost unimaginable span of time, its atmosphere was largelydevoid of O2, a statement which is scientifically uncontentious, I believe. O2 now accounts for roughly 21% by volume whilst poor old CO2 languishes at all of 0.03%.

Question - why?

Answer - because the rise of green plants and photosynthesis have sequestered carbon from CO2 and left behind good ole oxygen. Before green plants, was there a runaway greenhouse effect? To be sure, there was not - in fact, repeatedly the opposite, namely glaciation. All very odd, but for the true believer irrelevant!

Stupid bureaucratic rigidity about class sizes in Scotland

Why is having 20 kids in a class good but having 21 is completely impossible??

The head of education at a Scottish local authority who was suspended following a row over whether an 11-year-old girl should be allowed to go to the school of her choice has taken early retirement. Ian Fraser, the corporate director of education and social care with Inverclyde Council, announced his decision yesterday, just over a week after disciplinary action was taken against him.

Mr Fraser's suspension centres on the case of Kirstin Airlie, the only one of a 101-strong intake to Gourock High who was refused entry, despite attending a primary in the catchment area. Inverclyde's policy is to cap pupil numbers in S1 classes to a maximum of 20 and, the council argued, allowing 101 pupils into the first year would mean employing an extra teacher.

In order to decide which pupil was excluded, a ballot was held of all 101 applications, which resulted in Kirstin being told she had to go to Greenock Academy. However, her parents successfully appealed the decision. An independent review of the circumstances surrounding the decisions regarding admissions to Gourock High was then put in place and Mr Fraser was suspended.

Mark Airlie, the father of the schoolgirl, said: "I don't have any animosity towards Ian Fraser himself, but we felt the education department acted in an aggressive way. "What is most important to us is to get to the bottom of what happened with the ballot and whether or not it was engineered."

Last year, the council lost another high-profile placing request battle after a sheriff ruled against them, and there has also been controversy over the introduction of a 33-hour school week, different school holidays and plans to cut the role of attendance officers.

However, others pointed to the fact that many of the significant events and internal procedures central to the case involving Kirstin pre-dated his appointment in 2006. In addition, despite dealing with significant issues of poverty and deprivation, Inverclyde schools have regularly outperformed similar schools in exam performance under Mr Fraser's leadership.

More here

Insane: NHS practices quack medicine but denies patients drugs that do work

There have been several well-controlled studies which show that acupuncture has placebo effects only

Acupuncture is to be made available on the NHS at a cost of ?1.4bn a year despite little scientific evidence that the 'mumbo jumbo' medicine works. The Government's rationing watchdog NICE will also announce on Wednesday that patients can demand other unproven treatments like osteopathy and chiropracty. This is despite the fact that NICE has turned down drugs for people with cancer and dementia, describing them as 'not cost effective'.

Experts have slammed the new ruling as tantamount to the official endorsement of 'mumbo jumbo' medicine which works no better than a placebo. It is the first time the rationing body has backed the use of alternative therapies on the NHS. Their guidance comes just weeks after a large scientific study found that the traditional Chinese practice of acupuncture was no better at relieving pain than simply sticking toothpicks in different parts of the body.

The research, by the Centre for Health Studies, in Seattle, found that 60 per cent of patients given acupuncture for back pain felt better a year after treatment, compared with 40 per cent of those who were not given the treatment. But the trial found that a third group of patients given 'simulated acupuncture' using toothpicks which did not penetrate the skin, was just as effective as when needles were used. Professor David Colquhoun, pharmacologist at University College London, said this indicated that all acupuncture did was create a 'theatrical placebo', which fooled recipients into believing their condition had improved.

He said of the new guidance: 'This is an official endorsement of mumbo jumbo and the implications of that are terrible, for the NHS, and for the taxpayer. 'We will not only be subsidising an industry of acupuncturists and chiropractors, but worse still spending money on standards and regulation of something which I do not believe the evidence supports.'

On Wednesday, NICE will tell GPs to offer patients with back pain courses of complementary therapies costing the NHS at least 400 pounds a time, as an alternative to exercises they can carry out on their own or in class. The draft guidance says up to 10 sessions of acupuncture, worth between 35 and 50 pounds a session, or nine visits to an expert in 'spinal manipulation' - osteopaths, chiropractors and physiotherapists - should be offered.

Four million people consult their GP about back pain every year and if all of them took up acupuncture or chiropracty, it would land the NHS with an annual bill of more than 1.4 billion.

The guidance says anyone whose pain persists for more than six weeks should be given a choice of several treatments, because the evidence of what works best is so uncertain. There were no randomised controlled trials which showed the benefit of exercise, while on complementary therapies the evidence was mixed, with some showing small benefits. Therefore, any decision on which treatment to try should be left with the patient. NICE say that no one should be referred for X rays or MRI scans until other treatments have been tried.

Supporters of acupuncture say it works because needles are inserted into points in the body identified as 'meridians' through which 'energy' flows. But there is no anatomical basis for belief in 'meridians', and acupuncturists cannot state what the 'energy' they claim to be harnessing actually is.

Paul Robin, chairman of the Acupuncture Society, said the therapy worked 'fantastically well' in relieving back pain. He said the mystery about how acupuncture worked made it difficult for trials to demonstrate that its results were not caused by a placebo effect. Mr Robin said: 'There have not really been enough studies into acupuncture. For example, we know that it works even when the needles are not in the right places, which could be because the needles themselves create an endorphin effect, which gives pain relief. 'That doesn't mean acupuncture doesn't work.'

Chiropracty, invented in the late nineteenth century, works on the unscientific principle that diseases are caused by faulty alignment of the bones. Practitioners manipulate the spine in an attempt to relieve pain.

NICE's green light for alternative medicine comes despite the fact that two years ago it turned down drugs for people with moderate Alzheimer's disease, costing just 2.50 a day. It also turned down bowel cancer drugs Avastin and Erbitux. Ian Beaumont, campaigns director of Bowel Cancer UK, said: 'We hope NICE is not funding complementary therapy at the expense of mainstream drugs which have a more proven benefit - but often are not made available to patients on the NHS.'

Neil Hunt, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society, said: 'We have consistently stated that NICE's decision to deny people with dementia access to drugs in the moderate stages of the condition is unethical and based on flawed calculations. NICE must tackle these flaws to ensure people with dementia can get access to effective treatments.'


British anti-immigration party attracting more online interest than all other major parties

The British National Party is outperforming the major parties online, according to a new analysis of the far-right strategy in the run up to next month's European elections. Fresh evidence suggests that the BNP is outdoing Labour and the Conservatives in luring visitors to its website, where it outlines policies such as halting immigration, the reintroduction of corporal punishment and the return of the death penalty.

The statistics came as the Archbishops of Canterbury and York urged voters yesterday not to let the ongoing MPs' expenses scandal convince them to vote BNP in June.

Dr Matthew Goodwin of Manchester University and editor of The New Extremism in 21st Century Britain, argues that the BNP is engaged in an "unprecedented" cyber-campaign. Figures from Alexa, which measure the level of traffic to internet sites over the past three months, reveal the BNP is far ahead of the other mainstream parties' websites. The BNP's site is ranked globally as the 46,000th most popular site on the internet.

The Conservatives sit in 165,000th place, the Liberal Democrats are 198,000th leaving Labour way back about 248,000th. The relative popularities are confirmed by Google Trends for websites, which reveals online interest in the BNP persistently spiking ahead of the mainstream parties.

The figures from Alexa also show the BNP registering more traffic than highly publicised political blogs such as Guido Fawkes. They also reveal that once logged on, surfers spend twice the amount of time checking out the BNP's ideas compared to those on the Conservative website – 6.3 minutes a day compared to 2.7 minutes. But the figures don't take account of the fact that Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem blogging and internet sites are far more profuse.

Dr Goodwin argues that the BNP under Nick Griffin is now augmenting grass roots support through the electronic media. For example text messages sent to random numbers seek a small donation to party funds and ask recipients to forward the plea to family and friends. Voters who make inquiries are directed to a party call centre. Dr Goodwin says: "The BNP's shift to an Obama-style online strategy enables it to circumvent the tactics used by other parties to starve it of publicity and also shows up the dangers of that approach."

He concludes that the BNP is "sidestepping a hostile press by delivering its message direct to the desktop". Meanwhile, a leaked BNP "education and training" document circulated among activists and seen by The Independent gives detailed advice to its supporters to exploit "the growing power of cyberspace media".

It warns against linking unofficial blogs with the main party website, promoting "barking mad" conspiracy theories and poor standards of English. It concludes: "We should use such sites to 'bring the horse as close as possible to the water' and once they find that they agree with our policies, hopefully they'll drink."

Dan Hodges of the anti-racist [Trotskyite] group Searchlight said the web traffic figures massively overstated the true level of interest in the far-right party and accused the BNP of massaging the numbers. "On the basis of their web hits they are more popular than all the mainstream parties combined but that is just not the case. It does not reflect the level of support," he said.


Scottish evangelicals vow to hold back cash after pro-homosexual vote

Good to see that some Scottish Presbyterians still believe in the Bible. And in good Scottish fashion, they will keep money in their pockets to make their point. I am pretty sure there is a schism just down the road. Schisms are very Scottish

Traditionalists opposed to the appointment of gay ministers are planning a campaign of non-co-operation with the Kirk establishment, to deny the Church of Scotland hundreds of thousands of pounds in revenue.

The move is in retaliation against Saturday night’s vote at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to uphold the decision of Aberdeen Presbytery to appoint the Rev Scott Rennie to Queen’s Cross parish church, by 326 vote to 267. There were more than 250 abstentions, leaving Mr Rennie, a divorced father who lives with his male partner, admitting that the issue still had to be discussed further by the Church.

Mr Rennie, 37, who served on the Church of Scotland human sexuality taskforce two years ago, said that there were tens of gay ministers already working in the Church, who were afraid of coming out. “Two gay minsters came to talk [to the taskforce] under anonymity. It's awful that people feel they have to have anonymity before they are free to talk,” he said. “There are issues here for the Church. A space has to be found for gay Christians to have their voices heard. You can’t have an open debate about sexuality if one party feels it is unsafe to talk.”

Evangelical commissioners were aghast at the result of Saturday’s vote in support of Mr Rennie’s appointment, which followed more than four hours of fierce debate. Many felt that proceedings had been rigged by their highly organised liberal opponents on the first day of the General Assembly, it having been ensured that a scheduled debate on the primacy of heterosexual marriage was held only after Mr Rennie’s position was ratified.

That overture (motion) on the sanctity of marriage, proposed by the traditionalist Presbytery of Lochcarron and Skye, will be debated today. Already, a number of counter-motions and amendments have been tabled by liberals which, their opponents fear, could see matters of sexual morality swept under the carpet and considered for a year or more by a Kirk commission, rather than debated on the floor of the Assembly Hall in Edinburgh.

Despite their defeat, evangelical leaders made clear that rather than quit the Church, they intended to fight their corner. They claim that their congregations are among the largest in the Kirk, and simply through the collection plate provide a substantial income stream which can be denied to the church authorities.

The impact of a freeze on collection contributions would be big. A petition against Mr Rennie’s appointment gained the signatures of 272 serving parish ministers, among the 964 listed in Scotland. Evangelicals say that their congregations are among the biggest, from a church membership of less than 500,000. The largest congregations can generate more than £100,000 per annum, up to two thirds being paid over to the church authorities.

The evangelical ministers the Rev David Court, of New Restalrig Church, Edinburgh, and the Rev William Philip, of St George’s-Tron, Glasgow, gave warning in a joint statement of the battles to come: “The General Assembly has shown itself to be seriously out of touch with its grassroots in the churches. But it should remember that these are the people who have — hitherto, at least — kept a creaking denomination afloat financially. There will be a great deal less willingness to do that from now on,” they said.

“People are not obliged to give,” added the Rev Richard Buckley, of Forward Together, a leading evangelical organisation. “As far as we are concerned the Church has sent out a wrong message about Christian morality. God has revealed the truth and . . . the Word of God stands for ever.”

Dr James Simpson, one of three former Moderators of the Church of Scotland who during the debate spoke up for Mr Rennie’s appointment, warned that “some of the bitterest debates in church history begin with the words ‘Scripture says’.” Mr Rennie agreed. “There is no one reading of Scripture that falls from the skies. One of the great myths in the debate about sexuality is that one of the parties believes the Bible and the other does not. It is a caricature,” he said. [How could Romans chapter 1 be clearer?]

Mr Rennie’s appointment was warmly welcomed by Richard Baker, the Labour MSP for North East Scotland. A spokesman for Alex Salmond said: “The First Minister is pleased that the debate was conducted in good spirit and in an atmosphere of mutual understanding.” [Laughable politician speak]


Three cups of tea a day 'can cut heart attack risk by 70%'

And pigs might fly. This is just tea industry puffery and one would have to look individually at the raft of findings referred to. As far as I am aware, howeever, all the human studies are epidemiological and hence incapable of enabling causative inferences. See e.g. here. And one of the studies apparently referred to below was downright dishonest

Drinking three cups of tea a day can ward off heart attacks, a dietician has claimed. The beverage could even have anti-cancer properties, a review of previous research suggests. The link between coronary heart disease and tea has been the subject of a large number of studies.

Dr Carrie Ruxton, a member of the Tea Advisory Panel, analysed some of these, which highlighted the effectiveness of naturally occurring compounds called flavonoids in combating heart attacks. One Finnish study found men who drank more than two cups of tea a day had a 21 per cent reduced chance of stroke. French research showed that women who drank more than three cups a day had a 32 per cent lower risk of blocked arteries.

Dr Ruxton said the research showed at least three cups of tea a day can lower the risk of a heart attack by up to 70 per cent. She said: 'We are not sure of the exact mechanism, but it is thought that tea flavonoids could be involved in controlling inflammation, reducing thrombosis, promoting blood vessel function and helping to limit furring up of the arteries.' The studies found tea may be 'a useful addition to an anti-cancer diet', she added, but further research was needed.

Dr Ruxton said: 'Tea may be a national favourite but it also has health benefits thanks to its high flavonoid content. 'My research shows there is a growing amount of evidence which indicates tea can play a role in helping to combat cardiovascular problems such as heart disease and stroke. 'This area of research is very exciting for the future. We also found solid evidence of tea helping to boost cognitive function and reduce stress, probably related to tea's modest caffeine content. 'Some interesting research on the role of tea flavonoids in helping to combat certain neurological conditions is emerging.' She added: 'Research shows you do not need to drink gallons of tea to get real improvements just three or four cups of tea a day are enough.'

Dr Catherine Hood, another Tea Advisory Panel member, said: 'The scientific community is learning more and more about tea and its health properties. 'Studies show that there are some very powerful ingredients in tea that can play a hugely important role in protecting the body from some serious and potentially fatal conditions. 'A cuppa is a great way to relax or unwind but could also give your health a crucial boost. 'Just a few cups a day have been shown to help and drinking more isn't a problem either as up to eight cups a day have been shown to be fine.'

Tea is the most consumed drink after water with 131,150 tons of tea consumed in the UK in 2006/07. Nearly eight in ten adults drink an average of 2.3 mugs a day.


BritGov is at it again

Trying to criminalize criticism of homsexuality:
"Church of England bishops are on a collision course with the government over its plans to amend the incitement to hatred laws, claiming they will stifle what they believe is legitimate criticism of homosexual lifestyles. In what is being portrayed in some parliamentary quarters as a battle for free speech, a coalition of Anglican bishops, Conservative peers, Labour malcontents and leading crossbenchers have united to block the proposals.

Last year’s Criminal Justice and Immigration Act created the criminal offence of “incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation”. But a group of peers, led by the Tory Lord Waddington, forced the government to accept an amendment stipulating that people should not be taken to court for stating that homosexual sex is wrong or for trying to persuade gay people to remain celibate. The clause read: “The discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred.”

Now a new clause inserted in the Coroners and Justice Bill would see this defence dropped. The majority of the Church of England’s bishops are believed to oppose dropping the defence, although there have been dissenters. “Our view is, if it isn’t broke don’t mend it,” a church spokesman said. “This is about freedom of speech and avoiding unnecessary police investigations.”

The Lord Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, the Right Rev George Cassidy, told parliament last week “that people should be protected from inflammatory and intimidating behaviour towards them on the basis of their sexual orientation”. However, he added: “Our concern is with the potential application of the law to restrict legitimate discussion and expression of opinion about sexual ethics and sexual behaviour.”

Christian groups complain the current laws have already resulted in people being investigated for criticising homosexual lifestyles and claim more will be prosecuted if the amendment becomes law. They point to cases such as that of Kwabena Peat, a north London history teacher, who was dismissed for complaining that a staff away day was used to promote homosexual lifestyles...


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