Tag Archives: Church

Tory heretic Baker says Church of England could lose official status for criticising Brexit

Steve Baker: what’s the line I’m looking for? “Before he demands the bishops remove the mote from their eye, he should remove the plank from his own”?

Perhaps Steve Baker should be excommunicated? His true religion appears to be Brexit, anyway.

After Church of England bishops spoke out in the House of Lords against Boris Johnson’s ridiculous ‘Australia-style’ (read: ‘no deal’) Brexit, the oily Baker slithered straight to The Times with his ridiculous suggestion.

The Times is behind a paywall, which limits the damage. I certainly won’t pay Rupert Murdoch any money just to see what he said… but then I don’t have to. Here’s what he said:

I don’t know why Tories say stupid things like this, though. It only lays them wide open to mockery and ridicule, viz.:

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After #BorisJohnson complained about lack of cash, he’s had a #trolling from the #ChurchOfEngland

Realisation dawns: as he reads the passage chosen for him at the Battle of Britain commemoration service in Westminster Abbey, Boris Johnson discovers that the Church of England is trolling him.

Whoever chose the reading for Boris Johnson at Sunday’s commemoration of the Battle of Britain is a genius.

The service at Westminster Abbey celebrated the 80th anniversary of the crucial World War II battle:

The UK’s performing monkey prime minister Boris Johnson attended and gave a reading – but after he reportedly complained about having trouble making ends meet on his more than £150,000-a-year salary, it seems someone responsible for the order of service decided to have a laugh:

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”

The church should be giving more of this kind of leadership.

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How is the Church of England going to stop unmarried people from having it off?

Justin Welby: this latest proclamation from the Church is a blunder that the Archbishop of Canterbury should have avoided.

Apparently the Church of England has issued advice saying that only heterosexual, married couples should have sex.

Firstly, it is hypocritical for a religious organisation to try to tell the rest of us to abstain, considering the number of sex scandals caused by priests – of all denominations.

And secondly, as a friend of mine just pointed out: “How are you going to stop us, Justin?”

I am reminded of Billy Connolly’s reaction to Presbyterianism in Scotland (which I’ll censor slightly for the Vox Political audience): “John Knox, a f*cking weary willy of a man, and a hypocrite too: ‘THOU SHALT NOT! This is a race of people who wear skirts and no knickers! We f*cking SHALL, pal! Done it before and we’ll do it again.”

It’s political, of course – and the Church has said as much; it is supposed to be a reaction to the introduction of mixed-sex civil partnerships.

But I think there’s more to it than that.

Tories across the country have been moaning about the amount of benefits being paid to poor people who have lots of children (many outside the bonds of wedlock).

Back in the day, it used to be enough to tell people that sex outside marriage was sinful and you’d go to Hell (or some similarly horrible place. Finchley, maybe, or Uxbridge).

Perhaps the Tories are hoping to revive those superstitious and fearful times.

Tough.

There are much more complicated issues here than can be solved with a proclamation from a religious organisation.

All the Church of England has done is make itself look foolish and primitive.

Source: Sex is for married heterosexual couples only, says Church of England | World news | The Guardian

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‘Immoral’ DWP is ‘stubbornly ignoring’ calls for sanctions review, say Churches

Actors demonstrate how DWP officials have reacted to calls for a full, independent review of their sanctions regime.

Actors demonstrate how DWP officials have reacted to calls for a full, independent review of their sanctions regime.

Churches and charities have attacked the Department for Work and Pensions’ refusal to undertake a full review of the benefit sanctions system.

The DWP has issued a response to the Work and Pensions Select Committee inquiry into benefit sanctions – four months overdue – but has failed to commit to a review as recommended.

The Select Committee, the Government’s own advisors, the Social Security Advisory Committee, charities and Churches have all called for a full, independent review of the regime [along with This Writer and his colleagues]. These groups have highlighted the extreme hardship caused, the inconsistent and unjust application of sanctions and the lack of evidence that they encourage people into work.

The Baptist Union, Church in Wales, Church of Scotland, Methodist Church, United Reformed Church and charity Church Action on Poverty have called for an immediate suspension of sanctions against families with children and people with mental ill-health. They say the DWP’s response does not go far enough and have called again for a review.

“In refusing to undertake a full review, the DWP is stubbornly ignoring the calls of parliament, expert advisers, Churches and charities. Most importantly, it is condemning people, many of whom have also spoken out eloquently against the inhumanity of the current practice, to unjust and pointless punishment,”  said Paul Morrison, public issues policy adviser for the Methodist Church.

Responding to the DWP’s announcement that they will try a ‘yellow card’ system, Mr Morrison added: “If a court is working to a bad set of laws for a bad set of reasons and making bad and unreliable decisions, it’s not the sentencing policy you look at. ‘Yellow cards’ will reduce the number of sanctions, which is welcome, but won’t address the fundamental problems that occur long before the decision to sanction has been made. That’s why we need a full independent review”

Even if a benefits claimant is able to demonstrate that they cannot afford food due to being sanctioned, most people will still not become eligible for a hardship payment or loan for a further two weeks and, once eligible, it will take a further three days before payment actually arrives.

Dr Richard Vautrey, a GP in Leeds and deputy chair of the BMA’s General Practitioners Committee, said: “GPs are increasingly seeing people who are suffering serious consequences as a result of the current benefit sanctions system. Vulnerable people can be left with no money to pay for essentials such as food and heating and this can then have a damaging impact not only on their physical and mental health but also the health of family members, including children, who depend upon them. Government policy directly puts the health of patients we care for at risk. Immediate action should be taken to end these punitive actions.”

In March this year, the Churches published a report showing that nearly 100,000 children had been affected by sanctions in 2014 alone and that people with mental health problems were being sanctioned at a rate of more than 100 per day. As a result of their campaign more than 2,000 people wrote to their MPs asking them to support a review of the system.

The report told stories like that of Martin*, aged 60, who missed an appointment with the job centre because his wife died suddenly. He was sanctioned for six weeks, leaving him with nothing to live on and in a state of confusion as his wife had previously handled most of their joint paperwork. He came to the local church for help and charity Acts435 helped him with his living expenses until he could come to terms with the new shape his life had taken.

“The Government claims that sanctions help people into work, but the evidence for this claim is practically non-existent,” added Mr Morrison. “However, there is plenty of evidence that sanctions cause hardship, suffering and hunger.

“Any system that seeks to ‘change people’s behaviour’ by using hunger as a weapon is immoral.”

*Not his real name.

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The mentally ill are bearing the brunt of benefit sanctions in Wales

A poster against benefits sanctions in Salford.

People with mental health problems in Wales are being punished for their conditions by benefit sanctions – or the threat of them, according to research by a group of Christian churches.

Two-thirds of those who are sanctioned in Wales are unfit for work because of mental health problems – more than in the rest of the UK. It is likely that the sanctions add to the worry and stress which already cause terrible difficulty for these people.

The information is revealed in the Welsh Data Supplement to the report Time to Rethink Benefit Sanctions, which will be launched in the churches’ tent at the National Eisteddfod in Meifod on Wednesday (August 5), starting at 1pm. The event will hear the stories of some of those who have suffered from sanctions.

In his Preface to the report, the Most Revd Dr Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales, states: “The results are shocking: large numbers of people, particularly those judged unfit for work due to mental health problems, are being punished … by the withholding of their income.”

Chair of Synod Cymru of the Methodist Church, Revd Jennifer Hurd, added, “Over a third of those who are told they may be sanctioned in fact find their sanction is cancelled because of a bureaucratic error. But in the meantime, they will have suffered additional unnecessary stress and anxiety, waiting to find out if their support is to be cut off.”

Moderator of the United Reformed Church in Wales, Revd Simon Walkling, said, “This is a shocking report, and confirms what churches find in their work on the ground with food banks, debt counselling services and other projects helping those in need in their communities. That is why our churches have said that in Wales, as in the rest of the UK, it is time to rethink benefit sanctions.”

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Coalition government condemned over sanctions regime that tortures children

A poster against benefits sanctions in Salford.

Around 100,000 children were affected by benefit sanctions between the beginning of April 2013 and the end of March 2014, according to a new report.

In the same period, nearly seven million weeks’ worth of sanctions were handed out to benefit claimants.

The data, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, will feature in this evening’s episode of Channel 4’s Dispatches, entitled Britain’s Benefits Crackdown.

The report – Time to Rethink Benefit Sanctions – is published today by the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Church Action on Poverty, the Church in Wales, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church. It contains new data on the severity and length of sanctions under ‘welfare reform’, and on how sanctions affect vulnerable groups such as children and those with mental health problems.

It features the stories of people like James [not his real name] who have had their benefits sanctioned: “During the first three weeks of my sanction I continued to look for work as I was required to.

“By the fourth week, however, I was exhausted, unwell and no longer had it in me. I was not eating as I had no food and was losing a lot of weight. I told the Jobcentre I was unwell through not eating, but was sanctioned for another three months for not looking for work properly,” he added.

According to The Void, Job Centres are being awarded special 'sheriff stars' for meeting sanction targets (that's right - the sanction targets that the DWP keeps insisting don't exist, even after being presented with the proof). Link: http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/sandra-gives-the-game-away-jobcentres-given-sheriffs-stars-for-hitting-benefit-sanction-targets/

According to The Void, Job Centres are being awarded special ‘sheriff stars’ for meeting sanction targets (that’s right – the sanction targets that the DWP keeps insisting don’t exist, even after being presented with the proof). Link: http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/sandra-gives-the-game-away-jobcentres-given-sheriffs-stars-for-hitting-benefit-sanction-targets/

“Those who already have the most difficult lives are those most likely to be sanctioned,” said Paul Morrison, public issues policy adviser for the Methodist Church and one of the authors of the report. “Sanctions impact disproportionately on young people, care leavers, homeless people, single parents, the mentally ill and those with long term illness. This system causes problems for the very people that most need help.

“But sanctions don’t just have a financial impact. The people we’ve spoken to have told us of the shame, demoralisation and loss of self-worth caused by this system. As Christians we believe that everyone is loved, valued and made in the image of God, and we have a responsibility to challenge any structure or system that undermines that dignity.”

The Churches are calling for a full and independent review of the regime and for urgent reform of the hardship payments system to avoid the deliberate imposition of hunger.

This is worth highlighting – these churches consider the government to be deliberately forcing hunger on people. Doesn’t that run against Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as enshrined in the UK’s Human Rights Act? Human rights campaigning organisation Liberty says this is the case, with this web page quoting a case study that includes “food and drink deprivation”.

In the meantime, they are urging the Government to suspend all sanctions against families with children and those suffering from mental health problems. Most importantly, they say, there needs to be a change of culture, from one of enforcement and punishment to one of assistance and support.

“If you commit a crime, no criminal court in the UK is allowed to make you go hungry as a punishment,” added Niall Cooper, Director of Church Action on Poverty. “But if you’re late for an appointment at the Jobcentre, they can remove all your income and leave you unable to feed yourself or your family for weeks at a time.

Most people in this country would be shocked if they knew that far from providing a safety net, the benefit sanctions policy is currently making thousands of people destitute. This policy must be reviewed urgently.”

The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, said: “The findings of this report are disturbing. It exposes a system that is harsh in the extreme, penalising the most vulnerable of claimants by the withdrawal of benefits for weeks at a time. Most worryingly, it appears from DWP guidance, quoted in the report, that deprivation and hunger are knowingly being used as a punishment for quite trivial breaches of benefit conditions. Employers would not be allowed to stop someone’s wages for a month the first time they were 10 minutes late for an appointment, but this is the kind of sanction that is being imposed on some of the most vulnerable people in our society, including those with mental and physical health problems.

Here is the DWP’s own guidance to Job Centre officials on the subject. Judge for yourself:

150121dmg-sanctions

The Archbishop continued: “We are concerned that the problem may be even worse in Wales, recognising the higher levels of poverty in this country. No Welsh data, however, is included in the report because despite submitting a Freedom of Information request to the DWP three months ago, we are still waiting for a reply. There is supposed to be a 20-day turnaround period for Freedom of Information requests. We are pursuing this.”

It is clear that the DWP is in breach of the Human Rights Act and is subjecting benefit claimants to torture as punishment for late attendance at appointments.

This report by the churches is to be welcomed. Now, what can they do to punish the government for torturing its own citizens?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Cameron’s ‘incoherent’ response to IS hides a plan for another war

Laughing at the law-abiding: IS militants at a captured checkpoint in northern Iraq [Image: AFP/Getty].

Laughing at the law-abiding: IS militants at a captured checkpoint in northern Iraq [Image: AFP/Getty].

David Cameron has no strategy to protect Christians who are threatened by violent religious groups like IS, and his policy is determined by the “loudest media voice”, according to the Church of England.

There’s no arguing with it. A letter from the Bishop of Leeds, Nicholas Baines, endorsed by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, points out that Cameron’s UK has turned its back on the suffering of tens of thousands of Christians fleeing IS jihadists in Mosul, Iraq’s second city, while the government responded promptly to reports of Yazidis trapped on Mt Sinjar.

The letter also condemns Cameron’s failure to offer sanctuary to Iraqi Christians who have been driven from their homes, when the French and Germans have already done so. Parliamentary questions tabled last month to find out whether the UK intends to offer asylum to Iraqi Christians have lain unanswered. Perhaps this is a political decision as Cameron thinks more foreigners coming here will push up support for UKIP; if so, that would support the Church’s view that he is reacting to the media, rather than following his own policy.

In fact, Cameron’s approach is becoming clearer. He wants to involve us in another war.

But, burned by his defeat in Parliament last year over Syria, he is taking a ‘softly, softly’ approach.

Having sent humanitarian aid to Iraq, he wrote in today’s Sunday Telegraph that this was not enough.

“He warns that Britain will have to use its ‘military prowess’ to help defeat ‘this exceptionally dangerous’ movement, or else terrorists with ‘murderous intent’ will target people in Britain,” the Telegraph report states.

Didn’t Tony Blair also use the possibility of a threat to the UK to cajole Britain into supporting the last round of wars in the Middle East? The antagonist may change but it seems the script does not.

In fact it is true that something must be done about IS. A lawless gang of murderers is setting up a lawless state in parts of Iraq and Syria that have been weakened by wars we either fought or did nothing to prevent – and fears that they could radicalise gullible Brits and send them home to carry out terrorist acts on our soil are real.

What is needed is a co-ordinated response from all law-abiding powers – not just in the west but Middle-Eastern countries and others. IS is the political equivalent of a rabid animal; its members don’t care who they attack, as long as they cause maximum harm, and every country in the world should be aware of this.

Cameron potters around the edges instead, following the same plan the UK always uses.

We could have sorted out these problems before withdrawing from Iraq a few years ago. We could have done it in the 1990s, after the first Gulf War. We could have sorted them out at any time before then – and with greater ease, but that does not suit a western industrial complex that is geared towards perpetuating warfare.

Cameron’s attitude is media-driven. His defeat over Syria has led him to revise his strategy, waiting for public opinion to be swayed by media reports of the bloodshed taking place abroad, stoked by fears that it could happen here in Blighty. When the public is supportive again, he can announce action – but only just enough action to keep the Middle Eastern countries at odds with each other, making further military conflicts inevitable.

Today, it seems he has decided he can act, if comments like “we need a firm security response, whether that is military action to go after the terrorists, international co-operation on intelligence and counter-terrorism or uncompromising action against terrorists at home” are to be believed.

Cameron also wrote that this is a “struggle against a poisonous and extremist ideology, which I believe we will be fighting for the rest of my political lifetime.”

His political lifetime will end in May 2015, so he’s right about that.

It seems his evil strategy for the Middle East will continue to affect the region long after the end of his physical lifetime, too.

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‘Barefoot banking’ to support people on the edge

usury

This is a piece I wrote for the local credit union in my part of Powys, following on from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s vow that the Church of England would fight payday lenders. Quite right – usury is an evil that religious organisations traditionally oppose. I’m publishing it here because the main information is relevant nationwide (and also because today appears to be quite slow for political news).

Credit unions must rise to the challenge created by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s stand against payday lenders, according to a leading figure in a Mid Wales organisation.

Richard Bramhall of Red Kite Credit Union said the main issue facing credit unions was how to bring affordable credit to “people on the edge”.

Last month, the Most Reverend Justin Welby announced that he planned to help community-based credit unions by allowing them to use Church of England premises as bases, to put firms like Wonga.com, which charge huge amounts of interest for their loans, out of business.

“His idea is very constructive,” said Mr Bramhall.

“Instant credit is a difficult sector to service because of high rates of defaulting. Payday lenders, door-step lenders and loan sharks – and to a lesser extent banks and credit card companies – answer the threat of bad debt by charging monstrous interest rates.

The Credit Union approach is responsible lending, careful interviews, getting guarantors where possible and working with the member to develop financial competence.

“The ethos always was to save; build a relationship with the credit union through saving – becoming a shareholder – and borrowing using the shareholding as security. They pay low interest and benefit by keeping and growing their shares.

“We do not want to lend at high rates,” he said. “Our standard rate is 12.68 per cent, or one per cent per month. If you borrowed £100 over a year and paid it back without interruptions, it would cost you £6.60 in interest, with no extra charges and no penalty for early repayment.”

But he warned: “The population density here is so low and the conceivable number of members so small that, even if everyone joined, our income from loan interest would not be enough to pay for bank-type premises or employees.”

The Credit Union’s solution is what Mr Bramhall calls ‘barefoot banking’. He said “The Herb Garden Café, in Llandrindod Wells, is an example. You can access credit union services six days a week, 12 hours a day – not just when we’re open but any time we’re in the building. People can pick up leaflets, ask about the credit union, leave messages, make payments and collect cheques. It costs the café nothing.

“If people want to help, they could develop the sort of access point we have here. Our greatest need is for self-motivating volunteers and casual drop-in service points in shops, churches, cafes and even private homes all over Radnorshire and north Brecknock.”

He added that credit unions also needed to establish themselves in schools, teaching responsible money management to youngsters.