An evangelical minister who came to prominence for his protests at gay Pride events has gone to the High Court in an attempt to bring a private prosecution for blasphemy against the director general of the BBC.
Reverend Stephen Green’s actions relate to the screening of the acclaimed production Jerry Springer – The Opera on BBC2 in 2005.
An attempt to bring a private prosecution in January was dismissed by a district court.
Rev Green is director of Christian Voice, a group that regularly appear at gay events, often with placards quoting anti-gay biblical quotes.
Mr Green was arrested last year for handing out leaflets at Cardiff Mardi Gras which included quotes saying homosexuality is wrong. No charges were brought against him.
At Brighton’s Pride event earlier this year Mr Green and a small group of activists picketed at the entrance to Preston Park, surrounded by police officers for their own protection.
Jerry Springer – The Opera outraged fundamentalist Christians for portraying Christ as a needy, nappy-obsessed obese man and for its satirical portrayals of other Biblical figures.
According to the Christian Voice website:
“The Lord Jesus is portrayed in Springer as an infantile sexual deviant.
“Satan tells Him ‘Fuck you,’ and Mary his blessed mother castigates Him for abandoning her when He died on the cross.
“His wounds are mocked, He says He is ‘a little bit gay’ and finally Jerry Springer tells him: ‘Jesus, grow up for Christ’s sake and put some fucking clothes on.’
“On top of all that, Almighty God is portrayed as an ineffectual inadequate who needs Jerry Springer’s shoulder to cry on, and Springer himself emerges as the true saviour of mankind.”
Michael Gledhill QC, appearing for Rev Green, told the High Court that the programme had clearly broken the law on blasphemy and the decision of the lower court not to act had been incorrect.
“The offence is not to stifle debate on the existence of God or any other aspect of the Christian religion but to set a legal limit on the way in which such debate can be conducted,” he said, according to The Times.
“This is not just about protecting the rights of a section of the Christian population. It is about protecting the constitution of the nation which is built on the Christian faith.”
Representing the BBC director general, David Pannick QC, defended the programme:
“The Opera won a large number of awards for exceptional artistic achievement, a recognition that this was a powerful satire on a particular type of exploitative television and not, as the claimant fails to appreciate, an attack on Christianity.”
On the Christian Voice website, the group explains why they feel it necessary to “stand up” for Jesus.
“Why am I bringing a case when God is quite capable of looking after Himself? In truth, God could have struck the BBC electrical system with a thunderbolt as we prayed.
“He chose not to. I believe God is generous enough to involve ordinary believing men and women, with all our weaknesses, in His purpose. He wants us to share His victory.”
The hearing continues.
In August Rev Green questioned the presence of racist group the National Front at Pride events, on the basis that “homosexuals are not black or Asian as a rule.”
The controversial preacher made his observation as part of his report on the group’s website about his protest at this year’s Brighton Pride celebrations.
He also complains that the NF are “copying” his idea of protesting at gay events.