A national chain of booksellers is under fire for bowing to threats from a notorious homophobic preacher.
Stephen Green, of fundamentalist group Christian Voice, said the decision by Waterstones to cancel an event at a Cardiff store featruring a gay Welsh poet was a triumph for “the Lord.”
Mr Green is a regular protester at Pride events in the UK. However, his latest stunt marks a new avenue for him – threatening to disrupt poetry readings.
Patrick Jones was due to launch his new collection of poems, Darkness is Where the Stars Are, and sign copies at Waterstone’s in Cardiff.
Some of them explore issues of faith, though Christianity is not singled out.
Christian Voice claim the poems are blasphemous.
When it emerged that Mr Green was to protest, the shop decided to cancel the event.
The company denies they have been censored – Mr Green was jubilant.
“The Lord had not even showed me what we should do at Waterstone’s, only that it should be Christlike,” he told the BBC.
“Just the knowledge that we were on our way has put the fear of God into the opposition.”
A spokesman for Waterstone’s said:
“The book remains available through Waterstone’s and we are very happy for that to be the case.
“However we have a duty to our customers and booksellers regarding events that we organise, and we felt it prudent in this case.”
Yesterday Mr Green also made some contentious comments about the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision that the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead has “no case to answer” after it exhibited a 1ft high statue of Jesus with an erection.
He now advocates destroying art works he dislikes.
“This decision urges Christians to create public disorder if we want a similar case to proceed in future,” he said.
“We are naturally reluctant to do that and it puts us in new territory.
“On the other hand, there were those at the Baltic Centre who wanted to take matters into their own hands and I have warned Anita Zabludowicz that her statue will not survive being put on public display again.
“If the CPS wanted to give the green light to blasphemous art their decision may paradoxically have the opposite effect. With the threat of destruction hanging over it, the Zabludowicz statue is now locked away by its wealthy owners and is unlikely to see the light of day again.
“The same will go for any other blasphemous works of so-called art. Put simply, Christians won’t tolerate insults to Jesus Christ.”
Mr Green faces bankruptcy after he was ordered to pay £90,000 in court fees when his attempt to bring a private prosecution against Jonathan Thoday of production company Avalon and the BBC’s Mark Thompson, for screening the acclaimed Jerry Springer: The Opera, failed last December. The preacher claimed the musical was blasphemous.
Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said:
“Stephen Green is becoming a real threat to artistic freedom. It seems a mere phone call from him threatening some kind of demonstration can cause a bookshop to capitulate to his demands and cancel an artistic event.
“His increasingly bullying behaviour needs to be challenged by the police. We simply cannot allow this man to dictate what can and cannot be said by artists. It is really up to the authorities to protect artists and their promoters from such intimidation.”
Mr Sanderson said that Stephen Green had published the addresses of several BBC executives at the height of the Jerry Springer controversy, causing distress and fear to some of the families.
“Freedom of expression is too precious to be sacrificed to the whim of a zealot. The authorities must step in and protect artists who are acting within the law from the religious bullying practised by Mr Green.”