ANALYSIS: What is the Christian Institute?

Stephanie Phillips July 10, 2008
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Lillian Ladele’s success at an employment tribunal today horrified many.

The tribunal ruled that Islington council discriminated against her on the grounds of her Christian faith by asking her to perform civil partnership ceremonies.

But who bankrolled her case?

It was a media-savvy organisation well-known as leading opponents of the LGBT community’s efforts to secure equality.

Established in 1990 by a group of church leaders and Christian professionals, the Christian Institute has been one of the foremost opponents of the gay rights movement.

The Institute describes itself as a “non-denominational Christian charity committed to upholding the truths of the Bible.”

The evangelical Christian group has made its views on the institution of marriage, pro-life, education and gay rights very clear over the years.

The group regard it as their religious duty to impose their views into politics and believe Christians should “participate fully in our democracy.”

It claims that that their members and fellow travellers do not identify with one particular party, but a feature on their website makes it very easy to see which MPs hold the same views.

The site allows users to see the voting records for all MPs and through a simple Christian key, which has a tick for a morally right vote and an cross for a morally wrong one, users can find out which MPs voted for the bills they approve of.

For example Diane Abbott, Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, was not one of their favourites with mostly morally wrong crosses by her votes.

On the other hand Gregory Barker, Conservative MP for Bexhill and Battle, seemed to hold basically the same views as the Institute according to his voting records.

The Institute has supported many homophobic individuals in the past, including Ake Green, a Swedish pastor charged with inciting hatred against homosexuals when he compared homosexuality to paedophilia in one of his testimonies; the Bishop of Chester who said some gays can ‘re-orientate’ through therapy; and Lynette Burrows, who during a radio interview disagreed with gays being allowed the right to adopt and described the idea of a young boy with to gay men as “a risk.”

Pensioners Joe and Helen Roberts also received sympathy from the Christian Institute when in February 2006 the couple from Fleetwood, Lancashire wrote a strongly worded letter to their local council asking if Christian literature could be put beside gay rights information at Wyre civic centre.

A council official reported them to the police who paid them a visit at their home and told them their request had been close to a hate crime.

With the help of the Christian Institute the couple were later rewarded compensation for their homophobia from the police and the council.

The Christian Institute then decided to fight a long battle to take down the Sexual Orientation Regulations (SORs), equality laws that were brought in to protect the LGB community from discrimination.

The charity saw the proposed laws as a “new threat to religious freedom.”

In 2006 they published a leaflet on the SORs and the ‘threat’ they posed to the Christian religion.

In an article titled “Government forcing gay rights on churches,” the Institute wrote about how they feared that with the introduction of the new laws, gay rights activists would attack them through the courts.

In December 2006, Christian Institute Director, Colin Hart, told The Independent: “(Government minister) Peter Hain talks about equality. But he should read his own regulations, which elevate gay rights above all other rights for religious people, and rights on the grounds of age, sex and disability. It is a preferential status which will drive a coach and horses through religious liberty.”

In the same month the Christian Institute, along with other Christian groups, were allowed a judicial review of the SORs in Northern Ireland, claiming they were rushed through and constitute an attack on freedom of conscience.

The Institute also opposed a scheme to teach children about gay lifestyles through fairytales.

The push to include books for primary-aged children that encompass same-sex relationships has angered religious groups and re-ignited the debate about Section 28.

“The predictions of those who said the repeal of Section 28 would result in the active promotion of homosexuality in schools are coming true,” Simon Calvert, Deputy Director of the Christian Institute, told The Guardian.

In January 2007, along with other religious groups, they held an hour’s protest at Parliament Square against the introduction of SORs.

Although the protest received some media coverage, attendees seemed to be confused about which Christian group organised the protest and what they were protesting about.

In October 2007, along with the Islamic Human Rights Commission, the Christian Institute opposed incitement to hatred based on sexual orientation law, claiming it would restrict free speech, target Christians and stifle debate about homosexuality.

The Christian Institute has also involved itself with smaller causes.

In January 2008, gay retail was in the firing line when they tried, and failed, to block a shop, called Clone Zone, that sells sex toys and gay DVDs, opening a branch in Newcastle.

Recently the Christian institute backed the views of Iris Robinson, the MP wife of the First Minster of Northern Ireland, who said that homosexuality is disgusting, loathsome, nauseating, wicked and vile and claimed gay people can be “cured.”

The Institute claimed that reports to police that Iris Robinson’s comments may have broken laws on incitement to hatred are an attempt to intimidate her.

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