Anglicans Demonize their Own
My attention was caught over the weekend by one of many stories of various aspects of discrimination against Christians around the world, but this one from the home Anglicanism, really stretched my ill-humour. Some of my British readers might well be acquainted with the story, but I consider it worth retelling.
The story is about the Rev. Bernard Randall, a school chaplain [2015 - 2020] fired from his job at Trent College, a Church of England School in Nottingham: His crime? To deliver a sermon in which he told pupils that they did not need to accept LGBT ideology if they felt it went against their beliefs or the beliefs of the Church.
Rev. Randall attended the recent International Religious Freedom Summit, a panel on “polite persecution” — a phrase coined by Pope Francis — assembled by The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington
During the course of the summit Randall described how secular abortion and gender activists are gutting cherished freedoms in countries that have historically championed religious liberty. Often, he observed that this religious persecution is state-sanctioned.
I picked this story up in the Christian Post of last Friday, 1 July 2022. I shall let Brandon Showalter, Senior Investigative Reporter with the Post, tell his own story:
From the Post
In his remarks, the Rev. Bernard Randall recounted how just over three years ago, he, as an ordained chaplain, was reported to authorities and investigated as part of a government anti-terrorism probe for espousing Christian sexual ethics during a chapel service in a Church of England school.
The school had invited LGBT activist Elly Barnes, founder of Educate & Celebrate, an LGBT education charity, to a staff training session to introduce a new curriculum under the guise of anti-bullying education, he said, noting that no one objects to protecting students from bullying. Yet, he soon found out that there were aspects of this training that were not about bullying but the indoctrination of LGBT ideology. It went so far that at one point the trainers had the staff chanting about the need to “smash heteronormativity.”
“That’s something well beyond not bullying people,” Randall said.
The LGBT group further taught staff that there are nine characteristics that are protected under British law, among them “gender” and “gender identity.” But that is not true, Randall stressed, noting that the trans movement has coerced the public into believing such claims.
Since the aim of the Educate & Celebrate curriculum material is to “embed gender, gender identity and sexual orientation into the fabric of your organization,” students asked Randall to address the issue at a chapel service.
After doing so, he was summarily dismissed from school for gross misconduct and reported to the counter-terrorism program after he told students, aged 11 to 17, that they were not compelled to “accept an ideology they disagree with.” He also told the students that they could make up their own minds about gender identity and sexuality.
Randall added that students could either choose to adopt the thinking of LGBT activists or adhere to Christian sexual ethics — that marriage is only between a man and woman and that sex is confined to that context. Most importantly, he advised students to show respect for those who disagree.
“I was summoned into what I can only describe as an interrogation by the senior leadership," he said. "I was suspended. And I was fired for gross misconduct for doing my job as per the job description."
Randall was also reported to Child Protective Services and a British government anti-terrorism program as a potential violent extremist.
“I’d like to think that I’m a reasonably moderate sort of chap,” he said, reiterating how he left the question of believing the claims of LGBT activists open-ended in his chapel remarks.
But his firing and being reported to the government anti-terrorism task force was a revealing moment showing how far the school's administration had gone to the other extreme.
He is now suing the school for religious discrimination but noted how astonishing it is that he has to take legal action against a Church of England institution, for proclaiming Christian beliefs in a sermon during a chapel service. The Christian Legal Centre has since been representing him.
Speaking of the relevance of the international religious freedom summit, the Anglican chaplain stressed that freedom of religion includes freedom from religion. The Marxist progressive ideology at work functions much like a religion and people should be free from that if they wish to be.
“If Western countries cannot protect their own
religious groups from discrimination there is absolutely no reason that the other countries at which we might point the finger” who are violating religious freedom, and they can say to the West and say, “You’re not taking it seriously, so
why should we?” he said.
When asked by The Christian Post why gender ideologues won't even allow a disagreement, Randall pointed to its philosophical roots.
“It seems to me that if you look at the Marxist-type origins of this sort of thing, what’s going on is that they are objecting to what they regard as religion — the opiate of the masses — this sort of false consciousness, and they just have to educate us into true consciousness,” he said.
“But anybody who says ‘Oh no, I’m quite happy with my religious ideas, I’m
quite happy with this consciousness I’ve got already’ is a real threat to the whole set of concepts. They are a threat to the idea that what everybody believes is false and the Marxists will take us to this new wonderful, enlightened utopia.”
“And they cannot tolerate that kind of threat. It’s a very totalitarian system," he added.
What Randall experienced three years ago in England is what he and others have called “soft totalitarianism,” whereas what people endure in China is “hard totalitarianism.”
“But the difference between them is not as much as we might like to think,” he stressed.
Doing further research on this subject led me to the Reverend Randall’s sermon, which I attach immediately below. Should you choose to read this, I would like you to remember that consequent to delivering this sermon - at an Anglican school remember - Reverend Randall was not only suspended and then fired but reported to Britain’s Prevent anti-terrorism programme by the school. The Prevent programme is geared towards preventing people becoming or supporting terrorism. Quite obviously the school considered the good Reverend to be a subversive influence endeavouring to radicalise his pupils into Christian terrorists! Still, they crucified Christ for less.
This type of political activism can no longer be regarded as nonsense. It is a ‘clear and present danger’ to all our civic, religious and societal freedoms. Anyone who has cursorily read anything about totalitarianism should recognise this. Those who deny this are either extremely stupid or are themselves of totalitarian inclinations. There is a distinct difference between robust and unfettered debate and shutting down your opponent. As my readers will readily know I hold firm views on a variety of subjects. I reserve the right to express them publicly as I defend the right of people to express opposite views. The old maxim needs restating, politics in a healthy democracy is the competition of ideas.
I will conclude this sad story by confirming my long-standing contempt for the morally perverse leadership of the Church of England and to reiterate my oft expressed imprecations to you all to speak out, clearly and continuously, against the increasing and most obvious curtailment of your freedoms.
Enjoy the good Reverend’s sermon and then think about this story.
10 May 2021
‘Competing ideologies’ was the school sermon given by Rev. Bernard Randall to students at Trent College. After giving this talk, Bernard was reported to the government’s counter-terrorism watchdog, Prevent, by the school as a potentially violent religious extremist.
The full text:
I have a theory about Brexit. It seems to me that people who voted to leave the European Union voted for largely political reasons – to do with democratic self-determination; and people who voted to remain did so for largely economic reasons – to do with prosperity and jobs. Of course I’m simplifying here, and both sides claim to consider both, but it seems to me that which set of ideas, which ideology, takes priority determines which way many people voted. And while we can easily discuss facts, and try to find the truth behind factual claims, ideals aren’t true or false in the same way.
And so the problem with the often very heated and unpleasant debate ever since the referendum, is that people haven’t managed to cope with there being two competing sets of ideals – two ideologies. Now when ideologies compete, we should not descend into abuse, we should respect the beliefs of others, even where we disagree. Above all, we need to treat each other with respect, not personal attacks – that’s what loving your neighbour as yourself means. By all means discuss, have a reasoned debate about beliefs, but while it’s OK to try and persuade each other, no one should be told they must accept an ideology. Love the person, even where you profoundly dislike the ideas. Don’t denigrate a person simply for having opinions and beliefs which you don’t share.
There has been another set of competing ideals in the news recently. You may have heard of the protests outside a Birmingham primary school over the teachings of an LGBT friendly “No Outsiders” programme. In a mostly Muslim community, this has been sensitive, because many parents feel that their children are being pushed to accept ideas which run counter to Islamic moral values. Many in that community are concerned, even angry, that their children are having an agenda, an ideology pushed on them, which is in conflict with their religion.
And in our own school community, I have been asked about a similar thing – this is one of the requested topics, and the question was put to me in a very particular way – “How come we are told we have to accept all this LGBT stuff in a Christian school?” I thought that was a very intelligent and thoughtful way of asking about the conflict of values, rather than asking which is right, and which is wrong.
So my answer is this: there are some aspects of the Educate and Celebrate programme which are simply factual – there are same-sex attracted people in our society, there are people who experience gender dysphoria, and so on. There are some areas where the two sets of values overlap – no one should be discriminated against simply for who he or she is: that’s a Christian value, based in loving our neighbours as ourselves, and God making humankind in his image, male and female, and himself loving everyone equally. All these things should be accepted straightforwardly by all of us, and it’s right that equalities law reflects that.
But there are areas where the two sets of ideas are in conflict, and in these areas you do not have to accept the ideas and ideologies of LGBT activists. Indeed, since Trent exists “to educate boys and girls according to the Protestant and Evangelical principles of the Church of England,” anyone who tells you that you must accept contrary principles is jeopardizing the school’s charitable status, and therefore it’s very existence. You should no more be told you have to accept LGBT ideology, than you should be told you must be in favour of Brexit, or must be Muslim – to both of which I’m sure most of you would quite rightly object.
Now I don’t know about the faith of the person who asked me to talk about this topic. I don’t think he would say is religious, though I may be wrong, but I am aware that there will be a good few in our community who will have been struggling, if they feel they are being told that they must accept ideas which run counter to their faith – or indeed non-faith based reasoning about the world. So I want to say to everyone, but especially to those who have been troubled, that you are not obliged to accept someone else’s ideology. You are perfectly at liberty to hear ideas out, and then think, “No, not for me.”
There are several areas where many or most Christians (and for that matter people of other faiths too), will be in disagreement with LGBT activists, and where you must make up your own mind.
So it is perfectly legitimate to think that marriage should only properly be understood as being a lifelong exclusive union of a man and a woman; indeed, that definition is written into English law. You may perfectly properly believe that, as an ideal, sexual activity belongs only within such marriage, and that therefore any other kind is morally problematic. That is the position of all the major faith groups – though note that it doesn’t apply only to same-sex couples. And it is a belief based, not only on scripture, but on a highly positive view of marriage as the building block of a society where people of all kinds flourish, and on recognizing that there are many positive things in life more important than sex, if only we’d let them be. This viewpoint is recognized by many people as extremely liberating. And it’s an ethical position which could also be arrived at independently of any religious text, I think.
In other areas you are entitled to think, if it makes more sense to you, that human beings are indeed male and female, that your sex can’t be changed, that although the two sexes have most things in common, there are some real, biologically based, differences between them overall. And if you think that, you would be in accord not only with the Tradition of most Christians, and other faiths, but much of the biological and psychological sciences too.
You are entitled, if you wish, to look at some of the claims made about gender identity, and think that it is incoherent to say that, for example, gender is quite independent of any biological factor, but that a person’s physiology should be changed to match his or her claimed gender; or incoherent to say that gender identity is both a matter of individual determination and social conditioning at the same time, or incoherent to make claims about being non-binary or gender-fluid by both affirming and denying the gender stereotypes which exist in wider society. And if these claims, which do seem to be made, are incoherent, then they cannot be more than partially true. Yet truth is important as we try to make decisions about the consequences of these ideas.
And you might reasonably notice that some LGBT activists will happily lie about gender identity being a legally protected characteristic (which it isn’t), and from that observation wonder whether there are other areas where their relationship to truth is looser than might be ideal. But by way of contrast, no one has the right to tell you that you must lie about these matters, to say things you sincerely believe to be false – that is the tactic of totalitarianism and dictatorship. On a more positive note, Christians will want to have a discussion about human identity which focusses as most important on the things we all have in common, rather than increasingly long lists of things which might divide us. At the same time, the Christian concern for truth will be trying to distinguish between false stereotypes and those areas of human interaction which are assisted by the practical wisdom of past generations.
You might be concerned that if you take the religious view on these matters you will be attacked, and accused of homophobia and the like. But remember that religious belief is just as protected in law as sexual orientation, and no one has the right to discriminate against you or be abusive towards you. Remember too that “phobia” words have a strict sense of extreme or irrational fear or dislike, like arachnophobia, fear of spiders, or triskaidekaphobia, fear of the number thirteen – well there’s nothing extreme about sharing your view with the Church of England, established by law, and of the majority of the world’s population who belong to these faiths. Nor is it irrational to hold these views, since they can be based both on secular reasoning and on scriptures – and if, on other grounds, you are sure that the scriptures reflect the mind of God, then they provide the very best reasons possible for anything. But “homophobia” and “transphobia” have come to be used in a looser sense to mean often simply “you disagree with me and I’m going to refuse to listen to you, and shame you to shut you down.” In other words they have sometimes come to be terms of abuse, used in a dictionary-definition bigoted and bullying way. You can safely ignore these uses, although that takes real moral courage, I know.
And you may think that LGBT rights are different somehow, because no one chooses to belong to the varied groups represented by these ideas. To which I would remind you that equalities law does not recognize that distinction – all equalities are in fact equal. And I’d also encourage you to remember that what is under consideration in religious and ethical thought is only the actions and choices we do make. And what it may never have occurred to you to realize – that religious people don’t have a choice about what they are either. So, for example, I can no more wake up one morning and choose not to believe in God, than I can choose to believe that the Moon is made of cheese. I just know it isn’t, and I can’t change that.
So, all in all, if you are at ease with “all this LGBT stuff,” you’re entitled to keep to those ideas; if you are not comfortable with it, for the various especially religious reasons, you should not feel required to change. Whichever side of this conflict of ideas you come down on, or even if you are unsure of some of it, the most important thing is to remember that loving your neighbour as yourself does not mean agreeing with everything he or she says; it means that when we have these discussions there is no excuse for personal attacks or abusive language. We should all respect that people on each side of the debate have deep and strongly held convictions. And because, unlike Brexit, this is not a debate which is subject to a vote, it is an ongoing process, so there should be a shared effort to find out what real truth looks like, and to respect that that effort is made honestly and sincerely by all people, even if not everybody comes up with the same answers for now.