Concern has been aroused in Sweden over a bill going through parliament which is intended to criminalise what is described as “hate speech” against, among others, homosexuals. The Swedish chancellor of justice has acknowledged that a sermon describing homosexual practice as sinful might constitute an offence under this new law. And homosexual campaigners have declared publicly that they will report preachers who “speak disparagingly” about homosexuals from the pulpit.
The chancellor of justice and others have given verbal assurances that the bill is not intended to target Bible-believing churches. Such assurances, however, because they are not part of the legislation, are unlikely to be effective in preventing prosecution, or conviction, of those who fall foul of the law, if it continues its course through parliament successfully.
This proposed law, especially if not properly focused on those who do incite hatred against others, is likely to be dangerous. It would take away the freedom of Christians to witness against sin, and witnessing against sin most certainly ought not to be described as “hate speech”. To show someone his sin is an act of love. But the responses of militant homosexuals quoted above are examples of an intolerance which is creeping into modern society. It has even been suggested that free speech is a right which should not be extended to those who believe that there are absolutes in religion – who would argue that theirs is the only true religion, and that other religions are false.
The UK government has wisely rejected a proposal for a new crime of inciting religious hatred. There is still concern that the Scottish Executive may yet come up with similar proposals. Although such legislation might seem reasonable as originally enacted, there is the danger, as the Christian Institute expresses it, that “after several years of such a law, Christians might face criminal prosecution for saying that Christ is the one way to God”.
Scottish Executive and the Disciplining of Children
Many people have been prayerfully concerned about the Scottish Executive proposal to ban physical punishment of children under three. We are very relieved that the Executive has now dropped the measure from its proposed Criminal Justice Bill. Justice Minister Mr Jim Wallace told the Scottish Parliament: “It is clear from today’s report [of the Justice Committee] that there is insufficient support from MSPs to impose any age ban on the smacking of very young children”.
We are in no doubt that the Executive has heeded the volume of protest from concerned parents and that the Most High has owned the prayers and other practical efforts of Christian parents. The Christian Institute is correct in saying: “When Christians make a courageous stand for morality on issues of public concern, they are a preserving influence. They are salt and light (Matt 5:13-16). Christians can provoke people’s consciences, which can then be a good influence on public opinion. This can be a real restraint on our politicians.” Let us thank the Most High for preventing this measure becoming law.
Conservatives’ Approach to Abolition of Section 28
The Times reports that the Queen’s Speech in November is expected to include the repeal of Section 28 – which bans local councils in England and Wales from promoting homosexuality – as part of a Local Government Bill, or that its repeal will be tabled later as an amendment to the Bill. Previous attempts to abolish Section 28 have been opposed by the Conservatives, but the Shadow Cabinet is now split on the issue, with about half of its 25 members in favour of abolition, six implacably opposed to it and a further six with no firm view.
The approach of Conservative leader Mr Ian Duncan Smith has been to give quiet support to so-called gay rights and to promise a review of his party’s position on Section 28. It is reported that “he is expected to attend the Tories ‘Absolutely Equal’ gay disco at next month’s party conference”. He was also one of the first to support Conservative MP Alan Duncan when he announced his homosexuality.
One Conservative implacably opposed to abolition is Mr David Davis, former party chairman. One senior Tory MP says, “The irony is that in his leadership bid Mr Davis ran a campaign called Modern Conservatives, but he is anything but modern in his approach to these issues”. But pro-homosexual politicians in fact support what is at least as old as Sodom.
On the other hand, if they want modernity, let them promote Christian values in this anti-Christian age. That would be really modern! It would also result in the blessing of Almighty God upon the nation, and prevent that awful curse mentioned in Psalm 12: “The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted”.
Underage-age Drinking Proposal
Children as young as 13 will be allowed to drink alcohol in council-run “safe havens”, or “supervised special youth centres” – if an idea by Stockport youth workers is approved, reports The Daily Telegraph. Officials at the town’s Council acknowledge that the scheme, if approved, would involve youth workers effectively turning a blind eye to the law – at a time when official figures indicate that drinking by young people has increased significantly over the past ten years.
Their intention is laudable – to protect the health and safety of young people who are putting themselves at risk from robbers and sex offenders by consuming alcohol in secluded areas. But their plan is completely misguided, to say the least. It puts the stamp of approval on under-age drinking, furthers the interests of the alcohol industry, and will lead young people from bad to worse. The bleak fact is that most crimes at night in town centres are alcohol-related and increased alcohol sales have led to a rise in violence and disorder throughout the country.
The Government should not only drop its intention to allow longer opening hours for certain alcohol outlets, but also reduce the present opening hours. The devil is maliciously satisfied to have the lie assiduously propagated by the drink trade that increased access to alcohol will reduce drunkenness. It has clearly proved otherwise. Their argument is as absurd as that of those who say, “Let us do evil, that good may come,” (Rom 3:8). Paul adds, “Whose damnation is just”.
Illness and Prayer
Medical students at Edinburgh University’s medical school are being advised by senior lecturer Dr Scott Murray to consider a patient’s spiritual history as well as their medical background. Not surprisingly, he said that patients make a better recovery if they receive spiritual help in addition to medical treatment. Of course, much depends on the kind of spiritual help given.
Dr Murray added that in a Christian hospital in Kenya he found patients expected to be prayed for as part of their treatment, even when they could not get the drugs they needed. “Here it is the other way round.”
However, some people in trouble have a superstitious view of the prayers offered for them. Although they themselves do not pray, they regard prayer as a kind of charm to ward off evil. They are quite satisfied to have others pray for them – as in the case of some of those who e-mail their prayer requests to an Episcopal church in Edinburgh, which then prints them out and offers them up at noon each day.
Yet others view prayer as a kind of calming psychological exercise. Among them evidently is the Roman Catholic spokesman who commented on Dr Murray’s views: “Saying prayers is very relaxing; it has been shown to relieve stress and lower heart rates”.
It is a great privilege to have believers praying for us in our troubles, but it is essential for each one of us also to draw near to God individually, in the name of Christ. We are not only to seek physical help, but also spiritual blessing. “Heal me, O lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for Thou art my praise” (Jer 17:14).