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Last Updated: Monday, 28 February, 2005, 12:15 GMT
A voice in the wilderness
By Stephen Tomkins
Author and church historian

They have taken on Jerry Springer: The Opera, the BBC and are now are planning to tackle abortion clinics. So who are Christian Voice?

Plenty of people have things to say about Christian Voice. John Cryer, MP, called them "fundamentalist thugs". The moderator of the United Reformed church calls them "a disgrace".

Their controversial protests against the "blasphemy" of Jerry Springer: The Opera involved publishing the home phone numbers of BBC executives. They also persuaded cancer charity Maggie's Centres to turn down a 3,000 donation from the show, threatening demonstrations.

Now they are planning to take on abortion clinics. So who is behind this group?

They are a small protest network, led by Stephen Green who describes himself as ex-Anglican and ex-building trade.

The heart of his mission is to return Britain to the 1950s. Back then, he says, it was a Christian country. Ever since, it has been turning away from God and sinking into immorality. Mr Green says he can cite 57 laws that have corrupted Britain in that time.

The "blasphemy and profanity" exemplified by Jerry Springer: The Opera are only two of his concerns. Others include familiar evangelical targets such as divorce and homosexuality; he has a particular concern over gay police. Less obvious enemies include globalisation, GM crops and the EU ("an antichrist totalitarian regime").

This kind of treatment is exactly what our Lord Jesus Christ said that those who follow him should expect
Stephen Green
He is currently angered by the royal wedding, which he condemns, whether in church or registry office.

"Colonel and Mrs Parker Bowles should have been divorced for adultery, but they weren't because that would have been too embarrassing," he says. "So in the eyes of God they are still married."

He likens Christian Voice to John the Baptist who preached against the incestuous marriage of King Herod.

"We're saying to the Prince of Wales: 'You cannot have your brother's wife.' This woman is still married to someone else."

Mr Green has been leading Christian Voice for more than a decade, without causing much of a stir, and became its first full-time employee only 15 months ago.

He is cagey about membership figures, but indicates that they are more than 600. By way of comparison, the Evangelical Alliance lobby group represents about a million Christians.

Notoriety

The new prominence of Christian Voice seems to be largely a matter of good luck and good timing, although depending on your position it may be the influence of the good Lord.

It had previously led anti-blasphemy campaigns targeting the BBC, the Sunday Mirror, Peter Tatchell, and the play Corpus Christi.

But in complaining about Jerry Springer, it had an enemy that caught the imaginations and consciences of a large number of Christians, so it was able - by a viral e-mail and letter campaign - to mobilise the phones of many people not usually connected with Christian Voice.

Mr Green has then multiplied the impact of that campaign through the offence caused by his choice of soft targets. First Christian Voice gained major media coverage when it was reported that BBC executives received death threats after he published their home numbers.

Now the cancer charity Maggie's Centres has turned down a donation from the opera, and Christian Voice is heard loud and clear again.

The publicity that came to Christian Voice over the reported death threats was obviously unintended, but Mr Green is clearly eager to capitalise on his notoriety, using it to get his anti-abortion protest on the front pages.

Yet, when I suggest to him that Springer has been good for Christian Voice, he is ambivalent. He does not seem to have been inundated with money and new members, but has had plenty of threats and abuse over the phone. (Mr Green's website is, to be fair, as free with his own phone number as he was with others'.)

"This kind of treatment is exactly what our Lord Jesus Christ said that those who follow him should expect," he says.

On the other hand, when I tell him of John Cryer's statement that Christian Voice are "fundamentalist thugs", he seems rather to relish this kind of persecution.

'Disrepute'

"He ought to wash his mouth out with soap and water," he declares. "He should withdraw those comments or resign. He brings politics into disrepute."

But he talks neither in anger or sadness - he laughs heartily and seems to be enjoying himself.

Mr Green disapproves of teaching about other religions in school and especially the celebration of Diwali.

Nevertheless, he has some admiration for Sikh protests in Birmingham against the play Behzti, but says Christian Voice "don't throw stones through theatre windows".

Would he draw the line at breaking the law? Green answers thoughtfully: "Yes... unless the law contravenes the law of God."




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