Page last updated at 13:02 GMT, Thursday, 11 December 2008

Christian group's poetry protest

Protesters sang hymns outside the Senedd building
Protesters sang hymns outside the Senedd building

Around 250 Christian activists have protested outside the Welsh assembly building about a poetry reading.

Patrick Jones was invited by two assembly members to read from his collection Darkness Is Where The Stars Are, which has already led to claims it is "obscene and blasphemous".

Stephen Green, director of Christian Voice, said: "This turnout shows the strength of feeling of people."

Mr Jones was "shocked" by the numbers but said it was good for free speech.

Protesters sang hymns and some held placards before the ticket-only event inside the Senedd building.

Mr Green added: We're seeing the Christian faith attacked on all sides."

"Now it's under attack in a seat of government in the UK."

Nick Bourne, leader of the Welsh Conservatives was at the demonstration, and was asked if he was showing his support.

He replied: "Yes, essentially."

"Our group opposed this {reading] at the home of Welsh democracy, promoting something which is anti-Christian and we would say that if it was any recognised religion."

Mr Jones was asked by Labour AM Lorraine Barrett and Liberal Democrat AM Peter Black, who said he wanted to make sure the poet was not "gagged".

"I think this is a good day for democracy. We've head both sides - Patrick has had his poetry reading and it's also important for people to be able to make their views known."

One of the poems that has offended Christians, called Hymn, includes a reference to Mary Magdalene having sex with Jesus. It was read by an actress Stacey Daley, from Newport.

Patrick Jones
Patrick Jones was invited by two assembly members

Mr Jones is the brother of Nicky Wire, of the Manic Street Preachers.

A books-signing launch event was cancelled at a Cardiff branch of Waterstone's last month after an earlier protest was planned.

He signed copies of the collection of 30 to 40 poems in the street instead.

Mr Jones, who has said he is "really proud" of the book said after the protest: "I was really shocked at the turnout and I think that's healthy for democracy but I don't think many of them have read the poem.

"A bit of a moral panic has been created but what happened at Waterstone's set a dangerous precedent."

He insisted he had not singled out Christianity in his poems, but was questioning beliefs in society.

Mr Green said: "I didn't want to get party political about this, but I've had a number of letters of support from members of the assembly.

"The Conservative group has come out against this locally and many Plaid Cymru members have too.

"I am not taking sides, I'm just telling it how it is."

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