Norfolk Church could lose premises for criticising Islam
A Norfolk church has been banned from its weekly outreach, and could be stopped from worshipping at its usual premises, after a complaint that it sold a booklet criticising Islam.
Norwich City Council received only one complaint about the booklet, yet it decided to ban Norwich Reformed Church from holding their weekly bookstall outreach in Norwich for “equality reasons.”
The complaint was made about a booklet entitled ‘Why Not Islam’, written by the church’s pastor, Dr Alan Clifford. The Council claimed that the booklet was “hate motivated”.
Premises under threat
The Council also advised its Eaton Park Community Centre to refrain from taking any further bookings from the church, which has held worship services at the site for over 20 years.
A Council spokesman said:
“Although the police advised that no criminal offence had been committed, we have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to foster good relations between people of all backgrounds and religions.
“By allowing premises owned by the Council to be used by an organisation publishing such material, we would be failing in that duty.”
The Pastor, Dr Clifford, said the church would appeal in the hope that "the council will see sense and see how they are violating our freedom of speech".
"It's an intolerance from the city council acting in a high and mighty manner as we've had it confirmed by Norfolk Police - who've inspected the document - there is no crime involved," he said.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of Christian Concern, said:
“It is good that in our nation we know what it is to have freedom of speech but in recent times it is increasinginly under challenge.
"It is worrying that an honest critique of Islam leads to this kind of censorship and we should be concerned about where this might lead. In this case it seems that freedom of speech has been denied. It appears that the mere criticism of other religions can be seen as a hate crime, yet the effect is that valid debate is shut down. We should all be free to debate and criticise without being penalised."