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Eric Pickles challenged on air to back up "Christian country" claims

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Issued on behalf of Christian Concern

Press Release

For Immediate Release

07 April 2014 

Eric Pickles challenged on air to back up "Christian country" claims 

Eric Pickles has been asked to give evidence against his own Government Department by a Christian campaign group after his recent comment that Britain is a “Christian nation”.

Andrea Williams, CEO of Christian Concern, issued the challenge today (7 APRIL) on Radio 4’s PM Programme.

Yesterday (6 APRIL) Mr Pickles was widely reported as saying that militant atheists should “get over it” and accept that Britain is a Christian country.

Yet Mrs Williams revealed on air that she is writing to the Communities Secretary, asking him to testify against his own department after it refused to host a conference at the QEII Conference Centre in May 2012. The venue is run by Mr Pickles’ department.

In her letter (below), Mrs Williams argues that Mr Pickles should give evidence against his department “so that the British public can know the true position of the Government regarding discrimination against Christians.”

Christian Concern had booked the QEII conference centre for a colloquium on the subject of marriage. Several high profile speakers had agreed to speak, including Telegraph columnist Cristina Odone and founder of ResPublica and ‘Big Society’ architect Phillip Blond.

At 4pm the day before the colloquium, the QEII Conference Centre cancelled the booking with the Centre’s Chief Executive saying it was “inappropriate” for such an event to be held at a Government venue.

The case is now in the Central London County Court with Christian Concern and Andrea Williams as claimants and Eric Pickles and the QEII Conference Centre as defendants.

In her written request to Mr Pickles to give evidence, Mrs Williams says: “The British public has the right to know whether the expression of Christian belief and values on the subject of marriage (and other issues) is ‘inappropriate’ to be heard at a venue run by your Department…

“You are the Minister responsible and should answer for the policy of the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre.”

Andrea Williams further commented:

“There is now an emerging consensus that Christian views are being silenced in public settings in Britain. Our ejection from the QEII Conference Centre is just one example of this.

“We have heard our Prime Minister, as well as Mr Pickles, defend Britain’s Christian heritage. But if these comments are to amount to more than simply hollow soundbites, it’s time for these leaders to back up their words with positive action.

“We’re calling on Mr Pickles to take such action by taking the unprecedented step of giving evidence against his own department.” 


For further information/interview: 
Andrea Minichiello Williams:  07712 591 164
Andrew Marsh:  07919 354 456
Notes to editors:

You can read the full copy of Andrea Williams' letter to Eric Pickles below: 

Letter to Eric Pickles
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government:
IN THE CENTRAL LONDON COUNTY COURT                          Claim No: 2CL02772

                                                              (1) CCFON LTD t/a CHRISTIAN CONCERN
                                                                             (2) ANDREA WILLIAMS                                          Claimants

                                      (1) SECRETARY OF STATE FOR COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT
                                                    (2) THE QUEEN ELIZABETH II CONFERENCE CENTRE            

Dear Mr Pickles,

We are enquiring as to whether you would be prepared to give evidence on behalf of Christian Concern against your own Department.  This is an unprecedented request but the situation   we are currently experiencing in the United Kingdom is unprecedented. 

We made this request to your lawyers asking them to call you but we were told that ‘you should not give evidence’.  We doubt you were informed about this and this is why we are writing to you directly.

We believe that it is imperative that you give evidence in this important case so that the British public can know the true position of the Government regarding discrimination against Christians.  The British public has the right to know whether the expression of Christian  belief and values on the subject of marriage (and other issues) is ‘inappropriate’ to be heard at a venue run by your Department. 

If you decline to support us we would ask you to give evidence supporting the position of your Department and thus enable the Court to adjudicate upon the Government’s policy.  You are the Minister responsible and should answer for the policy of the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre.

Cancellation of Christian Colloquium on Marriage:

In May 2012, Christian Concern was involved in the organisation of a high profile Colloquium to debate the merits and de-merits of same sex marriage.  Many high profile speakers agreed to speak, including, inter alia, a High Court Judge, Christine Odone of the Daily Telegraph and Mr Phillip Blond of Respublica.  Many varied views, not just Christian views, were going to be expressed at this conference. 

The Colloquium was due to be held at the Law Society but they cancelled the event.  This claim has been settled, and no more will be said. 

The Colloquium was moved to the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, for which you are responsible. At 4pm, the day before the Colloquium was due to begin it  was cancelled because we were told by the Chief Executive of the Centre that it was ‘inappropriate’ to have such an event at a Government venue.  The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre has raised a number of defences, but they focus on one quote from a website (taken in isolation) from one of the organisations involved whereby a Biblical view on sexual morality was expressed.

Your Department is fighting the Claim strongly using a significant amount of public monies (that could be spent on nurses and doctors). Further, we believe your Department is using the ‘tool of costs’   to break or damage Christian organisations that promote Christian belief and values.

We believe that the Government is actively discriminating against Christians and, in effect, is prohibiting the expression of Christian belief and morality in the public square.

Government Discrimination against Christians

For example: the Government has fought tenaciously at the European Court, against the right of Christians to wear Crosses.  In the relevant employments (British Airways and Exeter Hospital), the Cross was banned but the Hijab permitted.  The Government argued in the European Court that a Christian should leave employment/resign (i.e. be unemployed) if such an employee wishes to exercise any conscience in relation to their Christian faith.   

It appears to Christian Concern that the Government has a particular disregard and disrespect for the Christian faith.  Christian preachers are arrested on the flimsiest grounds but radical Islamic preachers have free speech. 

Lady Hale in her lecture at Yale Law School on 7th March 2014 recognised that it ‘is not difficult to see why Christians feel their religious beliefs are not been sufficiently respected’.  Furthermore, she has indicated that the Equality and Human Rights Commission (funded by the Government) should not just ‘prosecute’ Christians, but should assist Christians if they were discriminated against.  Unsurprisingly, they have declined to assist in this case of discrimination against Christians.  We are not surprised by this decision of Equality and Human Rights Commission as this Governmental body has previously described Christian beliefs on sexual morality as akin to an ‘infection’.

Establishing Islam as the ‘moral voice’ in the United Kingdom?

Whilst the Government appears to fail to uphold and protect Christian freedom and expression, Government Ministers have previously attended events such as the Global Peace and Unity Conferences promoting radical Islam. The attendance of high profile politicians gave the Conference ‘legitimacy’ and endorsement.

As Government Ministers spoke in 2010, the attendees were able to purchase items glorifying terrorism (See:  Many of the Islamic speakers at this conference have expressed (or are linked) with some of the most extreme and unpleasant speech on homosexuality, Jews and violence to women.

The Deputy Prime Minister has attended previous conferences because he believes in free speech.  The former Conservative MP Paul Goodman described the event as the ‘Royal Ascot of the Islamist Calendar’.

Why are these views not criticised by the Government if a mainstream Christian organisation is prevented from speaking on Government property?   


We believe that the loss of Christian faith and values in Britain will mean the weakening of tolerance, the rule of law and the protection of minorities. 

It appears that the Government wants to vanquish Christianity and its great virtues and impose a ‘chilling effect’ on any Christian or Christian organisation that challenges the new political orthodoxy.  Conversely, the Government appears very sympathetic to other faiths.  

We would like to discuss this case with you as a matter of urgency. We propose to attend with an eminent cleric such as a Bishop.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Andrea Minichiello Williams



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