Bishops voice opposition to Equality Act as Congress prepares to vote

Washington DC, Capitol Building© Abadesign / Shutterstock

Catholics press for further changes to Scotland’s controversial hate crime bill

The flag of Scotland. Credit: Lynx Aqua/Shutterstock.
The flag of Scotland. Credit: Lynx Aqua/Shutterstock.

.- Catholics are pressing for further changes to Scotland’s controversial hate crime bill amid a last-minute consultation.

The Scottish Parliament’s justice committee gave the public just four days to respond to the consultation, which ended at 10 a.m. local time on Monday.

Scotland’s Catholic Parliamentary Office issued an urgent appeal on Friday to Catholics to share their views on the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill. The legislation has reached the third stage of the parliamentary process, the last step before it becomes law.

The Catholic Parliamentary Office, founded by the Scottish bishops in 1991, said that it remained “deeply concerned” by proposed drafts of the section of the bill relating to freedom of expression.

Humza Yousaf, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, asked for comments on four options for the freedom of expression clause.

The Catholic Parliamentary Office said that the clause was “extremely important” as it would affect the right to free speech.

“We have argued from the beginning for a strong freedom of expression clause in relation to religion, religious beliefs and practices, and the position of not holding religious beliefs, and we are glad that this has been included in options 1 and 2,” it said.

“However, we remain deeply concerned at the lack of similarly strong terms for the protected characteristics of sexual orientation and transgender identity. This weakness is common across all four options.”

It continued: “The beliefs which underpin these characteristics raise moral questions that are hotly disputed in a way similar to religion, and free and open debate must be allowed as must the right to disagree.”

“There should be no threat of prosecution for expressing the belief that, for example, there are only two sexes or genders; that a man cannot become a woman and vice versa; or that marriage can only be between one man and one woman.”

“Further, nobody ought to be criminalized for using a person’s birth name or pronoun.”

The office encouraged Catholics taking part in the consultation to emphasize four points.

First, that discussion or criticism of “sexual conduct and practices” and of marriage which “concerns the sex of the parties to the marriage” should be given clear protection in the freedom of expression clause under the protected characteristic of “sexual orientation.”

Second, that no one should be criminalized for expressing the belief that biological sex is immutable.

Third, that the bill should clearly acknowledge “the belief that sex is immutable, that there are only two sexes or genders, and the freedom to use birth names and pronouns.”

Fourth, that the justice committee should avoid creating “a hierarchy of protected characteristics.” The Catholic Parliamentary Office said that, as the bill presently stands, “religion is being held to a much higher standard of accountability than any other protected characteristic.”

The Scottish Government introduced the bill in April 2020 in response to an independent review of hate crime laws led by retired judge Lord Bracadale. The government says that the bill modernizes, consolidates, and extends existing hate crime legislation. It also abolishes the offense of blasphemy.

Ministers have indicated that they wish to see the bill pass into law within weeks. The Scottish Parliament as a whole would need to insert the amendments into the bill as it has already passed its first and second stages, reported The Herald newspaper.

Scotland’s bishops sounded the alarm over the bill in July. In a submission to the justice committee, they expressed concern that the legislation could criminalize the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The bill creates a new crime of stirring up hatred against any of the protected characteristics covered by the bill, which include race, religion, sexual orientation, and transgender identity.

Commenting on the bishops’ submission, Anthony Horan, the director of Scotland’s Catholic Parliamentary Office, said: “Whilst acknowledging that stirring up of hatred is morally wrong and supporting moves to discourage and condemn such behavior, the bishops have expressed concerns about the lack of clarity around definitions and a potentially low threshold for committing an offense, which they fear, could lead to a ‘deluge of vexatious claims.’”

He continued: “A new offense of possessing inflammatory material could even render material such as the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church inflammatory. The Catholic Church’s understanding of the human person, including the belief that sex and gender are not fluid and changeable, could fall foul of the new law.”

The bill also faced criticism from secular free speech campaigners, including the comedian Rowan Atkinson, who signed an open letter in August saying that the bill “creates stirring up offenses without any intent being examined; merely that the words, action, or artwork might do so.”

Yousaf agreed in September to change the bill so that it would only cover offenses where the stirring up of hatred was intentional.

But following a hearing in October, critics said they worried that the law could apply to speech uttered within a private dwelling if the speaker intended to stir up hatred.

Christian leaders have appealed for further changes to the bill. An “unprecedented alliance” of Catholic and Evangelical leaders called earlier this month for more time for “detailed consideration” of the bill.

“The Parliament now has approximately four weeks to complete the passage of the bill. This is extraordinarily tight and risks inadequate and ill-thought-through legislation being passed,” they wrote in a Feb. 12 letter to Yousaf.

“No workable solutions to issues of freedom of expression have so far been suggested. If no such solutions can be found, we hope the Scottish Government will now consider withdrawing the stirring up hatred offenses in Part 2 of the bill to allow more detailed consideration and discussion and to ensure freedom of expression provisions, which enshrine free and open debate, are afforded the scrutiny they require.”


Fury at ‘do not resuscitate’ notices given to Covid patients with learning disabilities

Vulnerable people have encountered ‘shocking discrimination’ during pandemic, says Mencap charity

‘People with learning disabilities already get a raw deal from the health services.’‘People with learning disabilities already get a raw deal from the health services.’ Photograph: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

People with learning disabilities have been given do not resuscitate orders during the second wave of the pandemic, in spite of widespread condemnation of the practice last year and an urgent investigation by the care watchdog.

Mencap said it had received reports in January from people with learning disabilities that they had been told they would not be resuscitated if they were taken ill with Covid-19.

The Care Quality Commission said in December that inappropriate Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPR) notices had caused potentially avoidable deaths last year.

DNACPRs are usually made for people who are too frail to benefit from CPR, but Mencap said some seem to have been issued for people simply because they had a learning disability. The CQC is due to publish a report on the practice within weeks.

The disclosure comes as campaigners put growing pressure on ministers to reconsider a decision not to give people with learning disabilities priority for vaccinations. There is growing evidence that even those with a mild disability are more likely to die if they contract the coronavirus.

Although some people with learning disabilities such as Down’s syndrome were in one of four groups set by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) which the government promised would be offered the vaccine by tomorrow, many were classified lower categories of need and are still waiting.

NHS figures released last week show that in the five weeks since the third lockdown began, Covid-19 accounted for 65% of deaths of people with learning disabilities. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the rate for the general population was 39%, although the two statistics are drawn from different measurements.

Younger people with learning disabilities aged 18 to 34 are 30 times more likely to die of Covid than others the same age, according to Public Health England.

Edel Harris, Mencap’s chief executive, said: “Throughout the pandemic many people with a learning disability have faced shocking discrimination and obstacles to accessing healthcare, with inappropriate Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPR) notices put on their files and cuts made to their social care support.

“It’s unacceptable that within a group of people hit so hard by the pandemic, and who even before Covid died on average over 20 years younger than the general population, many are left feeling scared and wondering why they have been left out.

“The JCVI and government must act now to help save the lives of some of society’s most vulnerable people by urgently prioritising all people with a learning disability for the vaccine.”

More than 14m people have received a first vaccine dose so far, and care providers who spoke to the Observer said many people with learning disabilities had been vaccinated in the last week. But some are still waiting. One woman from the West Midlands who has a rare form of Down’s syndrome told the Observer she had not yet been given a date.

“It’s really frustrating – it’s been a fight and it shouldn’t have been a fight,” she said. Her condition means she is in category four – people who are clinically extremely vulnerable – but her GP did not have details of her condition on record – a common problem, according to Mencap.

“I had to call them lots of times,” she said. The practice accepted last week that she needed to be vaccinated, she said, but she was still waiting. “For people in a similar situation to me, they won’t have been badgering them as much as me.”

A lack of badgering is part of the reason why people with learning disabilities may be more likely to die from Covid-19 than the rest of the population, according to Dr Keri-Michèle Lodge, a consultant in learning disability psychiatry in Leeds.

“Doctors often don’t understand that someone with learning disabilities may not be able to communicate their symptoms,” she said. “Carers are sometimes not listened to – you might notice something is wrong, but that is often written off as part of their behaviour.

“People with learning disabilities already get a raw deal from the health services. Fewer than two in five people with a learning disability live until they are 65.”

An analysis by the Office for National Statistics last week showed that six in 10 Covid deaths were of people with a disability.

“The biggest factor associated with the increased rate of death from their analysis was living in care homes or residential settings,” Lodge said. “They prioritised people in care homes for vaccinations, but that was only for older adults. They completely forgot about people with learning disabilities in a really similar setting. I don’t know if the government were blindsided or just neglectful.”

Professor Martin Green OBE, Care England’s chief executive, said: “As the largest representative body for independent providers for adult social care, Care England remains concerned that the government has not given individuals with a learning disability a higher level of priority for the Covid vaccine.

“We urge the government to remove the arbitrary distinction between prioritising those with a severe or profound learning disability and those with a mild or moderate learning disability, and prioritise all those with a learning disability in priority group four. People with learning disabilities must not be overlooked at any time.”

A spokesperson from the Department of Health and Social Care said: “It is completely unacceptable for ‘do not attempt CPR’ decisions to be applied in a blanket fashion to any group of people. This has never been policy and we have taken action to prevent this from happening.

“We have asked the CQC to undertake a review of notices issued during the pandemic. This review has started and will report later this year. As this proceeds, we will continue to work across the health and care system to address the issue.”


  • This article’s headline was amended on 13 February 2021 to remove an incorrect reference to “learning difficulties”. The article was further amended on 14 February 2021 to add a statement from the Department of Health and Social Care.



An unfolding tragedy: The decline of religious diversity in the Middle East

By Lord Alton of Liverpool

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has seen a significant decline in religious diversity in recent years. While ancient Christian communities have often suffered, practically no religious group has been safe from this ongoing tragedy, with Ahmadis, Baha’is, Jews, Yazidis and Zoroastrians all affected, as well as both Shia and Sunni Muslims. For a host of reasons, in several countries in the region, minority communities who have deep roots going back several generations are being forced to leave their ancestral lands.

Iraq and Syria: Unending violence

Since 2003, the numbers of Christians and Yazidis in Iraq have both dropped significantly. Thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands have emigrated because of terrorism and sectarian violence. They will never return.

In 2014, the Islamic State (IS) captured Mosul and the Nineveh Plains. Thousands of non-Sunni men, women and children were either killed or enslaved. One study, by the Public Library of Science, estimates that 3,100 Yazidis were killed in a matter of days following the 2014 attack. Tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians subsequently emigrated to neighbouring countries over the following years, with their number now estimated at 250,000, down from 2.5 million before the 2003 invasion.

In July 2017, Mosul and the Nineveh Plains were liberated; however, as I saw for myself during a visit in December 2019, terrorist attacks have continued, and many members of religious minority communities remain unwilling to return to liberated regions due to continued security concerns. For example, less than 20 Christians returned to Mosul – a city once home to nearly 100,000 Christians – after its liberation.

Other minorities in Iraq have also been affected, such as the Mandaean community, of whom only a few thousand remain, as well as Zoroastrians and members of the Kaka’i faith. The deliberate destruction of these ancient religious communities is a tragedy for both their adherents and Iraq’s wider Muslim community.

A similar story is unfolding in neighbouring Syria, where ongoing sectarian violence has resulted in the displacement of half of the country’s population, the vast majority of whom are Sunni Muslims.

Hundreds of thousands of Christians and Yazidis have also fled, with most sources estimating the number of Christians left in Syria to be around 500,000, down from 2 million before 2011. It is also unclear how many, if any, of the very few Jews that once lived in the country remain.

In 2018, Turkey invaded the Kurdish area of Afrin in Northwest Syria, displacing tens of thousands. Among them were 200 Kurdish Christian families who had converted from Islam. The local church was shut and looted by jihadist groups loyal to Turkey. Since then, jihadists have implemented an Islamic system in Afrin. Christians have been arrested and accused of apostasy, often facing threats of execution, and many Yazidi places of worship have been completely destroyed. Yazidi activists have also reported many cases of forced conversion and marriage.

The Syrian civil war has negatively impacted every religious and ethnic community. In areas controlled by Islamist militias, religious minorities have suffered particularly poor treatment. Many have been forced to flee the country due to the hostile living conditions created by these militias, rendering some areas ‘religiously cleansed.’

Turkey: Rising religious nationalism

The situation for human rights in Turkey has worsened significantly since the military coup of 15 July 2016 was thwarted. CSW has reported a sharp increase in anti-Christian sentiment and attacks, and a continuing official crackdown on Christianity in line with a guiding ethos that equates being Turkish with being Muslim.

The current government has increasingly conflated religious and national identities by publicly endorsing a move towards a Sunni Muslim identity for Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

This promotion of ultra-nationalism has contributed to a rise in discrimination and hate speech which encourages violence towards non-Sunni religious communities. Such incitement is visible in a variety of sectors ranging from education, the workplace, and religious practice, through to day-to-day administrative procedures.

Iran: Treated as a threat

In Iran, religious and ethnic minorities have suffered increasing human rights violations since the 1979 revolution. The country is a theocracy where religious minorities are viewed with particular suspicion and treated as a threat by a government seemingly bent on imposing its strict interpretation of Shia Islam on the entire society.

Religious and political leaders continue to speak against Christianity. It is therefore unsurprising that the Christian community experiences repression in various forms. The Iranian intelligence service (MOIS) closely monitors Christian activity and, together with the Revolutionary Guard (IRCG), has raided Christian gatherings in private homes, arresting all in attendance and confiscating personal property. Those arrested have been subjected to intensive and often abusive interrogations.

In June 2018, Christian convert Fatemeh Mohammadi released a letter detailing the sexually abusive interrogation to which she had been subjected when she was arrested and detained in Evin Prison in Tehran. In June 2020, Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, and Deacon Saheb Fadaie lost their final appeal to overturn the 10-year prison sentences they received in 2017 – instead the sentences were each   reduced to six years.

Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani

Despite government policy, Christianity has continued to thrive, with some international organisations estimating the number to be above one million.

Christianity, along with Zoroastrianism and Judaism, is at least afforded some legal recognition; however, the situation is arguably worse for other minority religions which are not recognised in law and are afforded no rights under the Iranian Constitution. For example, both the Baha’i and Ahmadiyya communities, neither of which are recognised, face systematic discrimination both within the educational system and the wider society. As a result, thousands of members of these communities have fled the country, as the government appears set on eradicating their religious beliefs.

Egypt: Unaddressed sectarianism

While Christianity and Judaism are protected in Egypt’s constitution, other faiths are not. Atheists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Baha’i have been effectively banned since 1960, when the passage of Law No. 263, issued under President Gamal Abdel Nasser, granted official recognition only to Islam, Christianity and Judaism. These groups face fierce hostility, as does the country’s Ahmadi community, which is obliged to meet solely in private homes. Additionally, adherents of Shi’a Isam are harassed for their religious beliefs, often facing blasphemy charges despite Shi’ism having been declared a legitimate branch of Islam in 1959 by Al-Azhar.

Even with the protections afforded to Christianity in the constitution, and despite the fact that Egypt is home to the largest Christian community in the Middle East and North Africa, Christians in Egypt are targeted in a variety of ways, including attacks on churches and the abduction of women and girls by extremists with the intent of forcing them to marry Muslims. The Christian community also faces historical discrimination by the state, hate speech, intimidation and exclusion in workplaces and educational institutions.

Although there have been noticeable improvements in the treatment of the Christian community during President Sisi’s time in office, sectarian incidents continue to occur in certain localities. Such incidents are usually resolved through extra-legal community reconciliation sessions, which are generally characterised by bias and unbalanced rulings that deprive victims, primarily Christians, of justice.


Religious minorities across the MENA region continue to be targeted with a range of violations in a host of different contexts. In more recent times this repression has been heightened by the rise of IS, leading to a dispersal of minority communities, who are often left with no alternative but to leave their homes in pursuit of refuge and acceptance elsewhere.

This is often a double-edged sword: not only has it chipped away at the existence of the rich cultural heritage of minority groups which constituted a much larger portion of the population of many Middle Eastern countries; it also has the potential to hinder the growth of the faith for current and future generations.

Such a loss of religious diversity would be devastating. Those who seek to create monochrome societies, incapable of respecting difference, must be made to understand that such intolerance undermines and impoverishes society, and is invariably a harbinger of the erosion of other freedoms and rights cherished by people of all faiths and none.


Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act fails in US Senate

UPDATE, 2/4/21: An emailed press release from the office of Senator Ben Sasse noted today that “the Senate held a roll call vote on an amendment based on the legislation. The amendment received a bipartisan majority vote of 52-48, but failed to meet the 60-vote threshold required to advance.” Sasse’s press release added:

Current federal law does not adequately protect a born child who survives an abortion. In the 116th Congress, the legislation passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a bipartisan vote of 248 to 177. 

In 2019, Sasse asked for unanimous consent on the bill but some Democrats blocked the request. The bill was then brought to the Senate Floor for a roll call vote and, despite receiving the support of a bipartisan majority, Senator Sasse’s Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act failed to receive 60 votes to break a Democratic filibuster.

1/29/21: On Thursday, January 28, less than a week after the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Republican Senator Ben Sasse from Nebraska reintroduced his Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act in the Senate. He first introduced the bill in 2015, and then again in 2017 and 2019, but it failed to become law each time.

Shortly after reintroducing the bill in 2019, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s jarring remarks about leaving infant abortion victims to die went viral. In response, Senator Sasse promised to “force a debate” on protecting abortion survivors on the Senate floor and passionately remarked, “Everyone in this Senate ought to be able to say unequivocally that killing that little baby is wrong… This shouldn’t be complicated.”

Now, in the first month of the 117th Congress and weeks into an Administration that has already taken steps to put more preborn children’s lives at risk, Sen. Sasse has introduced his law to protect victims of abortion for a fourth time. If passed, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act would require that infants born alive after botched abortion attempts are given the same degree of life-saving care that an infant born at the same gestational age would receive. The law also requires that the living baby be brought to a hospital for further medical attention.

READ: Medical professionals recount stories of babies born alive during abortions

Sen. Sasse said of reintroducing his bill:

Every baby deserves a fighting chance, whether she’s born in a state-of-the-art hospital or an abortion clinic in a strip mall.  A decent society can’t turn its back on these babies because compassion, truth, and love still matter. This bill is really simple: it makes sure newborn babies who survive attempted abortions get the same care any other baby would.

We can all agree: every baby deserves our love. A week ago, President Biden stood on the Capitol steps and said ‘with unity we can do great things. Important things. We can right wrongs.’ Well, here’s a chance to do just that.

Abortion proponents have long-opposed Born Alive initiatives, arguing that the instances of babies being born living after butchered abortions are hypothetical or rare. But state reports from recent years tell a different and more tragic story. Since 2008, and reporting from only 5 states, over 100 babies were born alive while abortions were committed on them and their mothers. Four of the 27 instances of babies born alive over the years in Florida took place in 2020. The Centers for Disease Control has also reported at least 143 babies known to have survived abortions nationwide between 2003 and 2014. The CDC added that this number is likely “an underestimation.”

As Sen. Sasse said in 2015 when he first introduced the Born Alive Survivors Act, “If we can’t come together and agree that newborn babies deserve care, our talk about ‘human rights’ and ‘inherent dignity’ is empty.”


Pope Francis recognizes heroic virtues of pioneering French geneticist Jerome Lejeune

Dr. Jérôme Lejeune (1926-1994). Credit: Fondation Jérôme Lejeune via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).
Dr. Jérôme Lejeune (1926-1994). Credit: Fondation Jérôme Lejeune via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

.- Pope Francis recognized on Thursday the heroic virtues of Jérôme Lejeune, the French geneticist who discovered the extra chromosome that causes Down syndrome.

The step, announced on Jan. 21, means that Lejeune can now be referred to as “Venerable.”

Heroic virtue is one of the requirements for beatification in the Catholic Church. A verified miracle attributed to the candidate’s intercession is also usually required.

Lejeune was born on June 13, 1926, in Montrouge, in the southern Parisian suburbs. In 1958, he deduced that Down syndrome was caused by an extra copy of chromosome 21.

He dedicated the rest of his life to researching treatments to improve the lives of people with Down syndrome.

He firmly opposed the use of prenatal testing to identify unborn children with Down syndrome and other chromosomal abnormalities for abortion.

When he received the prestigious William Allan Award for his work in genetics in 1969, he gave an impassioned speech opposing abortion.

“For millennia, medicine has striven to fight for life and health and against disease and death. Any reversal of the order of these terms of reference would entirely change medicine itself,” he said.

“It happens that nature does condemn. Our duty has always been not to inflict the sentence but to try to commute the pain. In any foreseeable genetical trial I do not know enough to judge, but I feel enough to advocate.”

After the speech, which received a cool reception, he reportedly told his wife: “Today, I lost my Nobel Prize in medicine.”

In 1994, Pope John Paul II named Lejeune as the first president of the Pontifical Academy for Life. The physician died just 33 days later in Paris, on April 2, 1994, at the age of 67.

The Fondation Jérôme Lejeune in Paris welcomed the progress in Lejeune’s cause, describing it as “an immense joy.”

But it said that the news came at an “alarming” time for respect for life in France, with the advance of a new bioethics bill that would further dehumanize “the embryo, the youngest member of the human species.”

“Jérôme Lejeune had led this fight for the respect of the embryo throughout his life, as a historical opponent of the Veil Law which legalized abortion in France in 1975, and as a researcher and physician, he had seen from the first bioethics law in 1994, just before his death, where in vitro fertilization and research on the embryo would lead us,” the foundation said.

The pope also advanced seven other causes on Thursday.

He recognized the Italian priest Giovanni Fornasini (1915-1944) as a martyr killed in hatred of the faith. Fornasini served in the resistance during the Second World War and was shot dead by a Nazi soldier.

The pope recognized the heroic virtues of six other candidates.

They included Elizabeth Prout (1820-1864), founder of the Passionist Sisters, who served impoverished workers in England’s deprived industrial towns. Prout, also known by her religious name Mother Mary Joseph of Jesus, is buried alongside Ignatius Spencer and Dominic Barberi, two other candidates for canonization who played major roles in the revival of English Catholicism in the 19th-century.

The pope also acknowledged the heroic virtues of the Italian priests Fr. Michele Arcangelo Maria Antonio Vinti (1893-1943) and Fr. Ruggero Maria Caputo (1907-1980).

He also recognized the heroic virtues of Santiago Masarnau Fernández (1805-1882), a pianist and composer who established the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Spain.

Also recognized was the Italian seminarian Pasquale Canzii (1914-1930), who died at the age of 15 while studying for the priesthood.

The final candidate recognized by Pope Francis was Adelaide Bonolis (1909-1980), an Italian lay woman who founded the Opere di Assistenza e Redenzione Sociale, an organization offering social assistance.


Top psychiatrist: ‘Political ideology seriously harmed children at trans clinic’

A consultant psychiatrist has said the influence of radical transgender ideology at an NHS England gender identity clinic left children “seriously damaged”.

Dr David Bell, a former staff governor at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, which oversees the clinic, made the remarks during an interview with Channel 4 News.

In 2018, the former governor reported clinicians’ concerns over patient welfare to the Trust in an internal report.


Dr Bell described concerns brought to him when he was a governor as “very, very serious” and said that many people who approached him did not think “children were able to consent to the treatment”.

The specialist criticised the “whole attitude of what’s called ‘affirmation’” – where children are affirmed in their transgender feelings.

He argued that such an attitude had “caused considerable damage to the capacity of the service and clinicians to take on the full complexities of the cases they were dealing with”, and as a result “children have been very seriously damaged.”

He also said: “It is not the clinician’s job to affirm, a clinician’s job is to listen sensitively, try and understand the person, but hold a neutral position which provides a field for development, which takes time and effort and professional expertise.”

Puberty blockers

When asked by Channel 4 News presenter Cathy Newman if he thought children were currently at risk at the clinic, Dr Bell replied that they were “less at risk” since prescribing puberty blockers had been stopped.

He said that the recent High Court ruling in favour of Keira Bell had protected “very disturbed” children from making hasty decisions and embarking on “inappropriate medical treatment”.

The psychiatrist challenged the common view that puberty blockers were reversible. He said: “We’re not video machines in which you can press a pause button and then release the button three years later.”

Dr Bell said  “stopping puberty” involved ‘a person’s body, a person’s brain, a person’s psychology, a person’s social world, a person who is ready for puberty’, all of which had “long term consequences which are ill thought out”.

‘Highly politicised’

The former staff governor said that there had been an “invasion of the clinical domain” by a “highly politicised” ideology, which had captured medical policy and professional practice.

As a result of the undue influence of transgenderism, Dr Bell said children had been ‘motored though’ to “treatment pathways” with “irreversible consequences for their bodies”.

He explained: “A girl of twelve may find that she’s sexually attracted to other girls and it may go through her mind, as I think goes through many children’s minds, ‘Maybe I’m not a girl. Maybe I’m a boy’. If that happened ten, fifteen years ago, that would have been a passing phase, and things would have been moved on.

He added, now “such a girl may go online and she may easily come to the belief, not that she’s developing in a complex way a different sexual identity, that she really is a boy. And then having reached that view there’ll be lots of forces around which will support it.”

Afraid to speak

Dr Bell believed that anyone who spoke out against the children’s Gender Identity Development Service was likely to come under negative scrutiny and “exposed to the possibility of disciplinary hearings”.

He said: “Not long after my report came out the Chief Executive made a public statement in which he said ‘Those who raise criticisms against the trust have an unfortunate attitude to gender’”.

The retired governor suggested this was a message to staff who lacked the safety of seniority he had enjoyed, and was intended to make them think, “I better not speak out, because they’ll think I’m transphobic”.

In response to the interview, the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust released a short statement expressing its disappointment at the “allegations”.


Why is Nigeria the deadliest place to live as a Christian?

Amina lost her husband and one of her children in an attack by Boko Haram in 2012. Then five years later, she was one of 10 Christian women abducted by Boko Haram and held for eight months before being freed by government forces.(Photo: Open Doors International)

Over the space of one year, around 3,600 Christians were murdered because of their faith in Northern Nigeria. That number has almost trebled from the previous year. What is happening? Zara Sarvarian of Christian anti-persecution charity Open Doors UK & Ireland explains.

Amina’s everyday routine of setting a table for lunch for her family was disrupted by a crash at the door. The house shook, their world – too, as fighters of the Islamic group Boko Haram broke into the house.

Heavily armed, they pushed Amina’s husband and four of their children outside and instructed them to deny Christ, threatening them with knives. When the family refused to do so, the fighters savagely killed Amina’s husband and one child in front of her. The three other children were also attacked and were taken to hospital – thankfully, they survived.

That was in 2012. Not yet recovered from her trauma, Amina faced Boko Haram in another incident five years later. She was travelling on the bus in Maiduguri state when it was attacked by Boko Haram militants. After checking that the passengers were Christian, they killed all of the men and abducted eleven women including Amina to Sambisa Forest.

The women stayed there for eight months, living with physical and psychological trauma, hunger and fear. Every day, they were forced to listen to the preaching of a visiting imam. They were often pressured to become Muslim and to marry fighters. Amina was eventually released by government forces.

“Violence is still increasing in Nigeria, especially in northern Nigeria. Attacks happen every day.

“Boko Haram attack our villages, our communities. Fulani herdsmen attack our people in their farms.

“The government says this is not true, but we are there living it and we know it is true!”

Amina’s experience is one of thousands of cases happening in Nigeria daily. Although there has always been rivalry between the Muslim north and the Christian south since the country’s independence in 1960, it has intensified in recent years through the radical Islamist movement Boko Haram.

In recent years, they have carried out many violent attacks against Christians in the northern states, resulting in widespread killings, a huge number of people forced to flee from their villages, and the destruction of churches.

Amina with her late husband who was killed in front of her by Boko Haram militants along with one of their children.(Photo: Open Doors International)

Another threat comes from the Fulani herdsmen, a nomadic Muslim tribe dispersed across West and Central Africa. In Nigeria, the Fulani are mainly found in the northern and central regions; the president, Muhammadu Buhari, is from a Fulani background.

As the frontier of the Sahara Desert has moved south, Fulani cattle herds have gradually been pushed towards Nigeria’s “Middle Belt”. Traditionally a farming region, the advancing Fulani-owned herds have increasingly taken over Christian-owned land through violent means.

The government has failed to decisively tackle these problems. Some critics accuse the current regime of secretly siding with Islamic extremists and allowing them to continue their reign of terror with impunity.

In the newly-published World Watch List 2021, an Open Doors ranking of 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria has entered top 10 for the first time since 2015.

Henrietta Blyth, the CEO of Open Doors UK, said: “If violence were the only criterion we used in our research, Nigeria would be number one. Last year 3,530 Christians in Nigeria were slaughtered for their faith.

“That means that on average 10 Christians in Nigeria are murdered for their faith every single day. Our figures show that those killings peaked during the months of lockdown between April and September.”

It may seem counter-intuitive, but over the last year, the Covid-19 factor exacerbated the violence against Christian communities in various ways. Despite the imposition of a Covid-19 lockdown, attacks by Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen continued. People were confined to their villages while the attackers could move about freely and continued their attacks with impunity. According to Open Doors researchers, this was a deliberate strategy from the armed groups.

A very specific form of violence against Christians are the raids on small Christian communities in the rural areas of various states. When a Christian community is attacked, some of the residents are killed, others are wounded and abducted. Many flee from their houses and fields.

Who they chose to kill or kidnap are deliberate choices too.

When a husband or son is killed, it leaves the mother and the younger children behind in a state of great vulnerability. A wife or daughter abducted leaves a man left to imagine what might be happening to them.

One example is Boko Haram’s assault on Kwaragilum village in Borno State in January 2020. They killed 26 people and abducted six Christian women.

In April 2020, Fulani militants killed 13 Christians and kidnapped 13 others in attacks in Kaduna State. More than 1,000 people were displaced from their homes.

In May, at least seventeen people were killed and six were injured during the attacks on three villages in Kaduna state by Fulani herdsmen. Food stores were destroyed, and homes were burnt in a predominantly Baptist community. Survivors later reported that a neighbouring Fulani community, which had been in the area for 40 years, had quietly left the night before the attack occurred.

It isn’t just the killing that has mushroomed in the last year: 990 Christians were recorded to have been abducted in the last year – up from 224 the year before. One thousand Christians were reported raped or sexually harassed (up from 450). One thousand houses and as many shops were attacked, damaged, burnt, bombed or looted for faith-related reasons.

Still grieving for the loss of her family members, Amina proudly remembers that even under the threat of being stabbed, her husband was praying aloud. His voice of steadfast courage gives her strength to move forward.

Open Doors partners with the local church to encourage and provide various support to persecuted Christians through discipleship and persecution survival training, education and community development projects, emergency relief and trauma care.  Amina is one them.


Organizations again labeled ‘hate groups’ over beliefs on marriage

Organizations again labeled 'hate groups' over beliefs on marriage

.- The Southern Poverty Law Center has again named mainstream organizations to its list of “hate groups” in the 2020 publication of its annual “Year of Hate and Extremism” report.

The report, which was released Feb. 1, purports to create an easy-to-search list of “hate groups” in the United States, broken down by state. While the list includes neo-Nazi, white nationalist, and chapters of the Ku Klux Klan, the 2020 list also includes mainstream organizations such as the Alliance Defending Freedom, C-FAM, Liberty Counsel, and the Ruth Institute.

The inclusion of the Alliance Defending Freedom as a “hate group” raised eyebrows in 2016, when the law firm was first listed. ADF has won numerous cases at the Supreme Court, including cases related to the HHS contraception mandate.

“ADF believes that all people are made in the image of God and that everyone is worthy of dignity and respect,” says an article on the firm’s website titled “Setting the record straight.”

“While ADF takes legal and policy positions that are informed by a biblically-based understanding of marriage, human sexuality, and the sanctity of life, we respect the human dignity of those with whom we disagree and win legal cases that also protect their freedom to express and advocate for their beliefs,” they said.
In 2017, when the Ruth Institute was classified as a “hate group,” the organization lost the ability to fundraise online. Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, founder of the Ruth Institute, told the National Catholic Register that the institute was denied its application for the “Amazon Smile” program, which sends portions of purchases to charities in the program, because of the SPLC’s “hate” designation.

“The Ruth Institute’s primary focus is family breakdown and its impact on children: understanding it, healing it, ending it. If this makes us a ‘hate group,’ so be it,” Morse said in September 2017 in response to the controversy.

The SPLC was founded in 1971 and originally monitored persons and groups fighting the civil rights movement. It began to track racist and white supremacist groups like neo-Nazis and affiliates of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1980s. It also claims to monitor other “extremist” groups such as “anti-immigrant” and “anti-Muslim” groups.


China’s Communist leaders fear Christian population may reach 300 million by 2030

A Chinese Catholic woman prays at the government-sanctioned Xishiku Catholic Church on August 14, 2014, in Beijing, China. | Getty Images/Kevin Frayer

The prospect that China’s Christian community might reach a staggering 300 million people by 2030 has unnerved communist leaders who fear “they’ll have to share power” as the Church increases in size and influence, according to Open Doors’ Ron Boyd-MacMillan.

Boyd-MacMillan, director of Strategic Research at Christian charity Open Doors, told the Express UK that the Chinese Communist Party, led by President Xi Jinping, is becoming increasingly concerned about the Christian population’s growth and is cracking down on religion as a result.

“We think the evidence as to why the Chinese Church is so targeted, is that the leaders are scared of the size of the Church and the growth of the Church,” Boyd-MacMillan said.

“And if it grows at the rate that it has done since 1980, and that’s about between 7 [percent] and 8 percent a year, then you’re looking at a group of people that will be 300 million strong, nearly by 2030. And, you know, the Chinese leadership, they really do long term planning, I mean, their economic plan goes to 2049, so this bothers them. Because I think if the Church continues to grow like that, then they’ll have to share power.”

Open Doors ranks China at No. 17 on its World Watch List of 50 countries where Christians are most persecuted. The organization notes that while the Church is enjoying “strong growth,” life for Christians is anything but straightforward.

The policy of “Sinicizing” the Church — or merging it with Chinese identity — is being implemented across the country as the CCP relies strongly on Chinese cultural identity to stay in power by limiting whatever it perceives as a threat to its control on society.

Churches are being monitored and closed down across the country, whether they are underground or part of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, the officially sanctioned Protestant church in China. The government has also imposed a ban on the online sale of Bibles.

China also uses high-tech surveillance to oppress and monitor believers. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, citizens have been forced to hand over their personal details to the CCP, allowing government officials to increase their surveillance campaign.

The crackdown on religion isn’t isolated to Christians, however, as Uyghur Muslims, a community that resides mostly in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China, have been subject to mass internment, forced labor, and forced sterilization at the hands of the CCP.

In response, the former Trump administration accused the Chinese government of human rights violations and issued sanctions on CCP members.

“After careful examination of the available facts, I have determined that since at least March 2017, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), under the direction and control of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), has committed crimes against humanity against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other members of ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang,” then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement released on Jan. 19, which the Biden administration has since removed.

On Friday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki did not answer whether the Biden administration would maintain the Trump administration’s declaration that China is committing genocide against its Uyghur population.

Psaki told reporters at a press briefing that Biden has “spoken before to the horrific treatment” of Uyghurs, but she will “check” what the Biden administration’s policy will be, RCP reported.

In efforts to strengthen adherence to the CCP and stifle dissent, China’s government imposed a national security law in Hong Kong in June. Since then, multiple pro-democracy activists have been arrested, and some sentenced to jail, accused of violating the national security law and subverting state power.

This month, pastor and author Francis Chan revealed that, after he planted three churches in the semi-autonomous region, Hong Kong authorities denied his visa, forcing him to return to the United States.

Chan and his family had moved from the U.S. to the Sham Shui Po neighborhood in Hong Kong in February 2020. In December, he shared that as a missionary in Hong Kong, he’s been struck by the climate of fear.

“I’ve noticed being in Hong Kong, obviously surrounded by Chinese people, unlike what I was in the U.S., there’s a lot of fear, even with those who call themselves Christians. They’re really afraid to die. And you need to understand there is seriously something wrong in your life if you don’t want to die,” he said.

The Apostle Paul desired to depart and be with Christ in Philippians 1:21-24, Chan said, but he “rarely” hears that kind of speech from those in Hong Kong.

“People are holding on to their lives, so afraid of death. It’s like we don’t really believe in His promises of something better. That’s why Paul says, ‘Of course I‘d rather depart and be with Him, but there are things I have to do on the earth.’ That’s the only reason why he would still want to be on the earth …

“Because he’s so in love with Jesus. ‘I just want to be with him,’” he said. “Do you think this way? Do you speak this way?”