Search

Free 40-page supplement celebrating the Queen’s record reign in this week’s Recorder

On sale now

Newham councillor calls PM’s Christian country claim ‘dog whistle politics’

13:12 19 May 2014

Newham councillor for Canning Town North Clive Furness

Newham councillor for Canning Town North Clive Furness

submitted

A Newham councillor and Christian activist has accused the Prime Minister of “dog whistle politics” in his claim that Britain is a Christian country.

Prime Minister David CameronPrime Minister David Cameron

Cllr Clive Furness, who represents Canning Town North for Labour, said Britain has a 2,000-year Christian heritage but that our society as it is now was shaped largely by the Enlightenment.

He said: “At one level Mr Cameron is engaging in dog whistle politics. The problem with his assertion is that it is only partial in its truth and it is coded in its desire to assert a religious hegemony.

“Many, I would go so far as to suggest most, of the freedoms we enjoy in Europe and North America owe more to the major cultural and intellectual changes of the 18th century than to the religious beliefs that they displaced.

“One might also, with a fair degree of accuracy, assert that when ‘Christians’ or rather particular ‘Christians’ were in power, freedom was diminished and persecution increased.

“This was true whether the ‘Christians’ concerned were Catholic or Protestant and it was true across the European continent.”

Cllr Furness, who is chair of Christians on the Left in Newham, and secretary of a Baptist church in Plaistow, continued: “The other problem with Mr Cameron’s assertion is that it is less and less true that as a population we are ‘Christians’.

“Between 2001 and 2011, those defining themselves as Christian in the census fell from the low 70s to just over 50 per cent.

“If one looks at those who attend a service of Christian worship once a month or more, the number of people who participate in this act central to their belief might be as low as 15 per cent.”

He added: “If asked I suspect that both Mr Cameron and myself would say that we wished Britain to be more Christian.

“The trouble is that he and I might interpret what that means in entirely different ways.”

Debate has raged since Mr Cameron’s call for Christians to be “evangelical” in their faith and receive more support from the government.

Last week, the Rev Julian Meek, of Stratford Unitarian and Free Church in West Ham Lane, said Britain was technically Christian but that truth and wisdom come in many forms.

What do you think? Email adam.barnett@archant.co.uk.

Latest News Stories

Tomorrow, 16:00
Harry Davis - 2012 silver medalist at the prestigious ballet competition

Stratford is set to become home to one of the world’s most prestigious ballet competitions this month with performers from all over the world landing on the Circus stage.

London
Yesterday, 18:07
Police, ambulance and fire services attended the scene at Whalebone Lane South

A 20-year-old man has been taken to a major trauma centre after suffering multiple stab wounds in Canning Town.

London Ambulance Service
Yesterday, 16:58
Police at Idmiston Road

A man accused of killing his mum at their Stratford home has pleaded not guilty to murder.

Chelmsford Crown Court
Yesterday, 15:03
Kate Richardson-Walsh unveils the plaque at the Sir Ludwig Guttman Health and Wellbeing Centre

Who better to open a new dental clinic in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park than an Olympian?

Elizabeth Olympic

Most read news

Competitions

Happy viewing!

MyOffers are giving you that chance to win an amazing Samsung 55” Curve HD TV.

Read more
Get ready to take in the beautiful sights of London from above!

Are you always seeking unique ways to see your favourite city? This one is for you.

Read more

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Newham Recorder e-edition today E-edition
Family Notices 24


Our trusted business finder