Drawing All Faiths Together – Against Sexual Freedom
Last weeks Newham Recorder had an interesting front page concerning a picket of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service office in Stratford.
Alan Craig, a former Councillor for the Newham Christian People’s Alliance was pictured speaking, where his comments apparently included the words:
“BPAS has become a large money spinning business. This centre is commercial opportunism to take advantage of Westfield Stratford City and the Olympics. BPAS have an interest in doing as many abortions as possible”
Mr Craig is an interesting character. Whilst the Christian Party tried and failed to break through in London boroughs with significant numbers of evangelical Christians (such as Lambeth and Hackney) the Newham Christian People’s Alliance managed to gain a couple of Councillors, and Craig earned himself a profile as a critic of Islamist extremism andan opponent of the plan by the Tablighi Jamaat to build a large mosque close to the Olympic site. As such, Alan Craig was a rare beast in contemporary London Christianity – a Christian who was not afraid to be associated with public criticism of strands of British Islam.
It is important to be clear about what BPAS is providing in Stratford, namely a walk in clinic for emergency contraception and safe termination services. That people using such facilities should have to run the gauntlet of protestors is profoundly disturbing. Whilst Alan Craig’s speech vaguely attempts to link BPAS to the gentrification of Stratford ahead of the Olympics, the Newham Recorder’s focus on him is not an entirely accurate summary of events.
The Stratford picket was the work of long term anti-abortion activists the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC, who’s acronym lends itself so easily to the heading SPUC off!) the US group 40 Days For Life and, adding a multi-cultural twist, Dr Majid Katme and the Islamic Medical Association. When it comes to restricting women’s choice the Catholic Church would not want to be left out – Friar Mark Swires, described as a local Catholic priest, also lent a hand to the picket.
Perhaps most disturbing was the report that residents sharing the block where BPAS is located have petitioned the buildings owner, One Housing, stating that granting a lease to BPAS contradicts their reputation for social responsibility. We could just as equally argue that giving in to the likes of SPUC and preventing local people getting advice and contraception is a denial of social responsibility – either way, no one is forcing anyone else to use the service BPAS provides.
The joining together of such ostensibly disperate religious currents on this issue is a reminder of what many of these characters ultimately have in common – a desire to interfere in the private lives of other people, and women in particular. Their morality has to be everyone else’s – be we in San Antonio, Saudi Arabia or Stratford. We would do well to resist them.