Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of Christian Concern and the Christian Legal Centre; and the Wilberforce Academy

Andrea Minichiello Williams is a prominent and infamous UK fundamentalist Christian, and represents "the public face of Britain's loonier religious elements and their quixotic attempts to use the legal system to provide religious exemptions to laws on equality"1. She is a founder and member of various Christian institutions in the UK. She is CEO of Christian Concern and the Christian Legal Centre2, currently sits in the Church of England General Synod, and formed the Wilberforce Academy (UK) alongside the Alliance Defence Fund (USA). She has waged long-standing and immoral campaigns against every aspect of tolerance and equality for the LGBT community both in the UK and abroad. Her style mirrors that of USA fundamentalists who continually press for Christian theocratic power and dominionism, with no acceptance of the diversity or equality that have defined the democratic era.


1. Christian Organisations and Institutional Ties

2. Beliefs and Campaigns

Andrea Minichiello Williams has been involved in the following arguments and campaigns:

Christian Concern have lobbied on these things, amongst others:

3. Opposition and Critical Voices

Thankfully, many voices in the UK have spoken out repeatedly against Andrea Minichiello Williams, Christian Concern and the Christian Legal Centre. Human rights groups and LGBT equality lobbyists are more than familiar voices of reason. Christian leaders in the UK are also sounding warnings about this British fundamentalist. The evangelical wing, themselves quite divorced from ordinary British Christianity, have disclaimed against her. It was Andrea Minichiello Williams and Stephen Green (a similar figure) that "prompted Joel Edwards of the Evangelical Alliance to criticise the "eccentric fringe" of British evangelical Christianity when he left the organisation in 2008"1.

The Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, sought to distance himself from her remarks: "The comments by Andrea Minichiello Williams about the decriminalisation of same sex intercourse in Jamaica have no sanction in the Church of England or the diocese of Chichester. Insofar as such comments incite homophobia, they should be rejected as offensive and unacceptable.

"The Christian Church is widely perceived as homophobic and intolerant of those for whom same sex attraction is the foundation of their emotional lives. It is urgent, therefore, that Christians find legitimate ways to affirm and demonstrate the conviction that the glory of God is innate in every human being, and the mercy of God embraces each of us indiscriminately."

Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, said: "It is surprising that Andrea Minichiello Williams is a member of the Church of England's parliament. On the basis of this hatemongering she risks bringing the whole body into disrepute. I'm not sure what the procedure is for getting rid of representatives, but I would suggest to the Diocese of Chichester that they take urgent steps to make her step down. That would be a clear indication that they mean what they say about opposing homophobia".

National Secular Society (2013)8

4. Legal Cases

In "Legislation and Faith: Religious Rights and Religious Wrongs" by Vexen Crabtree (2013) I look at CLC's cases alongside other cases of the Christian Institute, which runs along similar lines to the CLC.

The Christian Legal Centre "says it now has more than 50 similar cases on its books [and] it is receiving up to five calls a day from Christians seeking to take action against their employers whom they feel are failing to respect their faith [however] critics of the Christian Legal Centre suggest it rarely wins any of the legal battles it fights"5 and it has been widely ridiculed in the press, excepting some trashy tabloids such as the Daily Mail, who find CLC's cases ripe ground for a bit of sensationalism and hate-mongering. Some cases I've listed here because they're exactly the same in style and tone as other more infamous cases that the CLC has supported.

4.1. Gary McFarlane, Relate Counsellor (Case 2007 - 2013)

Gary McFarlane was employed by Relate to give counselling in sex and relationship issues. His strict Bible-based Christian beliefs were widely known especially that he sternly believed that he could never engage in any action that appeared to support homosexuality. However in 2007 he assured his employer that he would be able to, as Relate's charter states, treat people equally and fairly. He saw two lesbian couples with no problem, but in 2008 it became apparent he had serious issues with male homosexuals, and he was suspended. He stated his views had never changed, and that he still held he could never support homosexuals. He appealed, and then, supported by the Christian Legal Centre10, lodged a complaint with the Employment Tribunal, ironically, claiming that he suffered from direct discrimination because he wasn't allowed to discriminate. He lost the case, and the panel noted in particular how it is not practical to filter away homosexual clients from seeing him in confidence. It is quite easy to imagine that patients may have homosexual concerns that are not raised until they are already sat with Gary McFarlane, and that therefore he cannot be relied upon for counselling.

Gary McFarlane
He appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, and lost again. He took it to the Court of Appeal and was vocally supported by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey (who has also supported Christian Institute cases), but they refused the case. The case eventually went to the European Court of Human Rights, where, on 2013 Jan 15, they unanimously found that anti-gay bigotry was an adequate reason to suspend a counsellor who may well end up with gay clients, and the case was again lost. Despite the facts, the press have nonsensically reported it as "Christian persecution" without apparent irony.11,12

4.2. Colin Atkinson, Wakefield and District Housing (2011)

Electrician Colin Atkinson was displaying a crucifix, advertised for all to see, in a company van belonging to Wakefield District Housing. Not wanting their property to be used for proselytisation, and, being an outfit that must be seen as treating all people fairly and equally, Wakefield District Housing introduced a rule banning all employees from having personal items on display in company vehicles. The case went to court, and was represented and funded by The Christian Legal Centre (CLC). The case was on very shaky ground, with the main argument seemingly being that because he was a Christian, Colin did not have to comply with the rules which fairly applied to everyone. The Christian Legal Centre's CEO, Andrea Minichiello Williams, said:

Christians across the centuries have been prepared to lose their lives for their faith by standing up for what they believe in because they love Jesus Christ," she said. "The Christian Legal Centre will not allow Christianity to be eliminated from the public sphere or to be silenced or sidelined.

The CLC have excelled in stiring up fake-scandal style outrage over issues, by wording all their clients' attempts at evading the law in terms of anti-Christian persecution.

The dispute ... was transformed into a front-page row and hijacked by the far right. Wakefield and District Housing found itself vilified, with death threats made to staff and more than 1,000 abusive emails sent to them. The British National party picketed its offices.

The matter was finally settled last week when it was agreed that Atkinson could keep a cross in the van, but out of the public eye. ... "This is a quintessentially modern story of a voluntary sector organisation trying to do the right thing by its staff and tenants only to be misrepresented by the tabloid press and attacked by shadowy groups and rabble rousers from the BNP," said David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation.

But Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, said that her organisation would continue to contest policies it viewed as anti-Christian.

The Guardian (2011)5

4.3. Nadia Eweida, British Airways (Case 2007 - 2013)

Nadia Eweida, the woman who sued BA because she claimed they had discriminated against her after she wore a cross over her uniform, also lost her case. Far from being a victim, Ms Eweida was described by the Employment Tribunal as a nightmare employee who made unreasonable demands, unfounded accusations and was insulting to her colleagues when they didn't share her religious beliefs.

National Secular Society, Newsline (2009)13

Nadia Eweida is a dedicated Coptic Christian from Egypt who worked for British Airways (BA), where a strict uniform allows no jewellery or accessories to be visible. Religious symbols have to be beneath the uniform if possible - if not possible, then, they can make exceptions (Sikhs for example may wear a BA-coloured turban). This rule and method of exception of course applies to all people, of all religions. However, in 2006 Nadia Eweida decided she wanted to wear a Christian cross that was visible, despite it being perfectly possible to wear a discrete one. She fought a series of battles with her line managers and a series of sensationalist news paper articles appeared about it, all of them from Eweida's point of view, claiming that BA was persecuting Christians. In early 2007, BA backed down and decided to allow Christians and Jews to wear visible symbols. However, Eweida fought to reclaim lost pay on occasions when she had been sent home for not following the dress code, a punishment which was standard practise. It went to the Employment Tribunal and then Employment Appeal Tribunal, which rejected the case as the cross was not a mandatory part of her religion, and, Christians were not being put at a disadvantage by being made to follow the same rules as all other employees. In 2010 she was still fighting, and the Court of Appeal also rejected her case. In addition, it brought out the fact that "British Airways had offered to move the applicant without loss of pay to work involving no public contact, but the applicant had chosen to reject this offer and instead to stay away from work and claim her pay as compensation". In other words she refused to wear the cross discretely and refused to accept a non-uniformed position. The problem was with Eweida herself, not with the clothing rules, and not with BA which tried to accommodate her. She took the fight to the Supreme Court, which refused the case. However, she got lucky with the European Court of Human Rights, where, on the 15th of Jan 2013, they found that as BA had since changed its clothing regulations to allow crosses, it clearly wasn't important enough to have warranted those codes in the first place. Unfortunately, the ECHR ruled in her favour by 5 votes to 2, and have awarded her €32,000 plus interest. Despite the facts, sensationalist and ill-informed coverage in the press has reported it simply as a case of an innocent Christian who just wanted to wear a cross.12.

4.4. Shirley Chaplin, Hospital Nurse (Case 2009 - 2013)

All medical staff know that loose jewellery cannot be worn in clinical situations. Christian Chaplin had worn her cross on a necklace continually since 1971, she says, but a new nurse's uniform at Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, a State hospital, meant it was visible and loose. She was requested to take off her necklace, but she refused. Later the Employment Tribunal would see the health and safety documentation and evidence that it is a hygiene and safety risk - hence why no one else is allowed to wear them either. Other Christian nurses had complied when asked to remove jewellery and Sikhs and Muslim nurses and doctors have also been asked to remove religious paraphernalia from their clothes, which they had all done. Chaplin, however, refused, even though there is no religious requirement for her to wear necklaces, crosses or jewellery, as a Christian.

She was moved to a non-nursing position because her attitude meant she could not safely see patients, and she complained to the Employment Tribunal in 2009 complaining of discrimination (apparently unaware that other people had also had to comply with the universal clothing regulations). The case was rejected as patient's health and safety were more important than jewellery, no matter the reason for wanting to wear it. She took the case to the European Court of Human Rights, where, on the 15th of Jan 2013, they unanimously rejected her claims of discrimination, especially given the steps the hospital had taken to try to accommodate her irrationality. Not only did they move her to a position where the necklace was not a problem, but they "suggested that she could secure her cross and chain to the lanyard which held her identity badge. All staff were required to wear an identity badge clipped to a pocket or on a lanyard. However, they were also required to remove the badge and lanyard when performing close clinical duties", however, Chaplin rejected this solution because she would have to sometimes remove it.12

If a person has aspects of their behaviour (including choice of attire and accessories) that contradict the safety of others, it is of course correct that their employer can move them away from patients (or customers) or fire them. A nurse should have known better as the risks of jewellery are widely known, and, the evidence behind the dress codes were brought out very early in the 4-year debate. Is showing off your religion really more important than doing the right thing?

5. Funding

Questions have been asked about from where the centre - and its sister organisation, Christian Concern For Our Nation - obtain funding. Accounts show both organisations have little in the way of income.

Williams said all of the centre's work was done on a pro bono basis by committed Christian lawyers and that what money it had came in small donations from more than 30,000 people who received its regular email updates. "We never ask clients for money," she said. "Very often they fear losing their case and having to pay the costs of the other side. Part of our ministry is to ensure they are not burdened with that."

The Guardian (2011)5

Andrea Minichiello Williams joined forces with the rich American evangelical outfit, the Alliance Defence Fund, to form the Wilberforce Academy, which controversially uses premises at Oxford University. Although People trained there have gone on to work for the Christian Legal Centre, and Williams describes the ADF as "a fantastic organisation", she also says "they don't pay anything towards the academy"5.

Links:

Read / Write LJ Comments

By Vexen Crabtree 2013 Dec 24
http://www.humanreligions.info/christian_concern.html
Parent page: Christianity

Social Media

References: (What's this?)

NSS. The National Secular Society, London, UK.
Newsline. Weekly news letter. See: "Secularism" by Vexen Crabtree (2011).

Footnotes

  1. Rational Wiki article on Andrea Minichiello Williams (2012 Mar 30) accessed 2013 Dec 23.
  2. ^^^^
  3. ChristianConcern.com/blog, accessed 2013 Dec 23. This blog is entitled Anrea's Blog.^
  4. RationalWiki state that it was co-founded by her, where as Wikipedia says founded.^
  5. Wikipedia article Christian Concern, accessed 2013 Dec 23.^^
  6. The Guardian newspaper article "Christian Legal Centre fights more than 50 religious discrimination cases: Lawyers' group pursues US tactics against 'sidelining' of 'people with traditional biblical views'" (2011 May 01) accessed 2013 Dec 23.^^^^
  7. ThinkingAnglicans.org.uk article "How is the Christian Legal Centre funded?" (2011 May 03), accessed 2013 Dec 23.^
  8. pauldiamond.com/about... (not dated), accessed 2013 Dec 23.^
  9. National Secular Society news article "CofE General Synod member Andrea Minichiello Williams urges Jamaica to keep law that criminalises homosexuality" (2013 Dec 19) accessed 2013 Dec 23.^^
  10. The Independent newspaper article "Tom Daley 'is gay because his father died' says UK evangelist" (2013 Dec 18) accessed 2013 Dec 23.^
  11. Article Christian sex therapist 'refused to counsel gay couples' in The Telegraph (2009) accessed 2013 Feb 15.^
  12. National Secular Society (2009 Mar 06).^
  13. See:^^^
  14. National Secular Society, Newsline (2009 Mar 06).^

© 2016 Vexen Crabtree. All rights reserved.