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The Religious Thought Police are Here

This weeks column in Christian Today – for the original click here

The Religious Thought Police Are Here

The Saudi religious police, like their Iranian equivalents, have a duty of Hisbah, enjoining good and preventing wrong. To many Western eyes it seems, and is, an authoritarian attempt to enforce doctrine and practice. It could never happen here – or could it?

Last week I was sent a headline from the Yorkshire Post about a vicar who had got in trouble because of something he had written in his parish newsletter. These stories are common and I was going to pass it by, with a shrug of the shoulders, as being yet another example of a clergyman speaking injudiciously – until someone sent me the story – from The Daily Mirror.

It also appeared in The Telegraph and other media.

I realised that the Rev Peter Hughes was being investigated because he had the nerve to quote yours truly from an editorial and blog I had written a few weeks ago.

Whilst I was encouraged that the Good Vicar was inspired to act by reading my article – I was shocked to read the reporting around what was a fairly innocuous parish letter. It was described as a ‘rant by a furious vicar’. Why? He was just challenging the current fashion to indoctrinate children with the basic tenets of Queer theory. Not least the belief that gender is not connected with biology and can be changed.

RIght to Choose/Change Gender but not Sexuality

Vatican sparks anger among LGBT+ Catholics by rejecting  right to choose or change gender.”

It’s fascinating that Peter Tatchell can tweet in response to the Vatican’s excellent and clear document on the subject: “Vatican sparks anger among LGBT+ Catholics by rejecting  right to choose or change gender.” Apparently, in our brave new world, there is a right for children to choose and change their gender, but not to choose and change their sexuality. Indeed if anyone dared suggest that someone could change their sexuality, they would be in danger of being arrested for hate speech!

The End of Rationality

As our country is in the process of rejecting its Christian roots, it now appears that we are losing the fruits as well. The fact that a vicar can be ‘investigated’ for citing an article which dares to question the bizarre notion that boys can become girls or vice versa, is a clear indication of how far we have lost the Christian fruits of rationality, tolerance and humanity.

We are becoming an increasingly intolerant and authoritarian society, where even the slightest deviation from the New Orthodoxy means you face an ‘investigation’. The media are far too often the unthinking and unwitting parrots of this new State doctrine. ‘Vicar’s angry rant’ is a cheap way of mocking that stems from ignorance and prejudice. Factual reporting and in-depth discussion of the issues is becoming a rarity in today’s British media.

Thrown Under a Bus

rev-peter-hughesAnd the Church does not help matters. Rather than a prophetic voice, we hear the pathetic sound of church leaders bowing before the idols of the culture. Rev Hughes was thrown under the bus by his own denomination. The Rev Huw Thomas, the Diocese of Sheffield’s director of education, said, “These views are not shared by the Diocese of Sheffield and the language used is regrettable.”

It would be helpful to know just what views are shared by the Diocese of Sheffield? Do they adopt the teaching of the Bible or Queer theory? Sometimes it seems as though the Church just shares the views of the current liberal/progressive zeitgeist.

The Establishment Reacts

The current Establishment reacts furiously when its views are questioned. Paul Scriven, a Liberal Democrat peer and former leader of Sheffield Council, stormed: “He’s a fool, I think he knows nothing about what’s going on….He doesn’t have the right to use these opinions to stop young people being taught to understand the world they inherit.”

It is just assumed that anyone who disagrees is out-dated, doesn’t understand and is on ‘the wrong side of history’; whereas those who are intelligent, virtuous and on ‘the right side of history’ can admire the finery of the Emperor’s new clothes. But those who have eyes can see that the Emperor is naked.

The educational establishment seem to be more concerned about social engineering than they are about education. Mr Hughes is a governor of the local school – who will now have a ‘process’ to discover whether he has done anything against the school’s values.

Values Trump Right and Wrong

This again is indicative of a major societal change – we are no longer concerned with what is right and wrong, but rather our ‘values’. Although just quite how we arrive at these values and what they are based on, is left unspoken. You can have your views but if they go against ‘our values’, you had better not express them. Or the Secular Inquisition will investigate and insist on your recantation or punishment.

Who will Stand in the Gap?

The liberal/progressive thought police may not be as obvious as the Saudi Arabian religious ones – but they are even more dangerous. Using the tools of mockery, ignorance, superiority and intimidation, they have the ability to overwhelm and destroy any opponent. The Church here has a tremendous opportunity – not just to stand up for ourselves, but to speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves. Who will stand in the gap? Who will face down the new authoritarians and fight for freedom? Peter Hughes has done so. As have others – including the Vatican. Will Christians stand together with them?

David Robertson is a minister in the Free Church of Scotland. He blogs at

I went into more detail on this in this article – Vicar ‘under Investigation’ for Quoting The Wee Flea!

Sometimes humour gets the point across as well – although in our increasingly secular society humour seems to be disappearing!   For some reason this Monty Python sketch came to mind!

Heresy by thought, word, deed and action!  They were not wrong…

And in turn brings to mind this prescient clip …

“Symbolic of the struggle against reality”  Brilliant….


  1. Thanks for supporting this guy who was quoting you. We are living in insanity at this time. Our society has lost its grip on reality. That is what happens when you deny not only the truth but truth itself as a concept of objective reality. Keep going!

  2. “The Saudi religious police, like their Iranian equivalents, have a duty of Hisbah, enjoining good and preventing wrong. To many Western eyes it seems, and is, an authoritarian attempt to enforce doctrine and practice. It could never happen here – or could it?”

    It did happen here, to a more limited extent, under the Commonwealth. And in Calvin’s Geneva. So the urge to police the morality of the faithful crosses religious boundaries. STM that it is something Christians can sympathise with, because from one POV it is a symptom of a desire for purity in all things, so if one is seeking reformation, and has the influence to make one’s vision a social reality, policing people’s lives in tiny details is apt to be the result. So is a deadening conformity masquerading as piety. This is something secular totalitarian regimes like Soviet Communism can imitate easily.

    The difficulty I see is that PC tiresomeness apes the virtues – it is in large part, and at least materially, Christian. So how do Christians go about opposing it, without reproaching it for the very virtues they are supposed to practice ? How do Christians go about criticising its deformities, without blaming what is good in it ?

    I don’t think authoritarianism is the main problem. Is there even a real difference between a Church’s being authoritative, and its being authoritarian ? St Paul sounds authoritarian at times, which is not necessarily a criticism of him.

    And what sort of liberty are we looking for ? ISTM that Christian liberty is very far removed from the type that seems to identify liberty with something like unlimited self-determination and self-realisation. AFAICS, Christian liberty is the freedom to do, not our own wills, but the Will of God; it is in perfect conformity to the Will of God that we become wholly free, because total slavery to God turns out to be perfect love for God, and thus, perfect freedom. In Christ, slavery to God is freedom indeed.

  3. It’s not just Europe that is acting absolutely ludicrous, but we across the pond are running at breakneck speed into the same cesspool. I’ve asked what should our game plan be, or how shall we stand the gap, but I think most will do nothing.

    The answer comes in many flavors:
    You’re attempting to be governmental
    You’re going to alienate
    You’re not gracious enough
    You’re never stating what you’re for! Funny. I’m against abortion which makes me by default, for pro-life
    You’re too militant
    You hate x, y, z
    We can’t x, y, z, pick your poison here again

    A conversation might go like this:
    Johnny, can you believe all that drag queen stuff at the library?
    Yeah, that’s not great. We should probably ask why they allow it, or ask for equal time.
    Crickets or that’s a church v state issue.

    There are some fighting, but even those groups are splintered in ways.

  4. Thank you Wee Flea, for making the problem of “values”, and valuation, supplanting the Christian moral law very clear with this example. I’ve been hearing people complain about the word “values” all my life, and now I get it. Value is quantitative. Values are assigned by the powerful. In which justice is the advantage of the stronger.

    And so the Catholic Church is struggling to maintain its teaching that certain actions (abortion, adultery) are intrinsically, categorically, qualitatively wrong, and cannot be made right through circumstance.

  5. Hi David – Then you might be interested in the Israel Folau debate here in Australia… a case in point of thought police in the media and large corporations.

    PS where do you intend to worship on moving to Australia? Confessional Presbyterian churches here could use some encouragement, being thin on the ground compared to Scotland! Excited to hear you’ll be speaking at the City Bible Forum.

    Kind regards

  6. 17 year old Murray, a student in Mearn’s Academy in Aberdeenshire has been thrown out of school for stating that there are only two genders. He filmed an overbearing teacher arguing that his view was not ‘inclusive’.

    This in a school whose motto incorporates the words, Fairness, Honesty, Respect.
    If the school was true to its motto, then It is the teacher, not Murray, who should be thrown out.

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