Labour’s Equality Bill means Christmas could be ‘killed off’
Monsignor Andrew Summersgill is the general secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference. It is his job to make all the arrangements for the Pope’s state visit next year – the first ever by a pope to the United Kingdom – and one gets the feeling that he is raising his profile as a prelude.
Today he warns that Harriet Harman’s Equality Bill will lead to the banning of Christmas celebrations. He warns of the Bill’s ‘chilling effect' on town halls and other organisations, ‘for fear of offending other cultures’. He notes such developments as the renaming of Oxford's Christmas festival as the 'Winter Light Festival' to make it more ‘inclusive’; a local authority instructing tenants to take down Christmas lights in case they might offend Muslim neighbours; and authorities removing the word ‘Christmas’ out of cultural sensitivity to everyone except Christians.
Monsignor Summersgill has also recently warned that the European Commission's Equal Treatment Directive is an ‘instrument of oppression’ which will force Christians to act against their consciences.
Cranmer has some sympathy with the Monsignor’s concerns, but one cannot help but feel that he is stirring feathers and spouting histrionics in a desperate attempt to find something he might have in common with Pope Benedict XVI; some ‘common cause’ he might be able to discuss with His Holiness next year which might earn him a Vatican gold star and perhaps a promotion.
The reality is, for all the Christmas scare stories, the festival remains central to the mid-winter bleakness, just as it did since before the time it was Christianised. There may be the occasional silly regulation, over-zealous interpretation or hyper-sensitive application of some rule or other, but such agendas are really no different to the seventeenth-century attempts to force businesses to trade on Christmas day or to rename the festival ‘Christ-tide’, in order that the ‘popish mass’ might be eradicated from the public sphere. Thankfully, Harpie Hormone is no Lord Protector, and Labour's Equality Bill is nowhere near the Cromwellian level of prohibition on Christmas.