Christian Concern have crossed a line to outright racism with their attack on Sadiq Khan

The right-wing lobby group Christian Concern are well-known for their vocal homophobia and for stirring up prejudice against Muslims. With their attack on the man set to be the new Mayor of London, however, they seem to have crossed a line from nastiness to racism.

Sadiq Khan’s Tory rival, Zac Goldsmith, has rightly been accused of running a campaign that encouraged thinly veiled racial language and anti-Muslim prejudice. Christian Concern have gone further.

I have no brief to defend Sadiq Khan. I once shared a platform with him at a Fabian Society conference. He was friendly and seemed genuinely down-to-earth. But I disagree with him on too many issues for it to be likely that I would ever vote for him. I am angry not because I am a Khan supporter but because I am disgusted by racism, and furious when I see it promoted in the name of Christianity.

The day before polling day, Christian Concern published an article on their website entitled “Londonistan with Khan?”. It was written by Tim Dieppe, the organisation’s “Director of Islamic Affairs”. I was unaware that Christian Concern employed anyone in such a role; I think it’s fairly new. This being Christian Concern, it’s safe to assume that they mean “Director of Islamophobic Affairs”.

Dieppe’s article is truly vile. Some of Khan’s attackers accuse him of association with “Islamic extremists” but insist that they are not attacking him for being a Muslim. Christian Concern offer no such qualifiers. Dieppe states simply, “It is well known that he is a Muslilm who is devout in his adherence to the faith”.

The article then goes on to repeat some of the accusations about his “links” with extremists. Dieppe states that they have been “well-documented”, though the only link provided is to an allegation that he shared a platform with some extremists twelve years ago.

There is a list of six bullet points about why Khan is so terrible.

At least one of the points is factually inaccurate. Khan has not opposed the criminalisation of forced marriage but rather a particular law about it. Whether or not he is right about that law, this is not the same thing as wanting forced marriage to be legal.

But by far the most bizarre bullet point is the first. This states that, in his capacity as a lawyer, “Khan wrote a ‘how-to’ guide for people wanting to sue the police for damages”.

So whatever else he might be blamed for, it seems that Khan has been willing to help people who have been the victims of police racism or brutality. So why is this on a list of bad points?

Underneath his list, Dieppe has written, “Particularly concerning are his encouragement of suing the police for racism”. The implication is that the police should be allowed to get away with racism.

This becomes more explicit a few lines afterwards, when Tim Dieppe’s foul arguments reaches its height. He writes:

It is hard to see Khan supporting the police being more proactive in upholding the law in areas with high Muslim populations… Knowing they lack political support, the police are likely to continue in their politically correct ways, with disastrous results. Fear of causing offence will rule. We have already seen some of the effects of such politically correct policing in Rotherham, Rochdale, Oxford and other cities where Islamic rape gangs have been allowed to run riot, with the police terrified of being called racist.”

Well, at least Tim Dieppe and Christian Concern are not terrified of being called racist. They are blatant and open about being racist. I doubt they would describe groups of child-abusing priests as “Christian rape gangs” but when the perpetrators are Muslim, they blame the crimes on Islam.

The organisation says little about sexual abuse more generally or asks whether wider social attitudes and police prejudice contribute to the lack of rape convictions. Nor is such prejudice likely to be challenged by people who damn lawyers for writing guidelines on how to challenge the police.

There’s a thin line between Islamophobia and racism. Christian Concern are now clearly promoting the latter as well as the former. To suggest that police racism should not be challenged goes hand in hand with their focus on rape committed by ethnic and religious minorities rather than others.

Let’s not forget that Christian Concern have never denied or confirmed the allegation that they held a planning meeting with Tommy Robinson when he was leader of the English Defence League. That tells you a great deal about Christian Concern.

I have no doubt that Christian Concern are, at least in many areas, entirely sincere about their beliefs. What I will not accept is that these beliefs have any basis in the teachings of Jesus.

UKIP’s Christian group accuses gay people of ‘recruiting’ children

One of the nastiest accusations against gay people is the claim that they “recruit” children with the intention of turning them gay. In Britain, most groups that oppose LGBT rights, even the fairly extreme ones, tend to avoid making this claim explicitly. However, it has now turned up on a leaflet distributed by the group called Christian Soldiers of UKIP.

Christian Soldiers of UKIP is a group set up by Christians who belong to the UK Independence Party (UKIP). The UKIP leadership has described the group as “authorised but not official”.

Nigel Farage and his colleagues insist that they do not share the group’s views on sexuality.  Nonetheless, they are prepared to work with them. They have certainly not disowned the “Christian Soldiers”.

I wrote on the Huffington Post a few days ago about UKIP’s links with right-wing Christian lobby groups such as Christian Concern. Earlier this week, Nigel Farage launched UKIP’s “Christian Manifesto”, which offers to defend Britain’s “Christian heritage” and the “rights” of Christians who want to discriminate against gay and bisexual people.

The latest comments from UKIP’s Christian Soldiers shows further evidence of the party’s willingness to tolerate homophobia.

The leaflet in question is an attack on sex education in schools, which it claims is seeking to “normalise” same-sex relationships. The leaflet’s writers declare, “The state is allowing the sexual grooming of our Primary School children for same-sex attraction”.

This leaflet was distributed during at least one hustings event in East Anglia (without the organisers’ permission). I would be interested to hear from anyone who has seen it, or any similar leaflets, elsewhere.

In their leaflet, UKIP’s Christian Soldiers state:

“What the LGBT is achieving, of course, is a recruitment drive. As such people cannot reproduce their own kind, they must recruit among the young and this is best done among children in schools, the younger the better.”

Presumably the Christian Soldiers of UKIP believe that heterosexuals can “reproduce their own kind” by giving birth only to children who turn out straight.

The leaflet includes the lyrics of songs and dances for young children that imply a celebration of a same-sex marriage or unclear gender identity. On the grounds that the children change “partners” during the activity (as they surely do in lots of activities), the leaflet adds the note, “Multiple partners made to seen normal”.

The Christian Soldiers of UKIP state:

“Ideally, we should work towards the removal of all ‘sex education’ from state schools.”

They then go on to link increased sex education with a rise in teenage pregnancies and abortions. No evidence whatsoever is cited to back this up.

Marginalised and minority groups have always been accused of harming children. Most famously, European Jews were for centuries accused of kidnapping and crucifying Christian children (the blood libel, as it’s commonly called). However, early Christians were also accused of drinking children’s blood. Recently, child abuse in the UK has attracted more attention when the perpetrators have been Asian and the victims white, with racists linking the horrific abuse of children not to the people who committed it but to whole ethnic or religious groups.

At the same time, recent years have given ample evidence of how child abuse is often overlooked when the perpetrators are powerful or respected. Child abuse should be tackled regardless of the perpetrator, not used as a means to attack social minorities.

Christian Soldiers of UKIP, in their leaflet, quote Jesus’ comments about not harming children. This is outrageous. They want to deny children the chance to learn about life, to consider different ethical views for themselves and to grow up to form healthy, loving, consensual relationships free from prejudice and narrow gender roles.

I could call on UKIP to disassociate themselves from the Christian Soldiers, but I’m not going to bother. UKIP’s tolerance of homophobia is already clear. Christians, however, need to do a better job of rejecting it.

Let’s remember that some of those who have been handed this vicious leaflet may not have read or heard many other comment from Christians on sexuality. If we don’t do a better job of speaking up, it may be the only Christian perspective on sexuality that they encounter.

What the Andrew Windsor case says about sex, abuse and power

Andrew Windsor, commonly called Prince Andrew or the Duke of York, has been accused of raping a teenager. Even the scandal-loving British press are being relatively reticent about this, avoiding the word “rape” and saying that the allegation involves a woman who says she was “forced to have sex” with him. Perhaps certain newspapers can’t bear to associate the word “rape” with a royal. Or they think that there is some form of forced sex that is not rape. Both attitudes are equally worrying.

I do not, of course, know whether Andrew is guilty of the crime. Like every other accused person, he has a right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. And like every other person making an accusation of rape, his accuser has a right to be taken seriously.

The accusation has surfaced in a case in the US concerning Jeffrey Epstein, who allegedly procured Andrew’s unwilling teenage victim. If there appears to be a strong case against Andrew, he should of course be extradited to the US to stand trial. Even if the case is strong, I very much doubt that this will happen. I find it hard to believe that US authorities will want to ask their usually subservient allies in the UK government to hand over a member of the royal family.

True or not, the pressure is on Andrew, who has so far failed to comment in public and is instead hiding behind a brief statement issued by Buckingham Palace. The Palace declared yesterday that “any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors is categorically untrue”.

The use of the word “impropriety” to refer to something as horrific as rape makes me feel slightly sick.

The BBC keep telling us that it is unusual for the Palace to deny something directly, as they usually simply ignore allegations. This is outrageous. If the rape accusation had been made against a politician, bishop, business leader or celebrity, the person in question would be denying the allegations in front of a camera and facing questions from journalists. But a member of the Windsor family can simply ask his mother’s press office to issue a one-sentence comment, with the expectation that parts of the media will congratulate him for doing even this.

Have we learnt nothing from the horrors of child abuse in the Roman Catholic Church? From the revelations about Jimmy Saville, Rolf Harris and Max Clifford?

Recent months have seen a string of allegations and convictions involving sexual abuse in the Church of England. Oddly, this has made relatively little impact on the secular media. The story a few weeks ago about payouts for sexual abuse in the Scouts disappeared from the media almost as soon as it arrived. Earlier this week, the Guardian revealed systemic sexual abuse in the Army Cadets, yet the Guardian’s editors did not seem to think that the story was worth more than a half-page piece on Page 14.

I am not suggesting that every single allegation made about people within these institutions is true. But a vast number of them are true, as we can tell from the convictions and payouts. It seems clear that publicity about sexual abuse has urged other victims to come forward. In some cases, they have done so years or decades after the abuse in question. They then have to cope with the abuse being described as “historical”, with the implication that it is less important. In other cases, accusations have been made much sooner after the events in question.

With all this going on, we might expect society to be waking up to the dreadful reality of sexual abuse – its frequency, its impact, its horrifying normality in certain institutions. If society is waking up, the establishment and much of the media do not seem to be. So many of these cases involve people using status to abuse someone with less power and to get away with it. Priests, celebrities and army officers all know that their status makes them difficult to challenge. Abusers in churches, the BBC and the Army Cadets all saw their institutions close ranks to protect them.

It should be obvious that sexual abuse is often linked with power. Abuse is more likely when certain individuals are revered or protected by institutions that require people to accept what they’re told without question. Despite the revelations about the Army Cadets, the government is still keen to promote them, talking of the benefits of “military values” in schools. Military values, of course, involve doing what you’re told and not questioning authority. Can we still not be honest about what that leads to?

Apparently not. We now have a rape accusation against one of the most high-status people in the UK. Not only is he sixth in line to the throne, but Andrew has also spent years as a trade ambassador with UK Trade and Investment, a unit of the Department for Business. He has been particularly associated with securing arms deals for multinational companies such as BAE Systems, often with the world’s nastiest regimes. As such, he is complicit in the deaths of thousands, but this does not make the rape allegation any less serious.

With the rape accusation against Andrew Windsor, it is surely time to put an end to our usual practice of doing nothing to hold the Windsor family to account despite the vast influence, wealth and status accorded to them. Andrew’s brother Charles, expected to be head of state within a few years, expresses political opinions on all sorts of things but is never challenged about them on Newsnight or the Today programme.

Britain now faces a test. Either we can show that we take sexual abuse seriously and believe that all people are accountable. Or we can let deference, inequality and brutality win the day again. It’s up to us.

Sex, violence and Margaret Thatcher

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is generally considered a “slow news” period by the media, as not much is happening (in reality of course, lots of things are happening; just not the sort of things that most editors tend to consider newsworthy). The week, however, is always livened up by the release of government papers under the 30-year rule. Government documents from 1985 have just entered the public domain.

These reveal all sorts of alarming, amusing and sometimes predictable facts: Thatcher considered removing schools from local authority control; it was Oliver Letwin who recommened using Scotland as a guinea pig for the poll tax; there were discussions among ministers about forcing advertising on the BBC.

I am struck by the contradiction between two of the revelations. Between them, these two stories say a great deal about the ethical hypocrisy of British politics and society.

On the one hand, it appears that Thatcher considered a ban on sex toys, or at least certain types of sex toys, by extending the Obscene Publications Act to include physical objects. The then Home Secretary, Leon Brittan, wrote a memo to Thatcher saying there was a “strong case” for such a ban, adding, “Some of the items in circulation are most objectionable, including some which can cause physical injury”.

At the same time, Thatcher thought about spending £200 million of public money on chemical weapons, despite the UK’s declared position of opposition to chemical weapons. Such weapons were intended for use if the cold war turned hot: in other words, they would have been deployed against the civilian populations of the USSR and its allies.

Here we have Thathcherite ethics in microcosm. Minor physical harm between consenting adults having sex: unacceptable. Mass killing of innocent civilians: acceptable.

Dominant atttidues to sex and violence in the UK continue to stink with hypocrisy. The establishment are dragging their feet on investigating alleged Westminster-centred child abuse while approving of “anti-pornography” laws that demonise sexual acts between consenting adults that tend to be enjoyed most by women and LGBT people.

A Christian protesting against anti-porn laws

In recent years, Britain has slowly begun to wake up to the reality of sexual abuse. The Jimmy Saville scandal triggered shocking revelations about abuse carried out by respected entertainers in the 1970s and 80s. Child abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church have been followed by increased reports of similar outrages in the Church of England. Only this week, it was revealed that the Scout Association had paid out thousands to settle legal cases brought by survivors of sexual abuse.

There is a very long way to go. Research by children’s rights charities suggests that child abuse is still rife. The conviction rate for rape is dreadfully low. A string of opinion polls suggests that significant percentages of people believe rape is less serious if the victim is drunk or has previously consented to sex and changed her mind.

Challenging and reducing sexual abuse should be an aim that unites people of many different political, religious and non-religious persuasions. Unfortunately, some seem to be more keen on restricting unusual sexual behaviour between consenting adults – including consenting adults in loving, faithful relationships.

The latest “anti-pornography” laws will do nothing to reduce sexual abuse. On the contrary, they will perpetuate inaccurate ideas about abuse while restricting civil liberties and demonising sexual minorities.

That is why I will join the protest against them outside Parliament at noon today (#pornprotest). I am sure I will not be the only Christian there.

I am not naïve about pornography. I have no doubt that the majoirty of pornography is exploitative, abusive and misogynistic. It contributes to the commercialisation of sexuality, which is also seen in the pressure to spend vast sums of money on weddings and the way the advertising industry promotes narrow types of romantic relationships for the sake of profit (though many who criticise pornography overlook these more respectable forms of commercialised sexuality).

Whether you regard pornography as inherently unethical depends to some extent on how you define “pornography”. Some years ago, like many other Christians, I simply dismissed anything described as “pornography” as immoral. I do so no longer. This is not because I’ve adopted some ultra-liberal approach to sexual ethics (something which I’m occasionally accused of), but because I see the hypocrisy behind mainstream attitudes to sexuality.

Conservative Christians sometimes accuse me of simply accepting the dominant values of British society. On the contrary, I oppose the hypocrisy of conventional sexual morality – which idolises narrow ideas of romance and condemns those that don’t fit into them, which tells people that love is what matters but pressurises them to spend thousands of pounds on weddings, which screams outrage at child abusers on street corners but ignores the abuse that takes place within apparently respectable homes. And which condemns sexual activities and relationship structures that look a bit odd – such as kink and polyamory – even when they involve love, honesty and meaningful consent.

The new anti-porn laws will restrict “kinky” porn in particular. Producing spanking, caning and face-sitting images, for example, is likely to be illegal – even if the producers of the image are the people participating in the sexual act it depicts. By targeting kink, the law is unlikely to damage big corporate pornographers. It will instead restrict “home-made” and specialist small-business porn, which is, of course, less likely to be exploitative in the first place (although I accept that some of it is). Any meaningful government attempt to prevent physical harm caused by such activities would surely involve consultation with people who practise kink, who tend to know most about the health and safety issues involved. This certainly does not seem to have happened in this case.

There are at least four good reasons for opposing the anti-pornography legislation.

Firstly, there is the importance of free expression. I am not absolutist about free speech. For example, I do not think people should be allowed to stand in the street and promote violence. But free speech should be restricted only when there is a very strong case that doing so will reduce or prevent violence or other forms of abuse. No such case can be made in regard to this legislation. Any unjustified restriction of free expression is an attack on the civil liberties of us all, regardless of our sexuality or beliefs.

Secondly, the proposed laws tend towards sexism and homophobia. Most of the activities they will restrict are more common amongst women and within same-sex relationships. Many of them are related to female domination (which can be practised in a playful way between people who nonetheless regard each other as equals).

Thirdly, the laws demonise sexual minorities by singling out certain sexual practices, even though taking place between consenting adults. Of course, some forms of kink can be abusive. Kink, at times, can be used as an excuse for abuse. Marriage can also be used as an excuse for abuse. It is dangerous and wrong to encourage the idea that conventional sexual relationships are all fine and unusual ones are immoral. Sexual abuse can be found within the most outwardly respectable marriages – as can love, mutuality and compassion. It is the values present in relationships that make them moral or immoral, not how they look on the outside. I am, of course, talking about relationships between consenting and honest adults. There is nothing healthy or ethical about sexual activity that is without consent, that involves children or is deceitful.

Fourthly, these laws may make it harder, not easier, to challenge sexual abuse. They confuse abuse with oddness, criminalising sexual activity because it is unconventional rather than because it causes harm. I am against these laws precisely because I want to tackle sexual abuse. To do so, society must place a much higher value on meaningful consent. Let’s celebrate healthy sexual expression between compassionate, consenting adults while striving to eliminate the vicious, outrageous abuse that still pervades the sexually hypocritical society in which we live.

Wallace Benn and Stephen Green – the confusion continues

The saga of Wallace Benn and the pro-rape booklet goes on and on. Having first withdrawn his endorsement of the booklet, then apologised, he has now offered what appears to be an attempt at an explanation.

Wallace Benn, the Suffragen Bishop of Lewes, recommended a booklet called Britain in Sin, written by Stephen Green of Christian Voice. The booklet supports the legalisation of rape within marriage and the criminalisation of same-sex relationships. It opposes the welfare state, equal pay for men and women, power-sharing in Northern Ireland and the UK’s membership of the United Nations.

On Tuesday, I was one of several bloggers who drew attention to the bishop’s endorsement, which was quoted on Green’s website. The next day, the Diocese of Chichester (which Benn works for) sent me a statement from Wallace Benn disassociating himself from the booklet. I blogged again, pleased that Benn had withdrawn his endorsement but saddened that he had not apologised. The next morning, his press officer sent me another statement, containing an apology.

I thought that might be the end of the matter, although I was frustrated that Benn had offered no explanation of how he came to endorse the booklet in the first place.

But yesterday I received an email from an Anglican living in the Diocese of Chichester. He had written to John Hind, the Bishop of Chichester (Wallace Benn’s boss), to express his concern over Benn’s comments. He has now received an email from Wallace Benn in response. While my correspondent asks not to be named, he has kindly given me permission to quote the email.

In this email, Wallace Benn declared:

My comment on the first publication of Britain in Sin in 1997 was ‘This makes interesting and disturbing reading. We desperately need to understand, as a nation, that our Creator knows what is best for us, and to return to His way as the best way to live’. It was never my intention to endorse particular contentions in the book, but to express concern about the need of our nation to follow the way of our Creator God. If my comment has given a different impression to some, it is regrettable, and I am deeply sorry.

I was not aware that my name was still being used in any way in connection with the book and I have asked for any reference to it to be removed from the Christian Voice website. I am sure you are also aware of the Statement I have made disassociating myself from the book.”

It appears that he gave his endorsement when Green’s booklet was first published, in 1997. This was also the year in which Benn became a bishop. It’s not clear whether the endorsement came before or after his appointment. This date was before Green’s methods became an embarrassment to so many other conservative evangelicals, who began to distance themselves from him. But the contents of the booklet remain the same.

Nonetheless, Wallace Benn’s latest comment raises more questions than it answers. He says that it was never his intention “to endorse particular contentions in the book”. Of course, it is possible to endorse a book’s general approach without agreeing with every point that it makes. It is, however, difficult to read any part of Green’s booklet without encountering bigotry very, very quickly.

It may be that Wallace Benn merely wanted to go along with the general approach of those who argue that Britain must “return” to being a “Christian country”. This is popular with certain conservative groups who would nonetheless oppose Green’s positions on rape, the welfare state and so on. Ironically, Green’s booklet is a reminder that the “Christian country” to which they would return was a place in which men could easily beat and rape their wives.

The Anglican who sent me the email he received from Wallace Benn has pointed out that he originally raised the issue with John Hind, the Bishop of Chichester. John Hind merely forwarded on his email to Wallace Benn, without expressing any comment himself. I find it worrying that Hind did not feel the need to comment further, at least to express approval of Benn’s disassociation of himself from the booklet.

Again, let me emphasise that I do not wish to encourage personal hostility to Wallace Benn or John Hind. We have all sinned and God offers us forgiveness. Rather, I want to draw attention to the surprisingly casual attitude towards misogyny and homophobia that appears to be displayed in parts of the Church of England.

Sex and the Spirit – a chance to explore major issues

Places are still available on an upcoming weekend course exploring sexuality and spirituality. The course, Sex and the Spirit, will take place in Birmingham from 10th-12th February.

I will be co-tutoring on the course, which is open to people of all views and sexualities who are willing to learn from each other. I know I’ll be learning lots too!

Amongst other things we will be exploring sexuality’s relationship with God, gender, power, worship, identity, marriage and ethics.

While the course takes place at the Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre, it is not exclusively Quaker and we will not be assuming that participants have a Quaker background or Quaker beliefs. We will draw on Quaker theology as well as other Christian traditions and ideas from elsewhere. The experiences and views of participants will be a major source of learning and inspiration.

Discounts: If you’re 30 or under, you can go half-price by booking along with someone else who is also 30 or under. Even if there are a whole group of you of that age booking together, you can all pay half-price.

Woodbrooke is a really friendly place of spiritual community, with excellent accommodation, beautiful grounds and some of the best food I’ve ever eaten.

More information is available here.

If you have any questions, please feel free to give me a shout at

Wallace Benn withdraws endorsement of pro-rape booklet

Wallace Benn, the Church of England’s Bishop of Lewes, has today withdrawn his endorsement of a booklet by the fundamentalist campaigner Stephen Green. He issued a statement after several bloggers drew attention to his endorsement yesterday.

The booklet, Britain in Sin, advocates the legalisation of rape within marriage and the criminalisation of sexual relations between people of the same sex.

As I pointed out in my blog yesterday, Green’s revamped website includes an endorsement from Benn, in which the bishop says, “This makes interesting and disturbing reading”. The booklet opposes the welfare state, a legal right for equal pay for men and women, the UK’s membership of the United Nations and power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

Today, I received a message from Wallace Benn’s office in which he made the following statement:

Having now read the contents of this booklet in full I want to completely and absolutely dissociate myself from it.”

Benn’s statement implies that he endorsed the booklet without reading it all. It remains unclear which part of it he thought worthy of endorsement, but I’m still willing to give him credit for the rapid withdrawal of his remarks. I have asked his communications officer if he has asked Stephen Green to remove the endorsement from his website.

However, I find it sad that the bishop’s statement does not include any expression of apology, or of regret for any upset or offence he may have caused.

CofE bishop endorses booklet that promotes marital rape

A Church of England bishop has recommended a booklet that supports the legalisation of rape within marriage and the criminalisation of same-sex relationships.

The booklet, by Stephen Green of Christian Voice, is called Britain in Sin. While it was written a few years back, Green’s revamped website now includes an endorsement of it by Wallace Benn, the Suffragen Bishop of Lewes.

It is sad but not surprising that Green’s band of fundamentalists should support policies of this sort. What is more alarming is that Benn should endorse them.

Britain in Sin argues that the UK has declined spiritually, morally and socially due to the abandonment of Christianity since the mid-twentieth century. In the booklet,Green lists government decisions which he regards as contrary to the Ten Commandments, beginning with the UK’s membership of the United Nations in 1945.

The booklet opposes a legal right to equal pay for men and women, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and power-sharing in Northern Ireland. Green supports the death penalty and advocates an extremely right-wing approach to economics, with heavy cuts to the welfare state and the abolition of all inheritance tax. It implies that adultery should be a criminal offence.

A section of the Christian Voice website is devoted to Britain in Sin. It includes the following quote from Wallace Benn:

This makes interesting and disturbing reading. We desperately need to understand, as a nation, that our Creator knows what is best for us, and to return to His way as the best way to live.”

There are also endorsements from Paul C. Weaver, the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God (who calls it “a helpful and challenging resource”) and Barry Ashbourne, a hereditary peer, former army officer and stockbroker (“the list of unrighteous laws passed during the last fifty years is particularly helpful”).

They are joined by John Graham, chair of Protestants Today (“this well-produced and scholarly publication”) and Ray Borlase of Intercessors for Britain (“a valuable resource”).

It is of course possible to endorse a book without agreeing with every point made in it. But this booklet’s overall approach of vicious misogyny is morally repugnant. Its views on the legality of marital rape, same-sex relationships and unequal pay are entirely consistent with its other points, even if the latter seem slightly less extreme. Furthermore, none of those endorsing it appear to have gone out of their way to specify the points with which they agree or disagree.

Benn is a prominent voice among conservative evangelicals and on some issues may well be more conservative than any other Church of England bishop. It is no surprise that he argues that same-sex relationships are unethical. I fully respect his right to make this argument, however strongly I disagree with it. But it is one thing to believe that something is unethical, quite another to argue that it should be illegal. I am sometimes accused of being unduly critical of Church of England bishops. But even I thought that we were past the point at which a bishop might defend the “right” of a man to force himself on his wife.

To be fair to Wallace Benn, it is possible that he never made this comment and that Stephen Green is misleading us. In which case, Benn should say so and demand that Green remove the comment from his website instantly. To be charitable to Benn, it is possible that he did not read the booklet before endorsing it, or that he made the comment some time ago and has now changed his mind. If this is the case, Benn needs to publicly and clearly withdraw his endorsement.

At the very least, we are entitled to clear statements from Wallace Benn about his views on rape law, rape within marriage, equal pay legislation, the legality of same-sex relationships and the welfare state. Benn risks losing all claim to be taken seriously, particularly on questions of gender and sexual ethics, if he does not disassociate himself from this booklet very quickly.