The lone Christian voice who has smoked the Jerry Springer show out of Broadway

Who is Stephen Green? Who does he represent? And how on God's earth did he close a multi-million-pound Broadway show from Camarthen?
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The Independent Culture

He is a married man, a father of four and a committed Christian. Well-groomed and with impeccable manners, Stephen Green would not look out of place at any Sunday church service in Britain.

He is a married man, a father of four and a committed Christian. Well-groomed and with impeccable manners, Stephen Green would not look out of place at any Sunday church service in Britain.

But he is no ordinary religious figure. Mr Green has emerged as a key figure behind the campaign that led to the cancellation of a multi-million-pound production of Jerry Springer - The Opera which was due to transfer to Broadway in the coming months. There is disbelief and fury in the Springer camp that the fringe views of the 53-year-old Mr Green have led to people's livelihoods being put at risk. Last week the organisation he heads, Christian Voice, was described in Parliament as "a bunch of fundamentalist thugs" after it convinced the cancer charity Maggie's Centres to turn down a donation from a gala performance of the Springer show, claiming it was "tainted money".

The wider Christian community says his group's views are unrepresentative of mainstream faith and the arts community is worried that he is curtailing free speech.

Jon Thoday, the producer of the stage show, said: "It is such a small group of people - why are people taking notice of them? Jerry Springer - The Opera has done absolutely no harm and given a lot of enjoyment to people who have seen it. I'm slightly distraught about all this."

Labour MP Chris Bryant, a former Church of England vicar, said: "Up until now I think we've been quite lucky in Britain in not having a narrow-minded Christian right like America. It has a tendency to close down debate and promote bigotry and I don't think we want anything like that infecting British cultural and political life."

Mr Green, who is based near Carmarthen, Wales, has led a campaign against the show, which he considers blasphemous, via his website, coordinating like-minded people and promoting his anti-gay and anti-abortion views.

He gained notoriety by circulating home addresses and phone numbers for senior BBC staff last month in response to the corporation's decision to screen Springer, which led to a series of threatening calls to BBC figures warning of "bloodshed" if the programme went ahead.

He launched Christian Voice in 1994 and is the organisation's national director. "I seemed to have certain gifts I was pleased to use," he said. "I'm just an ordinary citizen, not a vicar, and for the last year and a half the Lord has enabled me to go full-time." He has used his website to rail against such diverse subjects as the celebration of the Hindu festival Diwali in schools, abortion and against homosexuality in the police force, particularly targeting the Gay Police Association (GPA).

But Inspector Paul Cahill, the chairman of the GPA, said: "He purports to represent a substantial group of Christians, but they are a marginalised, extremist fringe group. I think this is really a one-man band with a bunch of hangers-on. The medium of contact is through the internet and it is really a bedroom-run operation. They don't deserve the attention."

Mainstream Christians have been appalled at their tactics. The Rev Sheila Maxey, moderator of the general assembly of the United Reformed Church, said: "They are using pressure and manipulation. I am very surprised at the way they have gone about this. It's not the way we go about things in this country. The way Christians should be sorting out their differences is trying to talk to each other rather than demonising."

Following the cancellation of the transfer to Broadway, the production's planned UK tour in the autumn is also under threat.

One theatre, the Derby Playhouse, has pulled out and another is considering doing so. "We also have a backer that is now wavering," said Mr Thoday. "We're really determined to keep the tour on and it's inconceivable that it won't happen in some form in the States eventually.

"This has had fantastic reviews and the audience think it's a really funny and wonderful show. Now anyone who hasn't seen it thinks that it is all swearing and blasphemy, but it is a brilliant piece of theatre."

"I think it's really important that we keep the show going," he added. "It would be terrible if they succeed on this occasion. It is a very bad thing for freedom of speech."

Additional reporting by Lee Glendinning

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