BBC is accused of `insult to God'

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The Independent Online
THE BBC was yesterday accused by church leaders of taking the name of God in vain and offending Christians.

A petition with 1,300 signatures was started by church members in the Highlands and the cause has since been taken up by other presbyteries.

The Church of Scotland accuses the BBC of double standards. It claims that while broadcasts often use the words "God", "Christ" and "Jesus" as expletives, names sacred to non-Christian religions are spared the same treatment.

The Rev Mel Griffiths of Helmsdale, one of the organisers of the petition in Sutherland, said: "The concern about this is seems to be fairly widespread, there is a large number of folk not really happy about what's going on.

"In the Sutherland area it is something like 1,300 signatories in a fairly sparsely populated area, so I would suggest that is a fairly high proportion of concern."

Clerk to the Melrose and Peebles presbytery, the Rev Jack Brown, said his congregation has also joined the protest. He said: "I think it was felt that if this had happened to minority religions in the country there would have been a great fuss about it, but we feel it is just as offensive to our faith.

"I suppose many folk in the general public just accept this without thinking about it, but it causes a lot of offence and we believe that it is wrong that the name of `Christ' is being misused in this way."

The Sutherland petition states: "We note that none of the names sacred to other religions are used as expletives or as curses.

"Nor, we would suggest, would programme producers contemplate doing so for fear of incurring the wrath of members of whichever religion they blasphemed.

"Therefore, in the name of religious tolerance and the equitable treatment enshrined in the BBC charter, we demand the same high respect for the God whose name is held dear to millions of Christians."

John Bayer, director of the National Viewers and Listeners' Association, the watchdog set up by Mary Whitehouse, said: "I very much welcome the Church of Scotland's criticism of the BBC. I am sure it must extend to independent television as well."

A BBC spokesman said: "The BBC is very sensitive about the use of language in its programmes and we pay close attention to it.

"In this particular case we are conscious of the offence that could be caused."

He added that producers were issued with guidelines making them aware that the use of "God" or "Jesus Christ" in the context of a programme could cause distress, but added: "Sometimes in programmes it is necessary to reflect life as it is and not as we would like it to be. In a gritty drama about ordinary life it is sometimes necessary to use gritty language.

"The BBC had a policy of warning viewers and listeners at the start of a programmes containing bad language, giving them the opportunity to switch off.

"We talk to churches and other bodies all the time about programme making and we would be happy to meet with the church at any time if they had particular concerns in this area."

t The BBC yesterday announced the appointment of two new national governors. Sir Robert Smith has been appointed governor for Scotland and chairman of the broadcasting council for Scotland. He is the chief executive of Morgan Grenfell Asset Management.Northern Ireland's new governor and broadcasting council chairman is Professor Fabian Monds.