Revealed: how Christian activists deprived cancer charity of cash

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The Independent Online

A leading cancer charity has taken the extraordinary decision to turn down a gift of up to £10,000 after coming under pressure from militant Christian opponents of Jerry Springer - The Opera, who told them it was not in their interest to accept "tainted" money from a charity performance.

A leading cancer charity has taken the extraordinary decision to turn down a gift of up to £10,000 after coming under pressure from militant Christian opponents of Jerry Springer - The Opera, who told them it was not in their interest to accept "tainted" money from a charity performance.

Maggie's Centres, based in Scotland, was to have used the money to help establish a nationwide network of units for cancer sufferers and their families. But, a phone call from the Christian Voice group led the charity to fear a religious boycott of its fundraising activities if it accepted the cash.

It is the latest move in a continuing campaign against the musical, which has been targeted by campaigners who claim the show is blasphemous. There were days of protest outside the BBC when it was screened last month. Christian Voice gained notoriety after it circulated home addresses and telephone numbers of senior BBC figures. Some of those on the list received threatening calls warning of "bloodshed".

Christian Voice has continued to target the Springer production, mounting protests outside the Cambridge Theatre in London until the show finally closed last night after 609 performances. The show, which opened at the National Theatre to rave reviews and won a "best musical" Olivier award, will go on to a national tour in the autumn. But it looks set to be dogged by a continuing protest.

Members of the opera team are understood to be furious at the development. One source connected with the production said:

"It seems to be rather unchristian to deny a donation to a very worthy and deserving charity. I thought it was a cornerstone of their faith to help the suffering."

Jerry Springer - The Opera is a parody of the famous talkshow host's trashy TV series and features Jesus wearing a nappy and admitting to being "a bit gay". BBC governors have still to make a decision on whether the complaints from viewers over the screening of the show were justified. Ironically, since the protests over the screening began, ticket sales have gone up.

The decision to reject the cash came after the leader of Christian Voice told the charity it should not upset religious followers. Stephen Green, the national director of Christian Voice, confirmed he had contacted the charity and informed organisers they might benefit more financially if they refused the donation.

He said: "We did have a chat with the people at Maggie's but the decision to pull out was theirs alone. All I did was explain that if they carried on they would cause offence to Christians, who are known for being generous, and they would probably do far better to forgo the few thousand pounds they would get out of the performance.

"It is offensive and you do have very, very many people with terminal cancer who draw comfort from their Christian faith - to know that the money was coming from a production like this just wouldn't be right. I applaud the charity for the way they have recognised this with sensitivity and feeling. By refusing to accept this tainted money, Maggie's Centres have set an example of ethical behaviour which is rare in Britain today."

Among the patrons of the charity is the broadcaster Jon Snow who did not wish to be drawn on the controversy. "I think it is something that they [the charity] have to decide," he said.

Representatives of the charity would not comment on the approaches made by the Christian group, nor whether they had been aware of the nature of the show - which had made headlines for several days last month - when the performance had been agreed.

However, in a statement it said: "As a result of contact from an organisation called Christian Voice, Maggie's, the cancer care charity, has taken the decision not to accept the proceeds from a special performance of Jerry Springer - The Opera."

However the Rev Richard Thomas, communications director for the diocese of Oxford, said there was an ethical argument that one of the best ways to redeem "dirty" money was to put it to a good cause.

"You have to look at the use of money, and balance that against the way it is raised and this would seem to be an ideal use of money for a very worthwhile cause regardless of the questions about how it has been raised," he said.

A spokesman for the producers of Jerry Springer - The Opera said: "The performance did take place on Friday and a donation will be made to a worthy cause."

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