A senior UK Government advisor has compared evangelical Christians to “totalitarian Muslims”.
In an article in the Daily Telegraph, Alan Judd, an advisor to the Secretary of State for Education, was commenting on recent free school applications by Evangelical Christians.
Mr Judd wrote: “To ban believers from setting up free schools would be to exclude a large number of able, well-meaning and experienced people who can do much to raise levels generally.
“The trouble is, as always, when it’s taken to extremes, whether it’s evangelical Christians, totalitarian Muslims or segregationist Jews.
“Such applications need careful vetting, not because there shouldn’t be far-out religious and ideological beliefs, but because the taxpayer shouldn’t pay to propagate them – and because children should be able to participate in a wider society without having their horizons narrowed by fundamentalism.”
His remarks were rejected by the Evangelical Alliance, which said the comments demonstrated a “woeful lack of religious understanding at the heart of government”.
Steve Clifford, General Director of the Evangelical Alliance, said: “It is wrong and worrying that a senior government advisor brands evangelical Christians as extremist.
“There are approximately 2 million evangelical Christians in the UK, the fastest growing part of the church worldwide. They take their faith seriously, but that does not make them extremist.”
Commenting on the news, the ConservativeHome blog highlighted that evangelical Christians were also often misrepresented by the media and portrayed as horrendous bigots or murdering lunatics.
In 2004 the Home Secretary at the time, David Blunkett, drew criticism when he equated evangelical Christians with Islamic terrorists.
Mr Blunkett was controversially proposing to create a new criminal offence of inciting religious hatred.
He argued society needed protection from “…those who would take our lives because they reject our faith, and it applies equally from far right evangelical Christians, to extremists in the Islamic faith.”
Meanwhile, a report by the BBC has acknowledged that the use of the term “religious hogwash” to introduce the Biblical book of Genesis by Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman was “offensive”
Mr Paxman also referred to those who hold to a literal belief in the Old Testament as “stupid people”.
Mr Paxman made the comments during an interview with atheist Professor Richard Dawkins last September.
The Committee maintains that Mr Paxman’s use of the terms “religious hogwash” and “stupid people” was not intended to deliberately cause offence.
But it acknowledges “that they were offensive to some of the audience and that there was no clear editorial purpose for their use in the context of this Newsnight item”.
The Trust’s report added: “The committee therefore concluded that the item breached the editorial guidelines on harm and offence. It added that it regretted the offence caused to some viewers by the use of the terms ‘religious hogwash’ and ‘stupid people’ on this occasion.”
However, the Trust rejected suggestions that the show had breached guidelines on impartiality.
Mr Paxman’s comments prompted one viewer to complain that the piece was offensive and biased.
The complaint was initially rejected prompting the viewer to write to the Corporation’s Editorial Complaints Unit which again ruled against it.
But following an appeal the complaint was partly upheld by the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee.
A BBC spokeswoman said: “Newsnight notes the trust’s finding that viewers may have found some of the comments offensive, but also welcomes the finding that the piece achieved due impartiality.”