Offers of salvation on television
Religious broadcasts prohibited in Great Britain
Churches hope for a new law
January 29, 2001
Frankfurter Rundschau 2001
by Holger Ehling (London)
There are 100 religions in England, but only one sauce, wrote a traveling Italian man about the island in the 18th century. And although the quality of the food in the kingdom has significantly improved since then, that assessment of religious splinter groups, at least, is still correct today. On British television, however, none of this is noticeable: religious broadcasts are prohibited. With few exceptions, such as the Sunday Songs of Praise on BBC television, which derives from a joint effort by the state and the Anglican Church. Otherwise, only local radio stations may broadcast religious messages.
The adherents of the many evangelical sects in Great Britain especially have been upset over the ban for years. Some because they think souls can be saved in the kingdom only by distributing their message of salvation. Others because they feel their need to recruit is being considerably oppressed: Jesus is Big Business, as the American model has shown. Major Pentecostal Churches like the Brazilian Universal Church of the Kingdom of God have been trying to get a permit to do TV business for a long time. Bringers of salvation and business deals alike now have hopes for a new media law - mainly because a government white paper on the media industry addresses relaxing the regulations.
Up to this point, as can be gleaned from the report, restrictive distribution of TV licenses could be justified by technical circumstances. In the era of digital broadcasting, though, in which thousands of programs can be transmitted and received with no problem, that argument becomes outdated. Nevertheless, the text continued, the theme was still explosive: "Religious programs are particularly suited to stoke unease in people who have other opinions." Besides that, it says, the brave souls in need of security are particularly susceptible to doubtful messages of salvation.
Critics of liberalization are also concerned about that: Ian Howarth of the Cult Information Network pointed out that many sects depend on gross interference into the personal rights of their adherents. For that reason, in his opinion, only the major religions should be permitted to operate television stations. Revival churches, which are especially favored by immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean, would not be included, and neither would pseudo-religions of the Scientology kind.
That argument also has its share of problems. It would for the media into the role of gatekeeper for religions - a socio-political mine field, mainly because of the background of the European human rights act, which has a broad interpretation of religious freedom and the right to expressing an opinion. Therefore it is not anticipated that the British government will take such a route. Television permits for shadowy groups appear inevitable, but still arouse an unpleasant feeling.
Scientologists copy design from a popular web site
Narconon site recruits with program for "drug rehabilitation"
January 24, 2001
London - Narconon, an organization which, according to experts, Scientology is behind, is said to have copied the complete design of a popular British web site. The operators of Urban75.com, which are involved in Rave, Parties, Sports and Drug Information, have indicated in a letter to Internet provider Earthlink that Narconon copied the design of a previous version of the page, including lay-out, colors, symbols, even down to the word selection. By doing that it looks like Urban75 is associated with Scientology, which is not the case.
The Narconon web site advertises a program for drug rehabilitation which is based on the "teachings" of sect founder L. Ron Hubbard. Web surfers are encouraged there to provide Narconon with the details of people they know at risk to drugs. In past years, independent drug experts have repeatedly warned the public about the program.