Thursday, December 6, 2012

Are Christian Concern really Concerned Christians?

I don't normally pay much attention to Christian Concern (full title Christian Concern for our Nation). Their repeated theological ambulance chasing just doesn't strike me as the sort of thing Jesus would do, but I do follow them on Twitter and I noticed that their recent response to a consultation by the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority  on Medical Frontiers contains no mentions of God, the Bible or any issues of faith or theology. You can download a copy of their full response from this page on the Christian Concern web site (although to be fair neither does the Church of Scotland's reponse).

I then had a look at Christian Concern's campaigns and there was nothing specifically Christian in very much of it. I suppose I was hoping for some theological reflection on the great ethical issues of our day, but I was disappointed. Their opinions are not any different from those of the average Daily mail reading UKIP voter.

Their Choose Life campaign web site doesn't seem to have anything specifically Christian on it. Their other campaigns seem to be heavily weighted towards issues of human sexuality.

Their Not Ashamed campaign seems to equate getting into trouble for being insensitive at work with suffering and persecution. maybe they would like to move to Pakistan, Iran or even Israel - where Christians really do suffer from repression and persecution.

Given that "Christian" Concern does very little theological reflection and seems to operate more as a business  I thought it would be interesting to look into their finances and see where the money comes from.

Faith Truth and Hope
Christian Concern grew out of the Lawyer’s Christian Fellowship which is a registered charity and can't get involved in politics. Christian Concern is not a charity, but it IS a limited company: CCFON Ltd. As a limited company rather than a charity it is very difficult to find out where its funding comes from.

Interestingly Christian Concern do solicit charitable donations through a separate charity called Faith, Truth and Hope (Registered charity 1121897). According to the Charities Commission web site Faith Truth and Hope had an income of £195,499 during 2010/11 and spent £192,484 of that.

The trustees are listed as:

  • Rob Andrews 
  • Andrea Rose Minichiello Williams (also a director of their limited company CCFON Ltd)
  • David John Clark (also a director of their limited company CCFON Ltd)

According to their Annual Report and Accounts to 30th June 2011 Faith Truth and Hope sponsored policy consultations on these issues:

  • Civil Partnerships in Religious Premises
  • Public Sector Equality Duty
  • Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act
  • Marital Property Agreements
  • European Commission on Human Rights Reform 

Their income was made up of:
  • £177,100 of voluntary income (donations)
  • £18,399 of tax reclaim from the government under gift aid (so they are not averse to taking a bit of Government cash when its offered)

£186,596 of this was paid to CCFON Ltd for "related work carried out on its behalf".

The limited company had a turnover of £711,438 in the year to 30th June 2011.

You can view download a copy of the company's 2011 accounts here.

If I am reading these correctly (and I might not be - so be warned) two of the directors of CCFON Ltd who are also trustees of Faith Truth and Hope are receiving salaries of £31,951 and £45,451 respectively.

Click on image to see a larger version

There are also payments being made to the Christian Legal Centre which shares the same two directors.

I don't know where the other £500,000 plus comes from. They must have big donors, but who?

Update 9th December 2012

According to this article Christian Concern has joined forces with the Alliance Defence Fund to run the Wilberforce Academy.

The following article from the Guardian sheds some light on the issues:

Questions have been asked about from where the centre – and its sister organisation, Christian Concern For Our Nation – obtain funding. Accounts show both organisations have little in the way of income.
Williams said all of the centre's work was done on a pro bono basis by committed Christian lawyers and that what money it had came in small donations from more than 30,000 people who received its regular email updates. "We never ask clients for money," she said. "Very often they fear losing their case and having to pay the costs of the other side. Part of our ministry is to ensure they are not burdened with that."
Close observers of the centre believe it is adopting the tactics of wealthy US evangelical groups, notably the powerful Alliance Defence Fund, which, through its Blackstone Legal Fellowship, trains an army of Christian lawyers to defend religious freedom "through strategy, training, funding and direct litigation".
The ADF, which according to filings had an income of almost $40m last year, is funded by prominent benefactors including Erik Prince, founder of the Blackwater private security giant, the Covenant Foundation, which is financed by a leading member of the Texas Christian right, James Leininger, and the Bolthouse Foundation, a charity that rejects evolution, insisting "man was created by a direct act of God in His image, not from previously existing creatures".
The ADF has joined forces with the Christian Legal Centre and Christian Concern For Our Nation to launch the Wilberforce Academy in the UK, which aims to train delegates "for servant-hearted, Christ-centred leadership in public life" having equipped them "with a robust biblical framework that guides their thinking, prayers and activity in addressing the issues facing our society". Several of its delegates have already gone on to work for the legal centre and Christian Concern.
"The ADF are a fantastic organisation," Williams said. "We have been inspired by their work and that of the Blackstone programme, which seeks to raise a new generation of lawyers to defend Christianity in the public sphere. They've got some of the best attorneys in this field and we have the great privilege of hosting them, but they don't pay anything towards the academy."
Those who attend the academy programme, held at an Oxford college each year, say it increases their enthusiasm for using the law to defend the Bible. A typical comment on its website reads: "For the past four years I have sensed God calling me to the legal profession and during the Wilberforce Academy I was humbled to realise that, although we may feel like David facing Goliath, given the right weapons we may step boldly up to the task ahead."

Updated 15th January 2013
Evidence of further links between the Alliance Defence Fund (now renamed Alliance Defending Freedom) and CCFON from this page on the ADF web site:

Alliance Defending Freedom provided funding for the case of Nadia Eweida in the domestic courts. In 2011, Alliance Defending Freedom and former Slovakian Prime Minister and key figure in the Velvet Revolution Jan Carnogursky intervened in defense of the four Christians. Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Paul Coleman was present at the counsel’s table during the September 2012 European Court of Human Rights hearings alongside Barrister Paul Diamond. Diamond is lead counsel in the Chaplin and McFarlane cases and one of nearly 2,200 allied attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom.