Tuesday, 3 May 2011

How is the Christian Legal Centre funded?

Updated

Last Sunday’s Observer newspaper carried an article titled Christian Legal Centre fights more than 50 religious discrimination cases by Jamie Doward and Seb Wheeler which discusses how this organisation is funded:

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.

Update Wednesday

Joshua Rozenberg has written for the Guardian website that Belief is not always a good thing in an advocate.

Should advocates believe in the causes they argue in court? Generally speaking, it’s a bad idea.

Barristers who own up to their profession at dinner parties are often asked how they can defend someone who is guilty of a crime. The stock answer is that it’s not the lawyer’s job to decide whether a defendant is guilty: that’s a matter for the court.

Of course, if your client tells you he committed the crime and instructs you to tell the court he didn’t, you must withdraw from the case: a lawyer must never mislead the court. But the advocate’s job is to put forward his client’s case as effectively as possible, however implausible it may seem. That’s well understood by the court; indeed it’s welcomed. What judges don’t like are advocates who are so committed to a case that they lose their objectivity.

These thoughts are prompted by an Observer report that the Christian Legal Centre has some 50 claims of religious discrimination on its books. Many of those that come to court are likely to be argued by Paul Diamond, the centre’s standing counsel.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 3 May 2011 at 9:29am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: equality legislation
Comments

If the experience of the US is any indication, this does not bode well for continued civility and reason in British politics for the future.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 3 May 2011 at 3:19pm BST

Some wonderful Christian initiatives. You 've got to hand it to the Evangelicals, they get stuff done.


Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Tuesday, 3 May 2011 at 4:21pm BST

Your post concludes "sarcasm/Off" I take it, Laurence?

Any provenance that includes the phrase "funded by prominent benefactors including Erik Prince, founder of the Blackwater private security giant" says that *someone* is being served---but it's not the Prince of Peace.

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 3 May 2011 at 6:56pm BST

This confirms clues which some of us uncovered back in 1998 when the Christian Institute and their legal advisor Paul Diamond launched their unsuccesful campaign for religious exemptions from the Human Rights Act. They have steadily maintained their stance by attacking successive pieces of equality legislation on similar grounds. It might we worth investigating the likes of the Thomas More Legal Centre run by Neil Addison and Richard Kornicki, inspired by an American Catholic legal center with a similar name.

Posted by: martin on Tuesday, 3 May 2011 at 7:23pm BST

Laurence, they get stuff done all right.
Like having pharmacist's (chemist's, I believe in England) assistants legally refusing to dispense properly and legally prescribed birth control pills or devices to women, because it's the Christian thing to do to use your position to impose your particular Christian doctrine on your female neighbor.
Or, scaring the populace into believing that if the State starts granting civil marriages to same-sex couples, the police and the FBI will smash down the doors of churches that don't grant religious same-sex marriages, because it's the Christian thing to do to malign, impugn, and lie about your GLBT neighbor.
I don't recall any teaching of Jesus about having the State not discriminate against you, but go ahead and use the State to discriminate against others.
God help England!

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Tuesday, 3 May 2011 at 7:41pm BST

I have been tracking their cases for my current research. Going by this + the Observer story they have achieved 0 wins, 1 settlement (the palm cross in the van case), and many, many defeats, with the courts getting more and more exasperated as they hear for the second, third, nth... timearguments that have alrady been rejected in higher courts.

Cui bono? Not the Christian Legal Centre's clients'.

Posted by: iain mclean on Tuesday, 3 May 2011 at 7:46pm BST

Just further evidence of how right-wing fundamentalist 'christian' organisations manage to further their interests - mostly in foreign countries, from the U.S.A. The GAFCON Movement has been the beneficiary of such largesse in the past and will no doubt continue its campaign through the 'generosity' of these fund-managers in the U.S.

Blessed Francis of Assisi called money 'ordure', and it is the very character of this smelly substance that promotes the current opposition to evolution in the Church's openness to the world.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 3 May 2011 at 11:55pm BST

Rather ironic that you feel money prevents "openness to the world". Our society is obsessed with money. Blessed Francis of Assisi would have harsh things to say about a world where the majority live in abject poverty. Rather than pointing the finger at others, perhaps those of us who live comfortable, liberal lives should recognise out own complicity in this.

Posted by: William on Thursday, 5 May 2011 at 7:39am BST

"Rather than pointing the finger at others, perhaps those of us who live comfortable, liberal lives should recognise out own complicity in this."

Who's pointing now?

What makes you think liberal = comfortable life? Are you simply repeating the old trope that all liberals are rich and idle?

Do, please, let us know how poor we have to be before we can issue any opinion on the world.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Thursday, 5 May 2011 at 9:53am BST
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