Religious Power: Risk and Regulation – A Debate on Clergy Abuse

Panel debate on abuse of religious power and clergy sexual abuse, taking place on 18 November 2014 in the House of Commons. The speakers are Baroness Caroline Cox, Danny Sullivan of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission, David Greenwood of Switalskis Solicitors, Sheikh Muhammad Al-Hussaini of the Westminster Institute, Bishop Jonathan Blake of the Open Episcopal Church, Rabbi Jonathan Romain of Maidenhead Synagogue and Satish Sharma of the National Council of Hindu Temples, and the meeting is chaired by Natasha Phillips of Researching Reform.

The audience was comprised of abuse survivors and campaigners on clergy sexual abuse, legal experts from the government abuse inquiry, together with clergy and lay people of different faiths. While the panel included speakers from the Catholic Church, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu clergy, the Church of England declined to send any representatives to face questions about its record on clergy abuse.

Certain Anglican clergy, bishops and archdeacons, including Archdeacon Rachel Treweek, Bishop Adrian Newman, and William Campbell-Taylor, whose alleged behaviour in relation to matters of abuse was to be questioned and debated at the event, had repeatedly been invited to come along to the meeting in the interests of fair and free speech and of “the right to reply”, but instead they all avoided attending to face inquiry. Other Anglican representatives, Bishop Peter Forster, Sir Mark Hedley and Peter Baldwin, who had initially agreed to speak withdrew their attendance.

Instead, the Church of England employed a private public relations scandal management company, “Luther Pendragon Limited”, to apply pressure against the meeting taking place, put pressure on the room booking, and thereafter attempted to prevent the publication of this film footage of the open discussion in Parliament.

Luther Pendragon Limited has a controversial history of lobbying and PR scandal management on behalf of the tobacco, arms and nuclear industries – as well as for the Church of England, and campaigners have criticised its role in allegedly hushing up clergy abuse in Winchester last year.

Despite the positioning by Anglican bishops of the Church of England as a champion of the poor against City of London finance and payday lenders like Wonga, Luther Pendragon Limited were unwilling to comment about the very sizeable funds which had been spent by the Church of England for procuring their scandal management services.

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