Religion news 31 January 2024

John McDonnell MP. Image credit: Open Parliament Licence

Media Bill removing requirement for religious programming goes through to the Lords

Labour MP John McDonnell has proposed that the Media Bill should reinstate the requirement for public service broadcasters to include programmes about religion, alongside arts and science. There are concerns that removing this requirement will impact religious broadcasting. Mr McDonnell was speaking in the Commons during the report stage of the bill, the last stage before it goes to the Lords. He said his amendment, Clause 21, would also give Ofcom the responsibility to measure the extent of public service broadcasting across specific genres and the ability to set quotas if it felt that the genres were not covered adequately. He said he was prompted by a Voice of the Listener and Viewer campaign to protect areas of programming which were becoming vulnerable. Speaking during the four hour debate, he said the select committee which had earlier scrutinised the bill, believed the removal of genres was a step too far. He quoted Anna McNamee, executive director of the Sandford St Martin Trust,  who had told him that in 2003, ITV successfully lobbied Ofcom for its PSB quotas for arts and religious content to be removed and in 2015 Ofcom noticed that ITV’s provision of religion and ethics had all but ceased. Clause 21 was not put to the vote. The bill has passed to its next stage in the Lords.

Muslim Council of Britain says government should reverse UNRWA funding freeze

The Muslim Council of Britain has expressed “deep concern” over the  government’s decision to suspend funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza. The move followed allegations that 12 UNRWA employees were connected to the October 7th Hamas attacks on Israel. MCB Secretary-General, Zara Mohammed said: “At a time when Gaza has become a place of death and despair and where 90 percent of Gazans are displaced, more than one in four starving, and without a single fully functional hospital in the strip, our government, along with others, has taken the drastic step of cutting vital aid funding. While UNRWA diligently investigates the matter, the Muslim Council of Britain calls upon our government to reverse its position and prioritise the desperate humanitarian situation.” Full statement here

Government  taking seriously the threats against Sikhs in Britain who support Khalistan

Labour MP Preet Kaur Gill said the meeting with the security minister Tom Tugendhat which was held yesterday to discuss concerns that British Sikhs were being targeted by India for their support of the separatist state, Khalistan, had gone well. A group of eight MPs arranged the meeting to ask for protection for Sikh activists in the Midlands, after they were handed notices by the police that their lives were under threat. Preet Kaur Gill told the BBC that the minister said the government took all rights and threats very seriously. Kuldeep Shekhawat, president of the Overseas Friends of the BJP, told BBC Newsnight that this had nothing to do with India, it was an issue for Sikhs in Britain and the UK government.

United Methodists lose a quarter of churches in disagreement over same sex relationships

study by the Lewis Centre for Church Leadership at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington DC, has found that the United Methodist Church has lost 7,631 churches – a quarter of the total number – due to disagreements over same sex  relationships. In the Northwest Texas Conference, 81 per cent of churches left. The North Alabama Conference came next with 52 per cent leaving.  More than half have affiliated to the alternative conservative Global Methodist Church, others have become independent. Bishop Thomas Bickerton, president of the church’s Council of Bishops, said the split reflected political differences, with the more politically conservative areas in the south producing conservative churches.  Religion News Service report here

Petition against Franklin Graham’s preaching tour on border with Mexico

A petition with 21,000 signatures has been launched in protest at evangelist Franklin Graham’s tour of border cities in the USA.  The Religion News Service reports that the ten city tour starts on 24 February in Brownsville, Texas, moving to towns near the Mexico border, then Arizona and ending in southern  California. Faithful America, which campaigns on social justice issues, says the tour is distasteful considering Graham’s views on immigration. He supported Trump while he was president and the campaign believes political views will be aired in the many media opportunities lined up for Franklin Graham on the tour.  In a statement, Graham denied he was going to the border because 2024 is an election year and is quoted saying: “I’m not going to welcome people to the U.S. or to tell them to go back. I’m not going there to speak against our policies at the border. The politicians know these policies are broken”, adding he was going to the border to tell “hungry hearts and hurting people” about the Christian gospel.

Vatican conference on mental health ministry

A conference for Catholics active in mental health ministry has been held at the Vatican for the first time. Participants included Vatican officials, representatives from the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers, and individuals working on the frontline throughout the world. Monsignor Anthony Ekpo, undersecretary at the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, said mental health had become a priority following conversations with local churches, which often voiced major concerns about the issue. His colleague, Deacon Fr Shawn Conoboy, told the meeting that he began advocating for mental health awareness after his 29-year-old daughter took her own life, following a decade of wrestling with bipolar disorder.

Protests as CofE clergy payroll delayed by a day

The Church of England has announced that its payroll due to be paid today, 31 January, will be delayed by 24 hours due to human error. Twitter / X is awash with complaints and tweets from bishops offering advice to clergy who may go into the red as a result.


  • The deadline for entries to the Sandford St Martin 2024 awards, for broadcasts about belief and ethics, is today, Wednesday 31 January. The categories are Journalism, Radio/Audio, TV/Video and Young Audience. Further details here.
  • CTVC is advertising for a radio and podcast researcher with a team that produces programmes for the BBC and other outlets.
  • Theos is looking for a marketing officer to take its podcast The Sacred to the next level.


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