Christian group angry over media's portrayal of Christians

The Christian Broadcasting Council (CBC) has voiced concern over the media's portrayal of Christians and pro-life campaigners following recent coverage of their views on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.

Parliament voted last week in favour of the creation of animal-human embryos for stem cell research and "saviour siblings", but threw out measures to lower the upper legal limit for abortion and to retain a reference to the need for a father for IVF children.

CBC's Chairman, Olave Snelling, said the group was "disappointed and saddened" by the votes because "the public and MPs were not adequately informed about the issues and the consequences of certain parts of the Bill, despite the best efforts of many Christian and pro-life groups who worked tirelessly with MPs".

Ms Snelling also said that the size of the vote indicated MPs were heavily whipped to vote along party lines, despite the Government promising a free vote on the issues of animal-human hybrids, saviour siblings, the need for fathers and a reduction in the time limit for legal abortion at this stage of the Bill.

The week before the votes, Lady O'Cathain hosted a meeting for the Christian Broadcasting Council joined by a number of speakers, including David Burrowes MP, the Christian Medical Fellowship's Dr Peter Saunders and Rebecca Bensted, a barrister with the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship. In the meeting, the speakers agreed that issues of concern over the preciousness of life and the protection of the unborn "had not been substantially raised in the public arena".

Ms Snelling criticised the way the media had portrayed the views of Christians and pro-life campaigners during debate on aspects of the Bill.

"The CBC is concerned that Christians and pro-life campaigners are portrayed in the media as people who do not care about the cure of diseases, research and the plight of unwanted pregnancy," she said.

"Yet Christians and non-Christians alike argue the measures being put forward offer no guarantee of cures to illnesses and there are proven alternatives which will not result in the drastic consequences to human life and the family which will result if this Bill becomes law.

"The majority of people, whether they follow any faith or not, place the highest value on human life and the family."

Ms Snelling went on to criticise a recent episode of "Dispatches" broadcast on Channel 4 on 20 May, "In God's Name", which followed the work of Christian lawyer Andrea Minichiello Williams and appeared to imply that Christians are 'fundamentalist'.

The programme "was wrong to pour ridicule and scorn on those who hold to Christian values", she said. "It was a wrong use of investigative journalism, presented as facts to the general public."

Ms Snelling said that CBC would continue alongside the church, "to uphold and fight for the values that are dear and implicit to the Christian faith".

"We will support the unborn and speak out for the intrinsic value of life itself. We ask our members to continue to pray."